By Keith Nobles
For eight years of Obama I ask the same question – what is the plan? Now with Trump it is a hundred times more difficult to decipher what the plan is. Just as with Obama, how do you know if you should support something if you do not know what it is?
An item almost completely flew under the radar yesterday – the EU offered Trump tariff free trade in automobiles and Trump turned it down. For those of us who have been hoping, premised on Trump’s remarks two months ago, that the entire tariff thing was a strategy to get to tariff and subsidy free trade – it is disappointing in the extreme. It gives credibility to the assumption that this is all about protectionism and not a ploy to get to free trade.
For several years I have said that the world was on the verge of changes akin to those the world saw from 1914-1918. Now that does not mean that we will be fighting some global war but that what the world looked like in June of 1914 was nothing like what the world looked like by Christmas of 1918. The presumptions of how things worked that I would bet more than 90% of people held to in June of 1914 were indisputably destroyed by the end of 1918 – so thoroughly destroyed that virtually no one thought it even possible that those presumptions could ever even return – and they have not ever returned in the ensuing hundred years. Presumptions that had been held to for centuries were simply gone.
Since the end of World War II presumptions have been made that have been almost universally accepted as gospel. Trump is tossing those presumptions in the burn bag multiple times a day. It is hard to even keep up and I actually try to keep up. Some of those presumptions have outlived their usefulness and need to be burned. The question that we do not know is if the principles behind those presumptions are also being burned. That would by and large be a bad thing.
When World War II ended with the United State arguably more powerful than all of the other nations on earth combined the United States did an historically remarkable thing: we set out to create a world premised on unprecedented international cooperation and commerce. This is rather historically unique. Now part of this was, in the wake of the horrors of World War II, how to avoid World War III roughly premised on the “If goods do not cross borders then armies will” paradigm. Part of this was a bulwark against communism and the Soviet Union.
In both cases the unprecedented international cooperation and commerce succeeded wildly beyond what many of us who grew up in the Cold War ever expected. We avoided World War III, there were no nuclear exchanges with the Soviet Union which due to Reagan’s foresight and strategy collapsed in upon itself, and France and Germany have not again savaged each other – let alone Germany, Russia and Poland. Historically it has never taken much more than beer and a shot of vodka to get Germany and Russia to come to the conclusion that dividing Poland between them sounds like a grand idea. Yet today that consideration is not even on the table and that is historically remarkable.
By and large we have taken this for granted rather than recognizing how rare and exceptional this has been. In fact many people whine about the outcome.
Many of these international organizations fostering cooperation and commerce that were created in the post-WW II period have assumed powers that they were never meant to have. In some cases they infringe upon the sovereignty of the nations participating. This has especially been true after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This is a problem because of the inherent corruption present with any organization that possesses this level of influence over commerce. Consequently burning down some of these organizations that have come to abuse their power is probably useful and it is time.
However burning down the principles behind these organizations is not useful. Diminishing international cooperation and commerce is not useful. Remember, “if goods do not cross borders then armies will” is just as valid today as it was forty years ago and two hundred years ago.
The anti-Trump crowd refuses to concede the abuse of power that some of the organizations devoted to enhancing international cooperation and commerce have come to assume is their right to engage in.
The Trumpsters refuse to concede that the principles behind international cooperation and commerce must be maintained and grown even if these organizations are burned down – once again, “if goods do not cross borders then armies will” is a dangerous game to play in the nuclear age.
The question for Trump remains – what is the plan?