Offbeat Opinions | Things will not be okay
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Human beings often choose self-delusion over painful reality, and so in the days and weeks to come, we will hear reassurances that the NATO alliance is in good shape. After all, there have been spats in the past — over the, and ’70s, in the Reagan years and, of course, Iraq. American presidents have been in European defense spending for decades. President Trump is not wrong to criticize with Russia. As for this week’s fractious summit, we are urged to focus on the substance, not the rhetoric. U.S. forces in Europe have been in recent years, and new plans are in place to resist Russian aggression. On the ground, the alliance still functions.
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All true, but unfortunately beside the point. Small troop deployments and incremental defense increases don’t mean much when the foundations of the alliance are crumbling — as they are and have been for some time. And pointing to previous differences ignores how much political and international circumstances have changed over the past decade. Europe faces new problems, as well as the return of some of the old problems that led to catastrophe in the past; and Americans have a very different attitude toward the world than they did during the Cold War. This is not just another family quarrel.
The transatlantic community was in trouble even before Trump took office. The peaceful, democratic Europe we had come to take for granted in recent decades has been rocked to the core by populist nationalist movements responding to the massive flow of refugees from theand . For the , a right-wing party holds a substantial share of seats in the German Bundestag. Authoritarianism has replaced democracy, or threatens to, in such major European states as , and democratic practices and liberal values are in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. France remains one election away from a right-wing nationalist leadership, and Italy has already taken a in that direction. Meanwhile, Britain, which played such a key role in Europe during and after the Cold War, has taken itself out of the picture and has become, globally, a pale shadow of its former self. The possibility that Europe could return to its dark past is greater today than at any time during the Cold War.
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Some of that has to do with the changing attitude of the United States in recent years. It’s little secret that President Barack Obama had no great interest in Europe. Obama, like Trump, spoke of allied “,” and his “ ” to Asia was widely regarded by Europeans as a pivot away from them. Obama rattled Eastern Europe in his early years by in Poland and the Czech Republic as an inducement to Vladimir Putin to embrace a “ ” of relations. In his later years he rattled Western Europe when he did not enforce his famous “ ” in Syria. Both actions raised doubts about American reliability, and the Obama administration’s refusal to take action in Syria to stem the flow of refugees contributed heavily to the present strain.
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President Trump’s new nominee for the Supreme Court is a whip-smart legal conservative. As a judge in the highest-profile appeals court in the nation, he has shown an exemplary dedication to the rule of law. He has defended the separation of powers against threats coming from multiple directions. He has repeatedly cautioned his colleagues on the bench not to attempt to play a legislative role. He has also insisted on enforcing constitutional structures of accountability on government agencies.
Obama was only doing what he thought the American people wanted. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with the 2008 financial crisis, left Americans disenchanted with global involvement and receptive to arguments that the alliances and institutions they supported for all those years no longer served their interests. The Obama administration tried to pare back the American role without abandoning the liberal world order, hoping it was more self-sustaining than it turned out to be. But the path was open to a politician willing to exploit Americans’ disenchantment, which is precisely what Trump did in 2016.
NATO has never been a self-operating machine that simply chugs ahead so long as it is left alone. Like the liberal world order of which it is the core, it requires constant tending, above all by the United States. And because it is a voluntary alliance of democratic peoples, it survives on a foundation of public support. That foundation has been cracking in recent years. This week was an opportunity to shore it up. Instead, Trumpto it.
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Never mind the final communique that Trump deigned to sign, or histhat the alliance was “very unified, very strong, no problem,” and or his claim that “I believe in NATO.” In his press comments alongside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in his tweets and in his private comments to European leaders, Trump made clear that in NATO. In fact, he used this summit to lay out for the American people why NATO was not only “ ,” as he once said, but also a rotten deal for them.
Consider the question of allied military spending. As many, Trump could have come to Brussels and taken credit for the increased commitments that the Allies have made — and of course he did force Stoltenberg to . But then he moved the goal posts. He insisted the 2 percent of gross domestic product mark must be reached not by 2024, as agreed by the alliance (including the United States), but by January — something he knows is impossible. Then he went further, insisting that the allies spend 4 percent of their GDP on defense, higher even than his own defense budget.
These are not negotiating tactics. They are the tactics of someone who does not want a deal. In the private meeting, Trump is reported to have warned the allies that if they did not meet the 2 percent standard by January the United States would “.” To Stoltenberg he that the United States was “not going to put up with it.” Whether he has any intention of making good on such threats scarcely matters. In , he asked, “What good is NATO” if Germany was paying Russia for gas? Why should the United States pay billions to “ ” while it was losing “Big on Trade”? Those comments were not aimed at Europe. They were designed to discredit the alliance in the eyes of his faithful throng back home.
Helsinki summit marks a new low in the history of the U.S. presidency
It was a "Russia first" performance from beginning to end.President Trump and Russian president-for-life Vladimir Putin’s news conference in Helsinki on Monday was the lowest point in the history of the American presidency. Standing next to a dictatorial leader accused by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement of attacking the foundations of American democracy, Trump often appeared confused and incoherent — and those were his best moments at the podium. The rest of the time he spent praising the KGB dictator to his left and attacking the institutions he swore an oath to defend. It was a Russia First performance, from beginning to end.
But even Trump must know the likely response in Europe. The insults and humiliations he inflicted on allied leaders will not be forgotten or forgiven. They will make it impossible for European leaders to win public support for the spending Trump disingenuously claims to want. What German leader after such a tongue-lashing could do Trump’s bidding and hope to survive politically?
Any student of history knows that it is moments like this summit that set in motion chains of events that are difficult to stop. The democratic alliance that has been the bedrock of the American-led liberal world order is unraveling. At some point, and probably sooner than we expect, the global peace that that alliance and that order undergirded will unravel, too. Despite our human desire to hope for the best, things will not be okay. The world crisis is upon us.
James Gunn Fired From ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy’ Franchise Over Offensive Tweets .
UPDATE: The open question now is whether James Gunn will follow through on plans he tweeted to come to San Diego Comic-Con today for the Sony Pictures panel. EARLIER: James Gunn has been removed as director of the Guardians Of The Galaxy series after a batch of old social media dispatches were unearthed that touched on areas like pedophilia and rape. In the latest shocking #metoo development in the entertainment industry, Gunn was severed from the Marvel Comics Universe after a slew of social media posts he wrote before getting Guardians of the Galaxy surfaced.
Things Are NOT OK
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Things Are Not Okay - Jon Thurlow // Letras
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