True American Exceptionalism

We Americans have always taken pride in the fact that our country is a pretty special place.  Within our foreign policy that has frequently taken the form of what is called “American exceptionalism”, the idea or conceit that we have a special place in the world and are different from other countries, better even.

Now. certainly not everyone agrees with this notion.  There are those who point to our frequent hypocrisy, our foreign policy missteps, and our failures of morality and ethics to show that we no different, and no better than any other nation.  They make some very valid points.

But I don’t agree with them.  I have always believed in American exceptionalism.  If I hadn’t I could never have spent nearly three decades serving my country as a civil servant and diplomat.

There are a lot of things that make America special and different from other nations.  The most obvious of these is our sheer power.  We are, at the moment, considerably more powerful than any other nation on Earth, in terms of political, economic and military power.  No other nation comes close, and none of them will catch us any time soon.  All of that is obvious.  In my years as a diplomat I witnessed time and again that America is now, has been for some time, and will be for some time to come, the country whose support and participation is needed to accomplish almost anything of import, be it a military mission, a trade deal, a human rights accord or an environmental agreement.

But if that were all that made America special, I would not have felt moved to serve my country for so long.  What makes us special is the ideals on which we were founded.  Ideals that include democracy, freedom and human rights.  And the idea that every person in the world should be able to enjoy them as we do.  We haven’t always lived up to those ideals.  Far from it.

But sometimes we have.

Sometimes we have, in ways no other nation was or is capable of.  We have done good in the world, and not all of it was for purely selfish reasons.  We have led the world in a mostly positive direction, despite our many failures.  We have worked for peace and security, respect for human rights and for the spread of democracy.  And in turn, that has served our own selfish interests very well – the bipartisan consensus of the last eighty years or more in which we have embraced leadership in the world have been the time when America has thrived the most.  That is not a coincidence.  Others have worked for these causes as well, but none with the impact we can have because of our power.  Our leadership has been and still is necessary.  Without it, the world becomes a more dangerous place, a place dictators and aggressors feel more emboldened and where rights are more likely to be abused.  A world where democracy declines.

That is the true meaning and purpose of American exceptionalism.  That is why I served my country for so long and am proud of my service, as I am proud of my country.

That’s also why I am so saddened by the foreign policy of this Administration.  It clearly does not define American exceptionalism in the same way I do.  It focuses only on the power and the short-term interests of America, and ignores our ideals and is apparently ignorant of our long-term interests.  It seems to want to turn America into just another country, only stronger.  It has abandoned leading through persuasion and diplomacy and abandoned our allies in the process.  In its place it has installed the foreign policy of a bully, full of threats and unilateral actions designed to force others to our will.  It will undoubtedly achieve some short-term successes in that way, but at tremendous long-term cost both to ourselves and to the world.

It shouldn’t be a surprise.  One of the dominant personality traits of Donald Trump is that he is a bully.  No surprise that he should behave in the international arena just as he does in every other aspect of his life.  As with most bullies, however, I suspect he is a coward at heart.  And you can see the signs of it, in the way he backs down from other bullies in the world, like Russia and China.  Even worse, he seems to admire them in a perverse way, perhaps because they can be greater bullies within their own countries than our system allows him to be.

Clearly, there are many people in America (and there always have been) who do want America to be exceptional only because of its power.  America First has been a pernicious slogan for many years, discredited many times but always coming back.  Xenophobic nationalism and bigotry are difficult monsters to slay and I don’t know if we ever will be able to do so permanently.  They tore the world apart twice in the last century, costing millions of lives, and yet they still creep back now.  In America, Trump is their champion.

So, for all those of us who agree that America is exceptional and for those of us who would just like it to be, we need to decide why we want it to be exceptional.   To put it starkly, do we just want to be feared or do we want to be respected?  Do we want to lead or do we just want to bully?

America voted for the latter in 2016, and that is part of why I felt I needed to leave government service rather than serve an Administration whose foreign policy is based on short-sighted nationalism.  We have a chance to correct that mistake and restore true American exceptionalism in 2018 and 2020.  We need to seize that chance.


Helpful Hints for How Not to Be Accused of Racism

In my discussions with many, many conservative white Americans over the last few years, including friends, family and acquaintances, one thing has come through to me very, very clearly.  Boy, do they hate to have it said or even implied or hinted at that anything they say or do, or anything they believe might be even the tiniest bit racist.  That is especially true of their political choices.

Of course, we know that these people could not possibly have even the tiniest bit of racism in them because the entire history of our nation is devoid of racism.  White people in our country have always treated people of all races with complete and total respect and equality, and even if they haven’t, all of that stuff is long in the past and has no relevance to Americans today.  I mean, we elected a black President, right?

So, now that we have established that conservative white Americans are definitely in no way even the tiniest bit racist in their actions or beliefs, we can move on to the obvious truth.  They are just misunderstood by people who are either not conservative, not white, or (horrors!) both.  The things that conservative white Americans do or say are not racist at all, but just being taken that way.  The poor liberals and minorities are just being deluded by the mainstream media and the intellectual elite that has written our history.

All that said, perhaps I can offer some advice to conservative white Americans who wish to avoid the unpleasantness of having to defend themselves against doubtless unfounded accusations of racism.  Such confrontations are so unpleasant and emotionally trying that it would be best if they are avoided, right?  I mean, who needs people “playing the race card” on you all the time?

So here are a few things that I think you should do to avoid being misunderstood and having to defend yourself, because those poor misguided fools who watch (or God forbid read) the mainstream news and have the intellectual arrogance to actually study our history might think something you say or do is kind of racist.

  1.  Make sure that the only time you mention blacks, Hispanics, Muslims or any other minority on your social media is not when you are condemning something one of them or a minority of them did.  They irrationally assume that because you do not do the same with white people that that’s kind of racist.  Crazy, huh?
  2. While we’re on social media, make sure you don’t accidentally re-post memes from white supremacist groups, especially those that don’t have every little detail correct.  The liberals and minorities are absurdly sensitive about that.  If you do post such a thing accidentally and are called on it, remove it immediately and apologize for it, since it was obviously just an honest mistake on your part and how could you possibly know where it came from and that the content was full of lies?  I mean, it’s not like there are any tools on the Internet to verify such things, right?  And it seemed like it might be true to you, so that’s almost the same thing.
  3. Avoid using Confederate symbols in your posts.  Liberals and black people are really touchy about that.  They seem to think just because historians pretty much all say the Civil War was about slavery, and that the Confederate battle flag was not really used at all until it became a symbol of resistance to the Civil Rights Movement (which of course you would have supported if you were around then, unlike conservative white Americans of that time), and that most Confederate monuments were similarly erected at a time when the South was resisting federal efforts for racial equality, that such admiration for the symbols of the South are indications you secretly support racist groups rather than just symbols of regional pride and or the spirit of rebellion.  Oh, and this is doubly true if you aren’t from the South.
  4. Try to avoid criticizing black protesters who have the nerve to object when the police kill some minority member or beat them up, and it turns out they were unarmed.  The liberals and minorities have this absurd notion that there is endemic racism in our justice system just because a bunch of studies say so and they have all these statistics that nobody can understand to back it up.  You can maybe get away with criticizing violence at these demonstrations, but if you do, make sure you can show examples of when you supported protests that weren’t violent.  Minorities and liberals have this absurd notion that conservative white Americans have never supported racial justice movements.  That can’t be true, of course, since Martin Luther King has a holiday and a statue in Washington now, and it only took seventeen years for all the states to recognize the holiday.
  5. When there are violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters, remember to also condemn the real racists if you are going to condemn  the violence and be sure that everyone knows that you do not see moral equivalence between racists and those who condemn racism.  Otherwise someone might get the ridiculous notion that you actually sympathize with the racists, which of course you don’t.
  6.  Don’t invite people widely seen to be racists to speak at your universities and civic events.  Liberals and minorities might think that you actually support their ideas, when you know that you are really just supporting their First Amendment rights.  I mean, the fact you read their stuff, attend their events and applaud when they speak is just a sign of your own intellectual flexibility and curiosity and common good manners, right?
  7. Finally, don’t vote for people who have actually done many of these things and are also widely seen to be racists.  It’s amazing how just because you vote for someone, then some people irrationally assume you support the things they say and do.  Obviously you are voting for them because you think either that they have been misunderstood (over and over again) or misrepresented by all those reporters and intellectuals, or because you think that they will do a good job despite their open racism.  I mean, you’re a white person, so you don’t have to make opposing racism a top priority, right?  Because it’s not that big a deal, at least to you, and why should it bother you if only other conservative white people see it that way?  But still, it will be misunderstood by all those liberals and minorities who think it should be a big deal, so better safe than sorry.

The Cyrus Fallacy

Certain evangelical leaders who are deeply involved in politics have been pushing the theory for some time right now that President Trump is akin to the biblical and historical figure of Cyrus the Great, who was anointed by God and freed the Jews from their captivity, enabling their return to Jerusalem and the reconstruction of the Temple.  Their motive for doing so is to reinforce Trump’s strong support among the white conservative evangelical demographic group, which some thought might waver as Trump’s crude and definitely ungodly language and behavior in both past and present continue to be highlighted.  They use the example of Cyrus to show that even a non-Christian can be used by God to advance his plan.

In that last point they are absolutely correct.  Repeatedly in the Bible non-believers are used, wittingly and unwittingly, to carry out God’s will.

After that, however, the analogy falls apart utterly.

First off, Cyrus was no Trump.  While he is a figure of ancient history, he is a very significant one, and much is known about him.  Cyrus was, by most accounts, a conqueror, a statesman and an enlightened ruler who respected and protected religious and other diversity in his empire.

Trump is none of those things.  He avoided military service (or any service at all before being elected President).  He blusters and blunders through foreign and domestic policy, lying and misspeaking on a daily basis, and his entire presidency has been a series of scandals and disasters that have divide our country as rarely before, alienated our allies and emboldened our enemies.  His entire candidacy was based on a backlash against diversity in America, and its most defining characteristics are its crackdown on immigration and its rampant endorsement of racial and religious bigotry.

More importantly, however, regardless of how enlightened Cyrus’s rule was, the Jews had no choice but to depend on his good will and charity.  They were a captive and enslaved people with no control of their own destiny.  They did not vote to put Cyrus in power and could not influence and thus were in no way responsible for any of Cyrus’ actions.

That also is not the case now.  Conservative white evangelicals voted for Trump in large numbers, and are one of the groups most responsible for bringing him to power.  They do indeed bear some responsibility for all of his actions and policies, from his racism to his assault on the poor, from his misogyny to his corruption, from his repeated marital infidelity to his constant lying.  Their votes made everything he has done possible.  Their continued support and intent to vote for him again means they endorse his subsequent actions, or at least tolerate them.

Cyrus is praised in the Bible because he did what was right for the people of God.  The only way you can say the same about Trump is if you believe that the only issues of any importance in Christianity today are abortion and homosexuality.  Two issues on which our Lord and Savior said not one single solitary word in his three years of ministry.

Trump is no Cyrus, and today’s evangelicals are not in the same powerless position as the Jews under Babylonian rule.  They have choices and will be held to account for their choices.  That thought should lead to some fear and trembling.


Thoughts and Prayers

I’ve been thinking about the phrase “my thoughts and prayers are with you” a lot recently.  It’s something I say a lot.  As a person of faith it has meaning to me.  When I say it I do pray for the person involved and I definitely wish them well.  It is the kind of thing Christians and others of faith say to people who are suffering, and whom we want to know that we love them, care about them, and want things to get better for them.  Sometimes we back up the sentiment with other actions to help the situation, but sometimes prayer is the only thing we can do to help someone.  And I do believe in the power of prayer.  I have felt it in my life and seen its effects on the lives of others.  I’ve also seen heartfelt prayers go unanswered, and I do not understand why, but have faith that someday perhaps it will be made clear to me.

Nonetheless, this phrase has now become discredited in many circles.  People say, with some conviction, that it is merely an empty platitude, a meaningless sentiment used to appear sympathetic while actually doing nothing concrete to help.

I have to admit that hurts.

This last weekend, I went to the March for Our Lives in Washington, with several hundred thousand others.  The rejection of the phrase “my thoughts and prayers are with you” was prominently displayed on many signs, and mentioned by some of the speakers.  It was mocked to devastating effect in a video montage of president after president using the exact same words to comfort America after a devastating mass shooting.

It hurt to hear those men mocked, even attacked, for saying the same thing I say with such frequency.  It also made me sad that this might turn some people away from God.  I found myself growing defensive, found the need to defend the use of the phrase, to point out that, for a Christian, it’s not just a phrase, and that saying it did not mean that nothing else would be done to help.

To my relief, most people knew that, and understood why I felt hurt and defensive.  So I listened to them, and began to understand why the phrase angers and frustrates so many people.

They don’t get angry and frustrated when average people say it, people who have limited, if any, power to do more than pray.

They get frustrated and angry when people who do have the power and influence to do something say it.  When those people say it over and over again.  When those people do nothing else to help, when helping is very much in their power.  When they reject, against all statistical evidence, arguments that anything even can be done.  When they attack those people who want to do something about it.

I think I am beginning to understand.

The anger is reserved for those in power who use the phrase and never go beyond thoughts and prayers, when they could be doing so much more.  In that case, the phrase does indeed ring hollow, and it is natural to question whether the feelings behind it are even authentic.

They very well may be, for many.  Not every person who is opposed to gun control is unfeeling, and I am sure some of them, perhaps even most of them, genuinely believe that nothing can be done or that gun control would be counterproductive.

They are wrong.

But that doesn’t make them evil and it doesn’t mean that they are insincere.  It means they are human.

But it also got me thinking about assumptions, including the assumption that the rest of us, who are mostly let off the hook because it is assumed we have no power to do anything other than wish people well and pray for them.  Thinking deeper about it, I realize that assumption is also wrong.

As Americans we are never truly powerless to change things.  It is one of the blessings of living in this country.  We have the power to speak up and make ourselves heard, as a bunch of teenagers from Florida have just done.  We have the power to write and argue and advance policy proposals.

And we have the power to vote.

That is the most important one.  Americans have favored stronger gun control laws for many years, but politicians have actually moved against that trend, loosening them tremendously during my lifetime.  And yet they are still re-elected year after year.

There is a reason for that.  The power of the pro-gun lobby is actually the prime case study for the ability of a passionate minority to consistently get its way over a more complacent majority.  For most gun rights advocates, this is THE issue that determines their vote.  In comparison, until now, for most of the people who would prefer stronger gun control laws, this has been one issue among many, and it does not determine their vote.

That needs to change.  The kids from Parkland understand that, and they are determined to keep up the energy through the mid-term elections, and beyond if necessary, to make sure that the passion factor of the equation equals out and the majority finally prevails.

I will stand with them.  My challenge to all those others, like me, who use the phrase “my thoughts and prayers are with you” is to do the same.  To not just stop with thoughts and prayers.

By all means, keep praying, and keep wishing the victims of senseless violence well.  But don’t stop at that.



Shed No Tears for Rex Tillerson

I awoke this morning to the news that Rex Tillerson had been fired as Secretary of State and that Mike Pompeo was President Trump’s intended replacement.  Despite the fact that the State Department is where I spent nearly thirty years, and is still an institution that I care deeply about and believe is vital to our nation’s security, I really had no strong reaction.  It was kind of … meh.

Much of the analysis today is centered on two themes.  First, that this was the inevitable replacement of a relatively independent actor with a partisan loyalist.  Second was the idea that Tillerson, during his brief tenure, earned the distinction of being the weakest and perhaps the worst Secretary of State in modern history.

Both are undeniably accurate.

Tillerson was never a Trumpkin, although he, along with many others like Kelly and  McMaster, dutifully sold his soul and toed the erratic party line to get and maintain his positions, perhaps hoping to do some good or at least restrain bad.  Most who knew him said that Tillerson actually held great contempt for Trump.  When it came out that he had privately referred to Trump as a “moron”, I knew his days were numbered.  He lasted actually considerably longer than I thought after that.  Trump is never one to forgive a slight or an insult.

All that said, what did his humiliation and the selling of his soul get Tillerson?  Precious little.  I’m really not sure why he wanted the job, unless he thought he could use the position to advance the global interests of ExxonMobil, the company where he spent his entire career before that point.  I’m even less certain why he thought he was qualified for it.  He had neither any academic nor professional background in foreign affairs, other than representing the interests of a multinational country.  He had no background or record of public service of any kind.

In short, he was completely and utterly unqualified for the job.  Worse, he was arrogant enough not to recognize that he was completely unqualified and did not seek or value the input of the professionals at the State Department who were qualified.  He, like most recent Secretaries of State, in a very disturbing bipartisan trend, brought in a group of personal aides and political appointees who were only marginally more qualified, and leaned heavily on them for advice, rather than on career professionals.  Political loyalty was valued more than expertise.

The results were predictable.  Tillerson accomplished almost nothing in his year or so at the helm of the largest and most competent foreign ministry in the world.

And he inflicted incredible damage on the institution.  He came in with the preconceived notion that the State Department was too large, and thus did not resist President Trump’s petulant demand that it be gutted.  Talented senior diplomats, including me, chose to leave rather than serve this unworthy President and disloyal Secretary.  The influence of the State Department over foreign policy ebbed to the lowest point in post WW II history, and our foreign policy suffered as a result.  Under Trump’s direction, and with Tillerson’s inconsistent and ineffective attempts to be relevant, we have alienated our allies, given aid and comfort to our enemies and generally destroyed America’s once-lofty standing and reputation in the world.

So I shed no tears for Rex Tillerson.  He was an arrogant, unqualified man who got in over his head and did a great amount of damage to the State Department and American interests in his short term in office (you could write that same sentence about many of Trump’s cabinet picks).  He became exhibit number two (Trump is exhibit number one) in making the case that business skills and government skills are entirely different and success in one area does not easily translate into success in the other.

Unfortunately, I do not think things will improve under Pompeo, a partisan political hack and Trumpkin bootlicker who also has thin experience and qualifications for the job.  At least I can be happy for my colleagues at the CIA, who apparently will once more have a professional in charge rather than a political hack.

As for Tillerson, he can go back to Texas to lick his wounds and perhaps reflect on why it is never a good idea to sell your soul.  Some might find him a tragic or sympathetic figure.  My eyes will stay dry.

Hypocrisy, Danger and … Hope?

Choose your adjective.

It is infuriating/disgusting/hilarious/mind-blowing to watch Republicans suddenly do a 180 degree pirouette on the advisability of direct talks with rogue terror-sponsoring nations, now that President Trump has announced that is precisely what he is intending to do.  For years they have excoriated any Democratic politician who hinted at anything approaching negotiations, saying that doing so was a sign of weakness, and a surrender of important principles.  They made some very good points about the unreliability of North Korean leaders as negotiating partners and highlighted repeated violations of past agreements by the North Koreans.  Their success in making their point was impressive, and many Democrats agreed with them.  As a result, no recent American administration, Republican or Democratic, has agreed to direct bilateral talks with the North Koreans without significant preconditions.

Until now.

President Trump’s sudden conversion from a man who repeatedly rejected negotiations with North Korea and believed the solution lay in piling on more sanctions (like there is really anything left to sanction) and making threats of war is enough to give anyone whiplash.  And much of the Republican Party has suddenly made that conversion with him.  It’s a wonder they aren’t all walking around Capitol Hill wearing neck braces.  I guess being utterly without principles does give your policy neck a bit more flexibility.

But I’m not really mad about it, because the result may be worthwhile.  I’ve always been of the opinion that talking to our enemies hurts no one and nothing.  Talking increases the chances for understanding and progress, and in and of itself harms nothing.  I’ve never supported the policy (urged by conservatives, consistently when Democrats are in power and somewhat less consistently when Republicans hold the reins) that talking is a sign of weakness or gives “legitimacy” to our enemies.

I don’t really know what is going through Trump’s head (and I’m kind of thankful of that), or what his reasons are for his sudden reversal, but to some extent I don’t care.  Whatever the reason, it presents an opportunity we have not had in some time.  It certainly annoys me that if President Obama had tried to do the exact same thing, Republicans would have branded him a traitor, a spineless weakling and worse, but I can get past that for the possibility of real progress toward peace in Korea.

It is just a slim possibility of course, and there is considerable danger in these talks as well.   I have no confidence in Trump, an ignorant man who does not show any desire to learn, to negotiate on our behalf.  Only a few of his closest advisers have the experience and knowledge necessary to advise him well, and I pray that those few are able to guide him as he enters talks with very high stakes.

The North Koreans may be playing this just for the advantage in prestige it will give them.  They are very likely to renege on any commitment they make.  They undoubtedly believe they can take advantage of Trump’s inexperience and lack of knowledge to advance their own goals.  These are givens, but so long as you know that going in, they aren’t showstoppers.

Any sane person should also worry about the possible explosive fallout from putting two combustible personalities like Trump and Kim in the same room together.  Trump is never one to forgive a slight, and Kim has called him a dotard and vowed to destroy him.  Kim, on the other hand, is also notably volatile and has reportedly had many who criticized him killed.  And Trump has called him short, fat, a maniac and a madman.  Doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven.

On the other hand, perhaps they are kindred spirits who can come to an understanding.  Generally understandings reached between two such people have not been of great benefit to the world (think Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact), but that’s not a certainty.

What is a certainty is that our long policy of opposing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs through diplomatic isolation and ever tougher sanctions has been a complete and utter failure.  North Korea is a nuclear power now.  We have to deal with that new reality, as it can’t be wished away.  Maybe it’s time to try something new, like talking.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these negotiations are unlikely to result in any real progress,  but they’re worth a try.  For once Trump’s instincts might be right.  There is at least a hope for something positive to come out of it, hope that has been utterly missing from our North Korea policy for a long time.

Doesn’t change how I feel about Trump.  He’s still a racist buffoon and an abomination that should never ever have been elected.  I won’t ever like him and won’t ever stop working to see he is defeated in 2020.

But I wish him well in his talks with Kim, and I’m glad he is having them.



Squandering the Work of Generations

Many years ago, in my first posting in the State Department, I was a political officer in Mexico City while the North American Free Trade Agreement was negotiated.  One of the jobs I had was escorting various delegations of Congressmen and congressional staffers around to their meetings when they came on fact-finding missions.  Even though a Democratic president had just been elected and had announced his support for the deal, the most skeptical of these were always the Democrats.  Democrats, due largely to heavy union influence, have always been more skeptical of free trade, while Republicans, until very recently, were the strongest in support of free trade.

It was one of the few areas in which I always have tended to agree with Republicans.  They were right on this issue.  Back in the 90s when I talked with these visiting staffers or Congressmen and they asked my opinion, I gave it.  I told them that they were welcome to use the trade negotiations as leverage to obtain concessions in other areas, and they should push to have the highest possible labor and environmental standards placed in the agreement, but in the end they should vote for it.  Because it was good for America and good for the world.  And President Clinton as successful in convincing enough Democrats to vote for it to ensure passage, probably something that would have been impossible for a Republican president.

Virtually all experts in economics and international relations, both liberal and conservative, are in favor of free trade in general, and of most free trade agreements in particular.  None of these agreements are perfect.  In fact there are flaws in all of them.  In pretty much all cases we did not, as a nation, get everything we asked for in those negotiations.  That is the nature of negotiation – you have to make concessions on some issues in order to win concessions on others.  Nonetheless for all their flaws, the web of free trade agreements begun after WW II, have been very, very good for America and for the world.  They have generated tremendous amounts of wealth.

It has been well-documented that the wealth generated has not been distributed evenly in America, and some of the blame for that can be laid at the feet of the globalized economy, but not the majority of the blame.  The majority of the blame must lie with the way we have structured our tax system to favor the wealthy, while simultaneously doing little to aid the poor and level the playing field.  Those policy choices have virtually nothing to do with free trade.  If it were truly all the fault of globalization, then we would see the same pattern in other nations, and it is not there.

The economic benefits of free trade have been significant.  Frankly, however, they are dwarfed by the geopolitical benefits to America and the world.  In tying the world more tightly together through trade, in strengthening military alliances with economic ones, we have pushed back the specter of war between major powers into something that is unlikely at best.  It has now been more than seventy years since two or more major powers went to all out war with each other.  The credit for that can be put squarely at the feet of the network of post-war political and economic institutions that have created a somewhat more just world, a world in which all nations have some say and feel some hope of advancing themselves.  It has also been very successful at restraining America’s enemies in the world. allowing time for communism to burn itself out and putting pressure and some measure of accountability on dictators everywhere.

This web of institutions include the UN, the WTO, NATO and yes, a wide variety of multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements.

Now, a man ignorant of our history and without any knowledge of economics or geopolitics threatens to undue the careful and vital work of generations worth of American policymakers, both Democrat and Republican.  In his ignorance and his desire to please the ignorant wing of his party that fueled his rise to power, he would burn it all down like a petulant and angry child unwisely given a book of matches and some lighter fluid.

Since his election, Donald J. Trump has reversed and undermined generations worth of careful diplomatic and policy work.  He has alienated our friends and aided our enemies.  He has threatened to withdraw from old and strong alliances.  He has ceded influence around the world to China and Russia while trading pointless insults with another petulant child in charge of a small country.

And now he threatens, in his utter ignorance, to launch a trade war that could impact not just the wealth of the entire world, but it’s very stability.  The only beneficiaries of such a trade war between the nations of the West would be China and Russia.

It is ironic that, while only a Democratic president could have a strong chance of expanding free trade, only a Republican is likely to be able to destroy it.