Occasional reflections on Life, the World, and Mathematics

Posts tagged ‘diplomacy’

The theocracy tour

Headline in The Guardian:

Trump to visit Israel, Vatican and Saudi Arabia in first foreign trip as president

Who are you calling illegal?

So this tweet came from the President of the United States:

The use of the term “illegal immigrants” has long been a point of contention between the right (who like the stigmatisation it implies) and the left (who don’t, and prefer terms like “undocumented immigrants”) in the US. The racist right likes to go further and simply call the people “illegals”.

Whatever the politics or the human considerations, at least it’s not entirely inaccurate when applied to people who crossed the border without proper clearance, or who overstayed their visas. How can anyone think it appropriate to call asylum seekers for whom an agreement has been negotiated by the US president to bring them legally into the country “illegal immigrants”? Except, of course, that for the racist right — of which DJ Trump is a charter member — illegal is not a legal description, but simply a term of aspersion against nonwhite people without large real estate portfolios who cross borders.

Deplorable Boris

So now we know what was going on while Theresa May was off on her autocrat-ass-kissing tour, and refusing to join the civilised world in condemning the racist US immigration policy: Boris Johnson was negotiating a shameful special exemption for UK citizens. I think this is what they like to call “punching above our weight”.

Massive success

An anonymous White House official has called the Muslim travel ban a “massive success story”. Assuming this reflects general feeling within the Trump administration, we have to assume that it has accomplished much of what it was intended to accomplish. Which presumably does not include having prevented terror attacks in the US, but does include provoking widespread protests; showing Trump untethered to considerations of custom, law, or humanity; and persuading perhaps wavering foreign governments, particularly in majority-Muslim nations, of the value of pursuing ongoing business relations with Trump, Inc.

What Donald Trump is afraid of

Slopes and stairs, contradiction, and protests, according to one article in today’s Sunday Times, about government concerns related to the planned visit in June for the official handover of British sovereignty:

Members of Trump’s inner circle have warned officials and ministers that it would be counterproductive for Charles to ‘lecture’ Trump on green issues and that he will ‘erupt’ if pushed. They want the younger princes, William and Harry, to greet the president instead. Royal aides insist that  he should meet Trump.

Senior government officials now believe Charles is one of the most serious ‘risk factors’ for the visit.

Trump’s team is also concerned that he will face a wave of protests, with thousands of people taking to the streets to denounce him…

Downing Street officials claimed the president’s phobia of stairs and slopes led him to grab the prime minister’s hand as they walked down a ramp at the White House.

UPDATE (30/1/2017): I was mentioning this story to someone recently, pointing out that “phobia” is clearly a really bad euphemism for “too old and weak”, which the strongman obviously could not admit to. He replied, “Apparently it IS a phobia – he also has a phobia of slopes, apparently.” I asked what the source was. It came from one of May’s aides, he said. And how would they know? People really have to stop defaulting to the assumption that claims coming from Trump’s circle is more likely to be true than false. On the contrary, information from anyone that has been near Trump is likely tainted.

This is what sovereignty looks like

after Brexit. Good thing British values aren’t going to be subordinated to Brussels eurocrats!

The new British world order

Former Muppets understudy and current foreign secretary Boris Johnson reported yesterday

“That means – crucially – that we will be able to do new free trade deals with countries around the world. They are already queuing up.

The whole world is queueing up! That’s what they mean by spreading British values.

Is Donald Trump British?

In some formal sense the answer is yes: His mother was Scottish, after all. But I’m thinking of two pathologies that are dominant in British politics, and observable in the purest form yet seen in Trump:

  1. Viewing all human interactions as sporting competitions.
  2. The delusion that they are brilliant master negotiators (“deal”-makers, would be Trump’s expression).

I’ve written before about the British compulsion to turn everything into a sport, so that it is impossible to imagine anyone winning without someone else losing. This is, at least, modulated by a charmingly deep-seated concern with “fair play” and being a “good sport”. (It is no coincidence that modern German has adopted the English word “fairness”. It is a peculiarly Anglo-American construct, not well covered by such overlapping concepts as Gerechtigkeit.)

But this interacts in peculiar ways with the peculiar conviction that they are particularly skilled at business and diplomatic negotiation. What they did have was an idiosyncratic blend of ruthlessness, geographic advantage, and technological prowess that they parlayed into a position of global dominance. Through stubbornness and admiration of their own idiosyncracies (“British values”) they have managed since then to turn their dominant position into a position of a weak, economically mediocre nation on the fringes of Europe, plagued by extreme inequality. But they think they’ve been winning or, where they have lost, it has been because of the perfidy of foreigners.

With Brexit, this delusion has entered its perhaps final stage. The UK has an incredibly weak hand in Brexit negotiations. They could appeal to comity and sentiment, but that doesn’t fit their vision of themselves as tough guys. They believe they know how to get what they want haggling with the lesser races — you have to show them you’re willing to walk away, and destroy both parties. That’s why the foreign secretary is threatening to turn the UK into an offshore tax haven saying the UK would “do whatever we have to do” if the EU doesn’t cave in to British demands.

Of course, that makes no sense for the UK economy, even if it wouldn’t be likely to result in crushingly punitive measures from Europe. But they think they’re brilliant, and by showing their willingness to damage themselves in order to punish Europe, the EU will agree to a “fair” deal (i.e., benefitting Britain). What is really likely happen is that the EU will be more inclined to bolt the doors against the lunatic, and leave Britain to complete its destiny as an offshore colony of Donald Trump’s America.

It’s obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago

This is Donald Trump’s opinion of NATO. And possibly of the U.S. constitution.

Bibi decides he likes BDS after all

In a Jerusalem cafe the other day I picked up a right-wing Israeli newspaper that proclaimed on the front page Netanyahu’s  intention to “boycott” those countries that disapprove of Israel’s settlement policies (i.e., all of them). No mention of “divestment”, but definitely sanctions are in the offing. Perhaps Netanyahu’s policy should be called “BS”.

While threatening to withdraw Israel’s assistance to Senegal, they are kindly agreeing to continue accepting US aid, but presumably only because the US abstained rather than voting in favour of the UN resolution. But those Americans are on thin ice if they want to keep the Israeli international aid flowing.

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