Posts Tagged ‘Donald Trump’

Labour’s cognitive dissonance over Syria

08/04/2017, 08:00:30 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It seems Labour is so full of policy ideas at the moment that it can afford to have not one but two foreign policies.

Backing President Trump’s missile attack on the Syrian airfield from which Bashir al-Assad’s warplanes bombed the town of Khan Sheikhoun with chemical weapons earlier this week, Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, described it as ‘a direct and proportionate response to a clear violation of international law by the Syrian regime.’

While agreeing this week’s attack was ‘a war crime’, Jeremy Corbyn instead emphasised that US military action ‘without legal authorisation or independent verification’ could make matters worse and risked intensifying ‘a multi-sided conflict that has already killed hundreds of thousands of people’.

This fault line between the leader and deputy leader of the Labour party is conspicuous.

And, so, the party is left suffering yet another damaging public bout of cognitive dissonance – holding two mutually exclusive opinions – while huddled in the political shop window rocking backwards and forwards, muttering to itself in front of the voters.

That’s the politics of it.

However, questions about military action – and whether or not to back it – obviously override domestic political concerns. Syria is not as straightforward as having ‘a line.’

And, so, in their way, both men are right, albeit for totally different reasons.

Watson spoke for many when he said that chemical weapons attacks on civilians ‘can never be tolerated and must have consequences.’

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Trump’s air strike took out domestic targets as well

07/04/2017, 03:08:23 PM

by Kevin Meagher

It’s not often an international leader gets to achieve their domestic political goals while making a bold foreign policy move.

But this is what Donald Trump has just managed.

In bombing the Syrian airstrip that was used to launch what seems to have been a chemical attack by Assad’s forces on the town of Khan Sheikhoun, earlier this week, killing at least 80 people, Trump has achieved three things.

First, he compares favourably with Barrack Obama, who dithered and backed down from a response to Assad’s sarin attack on east Damascus in 2013, outplayed at the time by Putin who offered to broker a deal whereby the regime would surrender its chemical and biological weapons.

Trump, the inveterate dealmaker, is clearly not prepared to give Assad wiggle-room. Especially as he plainly lied about dismantling his arsenal.

Second, he has immediately wrong-footed his home-grown critics who question his elliptical relationship with Vladimir Putin.

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Timely advice for a very fresh president

07/03/2017, 11:30:58 PM

by Julian Glassford

Dear President Trump,

I write to submit a series of suggestions to your incoming administration via the appropriate #MAGA suggestions box. Please consider carefully the approach outlined below: intended to help reinvigorate the United States, as a model of liberty, unity, justice, and prosperity.

Firstly, place investing in measures intended to enhance environmental health and welfare firmly at the centre of any economic stimulus package. Especially prioritise detoxifying and updating America’s water services and infrastructure, and commencing the (inevitable) transition to a low chemical, smog, and ‘electrosmog’ society.

The biological impacts of environmental health hazards, plus widespread pharmaceutical overmedication, have given rise to a host of (silent) health and developmental disorder pandemics. Furthermore, these phenomena are adversely affecting innumerable other life forms, including species (like bees) that we critically rely upon for crop pollination.

Tragically these insidious issues are only just starting to register with the scientific mainstream, thanks to decades of crony capitalist obfuscation. Here, as in other areas, seeing redressive action through will mean remaining steadfast in your willingness to challenge received wisdom and lead without fear or favour.

Secondly, ensure that justice is served across the board, and in relation to the misdemeanours of public servants in particular. In order to abate still more profound deterioration in civil trust, social contract, and community cohesion there must be a root and branch removal of corruption, prejudice, and the undue influence of special interests from public service. Make no mistake, rather than renege on related campaign commitments voters fully expect you to “drain the swamp”.

Relatedly, now would be an opportune moment for a comprehensive review of Western intelligence and security agencies, their role, scale, scope, and accountability. Left to their own devices such shadowy organisations can become slack, compromised, or a law unto themselves – as you recently discovered for yourself. This degrades democracy, upsets international relations, and has the (demonstrated) capacity to catalyse great human suffering. (more…)

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Trump has got a point on NATO, Russia and climate change

15/02/2017, 10:19:43 PM

by Julian Glassford

Winston Churchill is widely regarded as the greatest Briton in history. Here was a larger than life, notoriously brash and uncompromising Western leader, and one who allied himself with a Russian tyrant. 70 years on, and the political mainstream finds itself consumed with juxtaposed vexation. The source of all this consternation: a similarly bold and irrepressible, if relatively uncultured, rabble-rousing “Russophile”.

Granted, Donald Trump is no Churchill, but rather than jumping the gun in mourning the presumed death of American exceptionalism and Pax Americana, perhaps we ought to take the opportunity to pause, contemplate, and culture our concerns.

The cry that “democracy has lost its champion” smacks of selective amnesia regarding a string of less than illustrious foreign adventures from Vietnam to Iraq. It is also as if certain commentators skipped classes on the role of European ‘soft power’ and complex interdependence. It should be clear to any learned, objective analyst that increased stability and human flourishing has in many instances occurred not because, but in spite, of US-led interventions and initiatives.

Clearly, there is much to be said for the exercise of high minded influence by major players on the world stage – no-one wants to see a return to the dark days of American isolationism – but beware the false dichotomy. Notwithstanding the solipsistic antics of a certain “dangerous vulgarian” i.e. widely condemned neo-mercantile Trumponomics and discriminatory migration policy, a United States of Anarchy is not a realistic prospect.

Precarious as the present international order may be, it is unwise to presuppose that an unfiltered US President – or British foreign secretary, for that matter – will send the house of cards crashing down; that is, so long as the UN Security Council remains united in their opposition to nuclear proliferation, and the East-West arms-race in prospect confined to peaceful competition. (more…)

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Theresa May’s need to cosy up to Trump says everything about Britain’s weakness

02/02/2017, 09:33:25 PM

by Rob Marchant

It seems that nothing can really surprise us any more. Just as Jeremy Corbyn has, as the FT’s Janan Ganesh put it so beautifully last year, been “exactly as bad as he was always going to be”, Trump has already dulled our senses by doing, well, exactly what he said he was going to. Many did not really believe him; they said he should not be “taken literally”. Turns out they were wrong.

A ban on Muslim refugees, temporary though it is in theory, has actually been enacted. On Holocaust Memorial Day. Trump has demonstrated that, if you really don’t care that much what people think of you, there will always be some who will love you precisely because of that.

People are already normalising Trump, simply because he is president of the world’s most powerful nation. But that does not make his actions normal, in any historical sense, and we would all do well to remember that.

Presidents do not lie casually, as a rule. Neither do they enact overtly racist (or, to be more accurate, sectarian) executive orders. Since the 1930s, one cannot remember a time when it was considered perfectly ok to target large and vulnerable groups of people, and bar them from entering the country on grounds of religion or country of origin. And that time didn’t end well.

It is up to liberals to find a way out of this which does not reinforce Trump. Playing the victim is the favourite trick of the populist politician, and the outrage of liberals is easy to mock. But that does not mean, either, that we should shut up: that way lies madness. The fact that someone has been democratically elected does not mean that we have to just accept every idiotic thing they might do.

At the same time, opinions have differed on Theresa May’s mercy dash across the Atlantic. This, too, has been normalised by some commentators as a normal US-UK meeting. It should not be, for some glaringly obvious reasons.

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Theresa May is right to be wary of criticising Trump. This isn’t Love Actually

30/01/2017, 06:55:12 PM

by Kevin Meagher

How far should Theresa May have gone in upbraiding the immigration policies of President Trump?

If she had listened to the sustained Twitterburst over the weekend, and then again this afternoon, she would have channelled her inner-Hugh Grant and recited that pompous load of tosh his fictional prime minister ladles over the smarmy US president in Love Actually:

‘I fear that this has become a bad relationship. A relationship based on the President taking exactly what he wants and casually ignoring all those things that really matter to, erm… Britain’.

Instead, she despatched the home and foreign secretaries to speak to their US counterparts and, gently, one assumes, articulate the government’s displeasure about the effects on British citizens with dual-nationality from the seven (mainly Islamic) countries affected by Trump’s new edict. Within the remit given, they seem to have secured her desired result.

It’s hardly gunboats up the Potomac.

But that’s as far as the Prime Minister should go.

Of course, Theresa May has not handled this adroitly. She could have saved herself a lot of political strife if she had got out in front of this issue from the start.

Downing Street should have robustly made the (obvious) point that longstanding protocol dictates that prime ministers do not comment on the internal affairs of the US, but that, at the official level, the law of unintended consequences vis-à-vis British nationals would be pointed out.

Diplomatic niceties are there for good reason. Do we want Donald Trump responding in kind and coming out for Scottish independence?

Theresa May’s strategic responsibility is to secure an alliance with the new White House that will, in turn, deliver a suitable bilateral trade deal once we leave the EU.

Clearly Trump is a mercurial figure, so why jeopardise a successful initial meeting just so she can ‘virtue signal’ to the Twitterari?

Disagree? Then can anyone point to precedents where British PMs have publicly criticised key domestic policies of US Presidents?

Theresa May’s detractors are genuine, sure, but this is high-stakes international statecraft we’re dealing with, not passing a resolution in the junior common room.

Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron would have done exactly the same thing as Theresa May: Look a bit embarrassed, soak up the anger about being America’s poodle, then issue the most anaemic, mealy-mouthed coded criticism that lands no more than a glancing blow.

Rest assured, the flaws in Trump’s policy will do for it and common sense will prevail by April.

Making sure Britain has the best chance of surviving as a trading nation outside the EU must be the government’s overriding concern.

We need to properly accept that Brexit means we are living in an age of realpolitik. Idealists who want to wag their fingers at Donald Trump are free to do so; but they should not pretend this is anything other than idle posturing.

Britain is leaving the EU and Donald Trump is now US President. These are now immutable facts.

The task is to work with the grain of these twin realities and ameliorate the worst excesses of both.

It might not be pretty, but that’s grown-up politics.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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I went on the Washington DC Women’s March. It wasn’t pointless

25/01/2017, 07:37:02 AM

by Samuel Dale

I’m not really one for marching or protests but last Saturday I made an exception and joined the Women’s march in Washington DC.

I have always thought street protests were basically pointless and potentially even counter-productive by hardening views on both sides.

I also felt slightly embarrassed about it. As though marching was a slightly vulgar activity as opposed to writing raging polemics or voting.

I attended my first ever proper protest on 9 November in Manhattan after Trump’s election but felt like it was pointless. I left after five minutes.

Protesting a newly elected president seems particularly futile and possibly even makes me a sore loser.
I’m also concerned about the growth of divisive identity politics and think the Women’s March should have been the more inclusive People’s March.

Women’s issues were a key part but really it was a carnival of anti-Trump issues from climate change to trade polices.

And the protest was also full of the usual collection of fruitcakes from extreme socialist parties to extreme identity politics and overly aggressive signs, costumes and chants. There were thousands of people I would rather not be associated with, although that is the nature of a wide coalition.

In some ways it was hundreds of thousands of angry “snowflakes” who were “virtue signalling” our views in the parlance of today’s sneering right.

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With Trump in the White House, 2017 will be the year of living dangerously

04/01/2017, 10:27:31 PM

by Rob Marchant

It seems like a statement of the blindingly obvious but, during the current calm of the Obama fin-de-siècle, and before the storm which the Trump inauguration is likely to kick off, it seems like America has almost forgotten itself. The impact of the outsider’s November victory has temporarily become 2016’s giant elephant in the room. But the impacts may well resonate for years.

Those who think Trump is a Good Thing remain delighted, revelling in their apparent vindication, although perhaps slightly nervous at a victory they did not expect. On the other hand, the majority of voting Americans – who did not want Trump, and whose number included many registered Republicans – almost seem to have become numb to what is about to happen. They should not.

As New Republic’s senior editor Jeet Heer put it,


In many ways, this numbness, this complacency is something that Democrats have brought upon themselves. Not, to be clear, because they fielded the wrong candidate: it has now become a particularly dumb conventional wisdom on the left that the Dems should blame themselves, as if somehow the primary process could be manipulated by the DNC to get the candidate they wanted, and they chose Clinton.

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The Uncuts: 2016 political awards (part I)

30/12/2016, 02:04:19 PM

Honorary Order of Suez – David Cameron

From triumph to tragedy, Uncut’s 2015 politician of the year is awarded the Honorary Order of Suez for 2016.

This is an extremely rare accolade, earned only by those politicians whose train-wreck judgement on a career-defining issue doesn’t just end their political life, but tips the country off a precipice into the dangerous unknown.

Anthony Eden is the one other politician to have qualified for this least sought after honorific. At a push, Edward Heath might have been considered in 1974 for calling, and losing, an election while at the mercy of striking unions. But David Cameron is the first politician to unequivocally clear the threshold for this prize since 1956.

Having become Conservative leader with a clear view that the Tories needed to “stop banging on about Europe,” David Cameron departs as Britain prepares to exit the EU with Europe set to dominate the next decade of British politics.

It’s hard to conceive of a greater or more personal political disaster for him. His manifold political successes – from beating David Davis for the Tory leadership to becoming Prime Minister in 2010, turning back Scottish independence in 2014 and winning an unprecedented majority at the 2015 election – will be wiped from the historical record. David Cameron will be remembered for one thing and one thing alone.

It is quite an extraordinary and dizzying fall.

British politician of the year – Theresa May

Getting to the top of the greasy pole merits recognition. Theresa May has hankered after the top job for many years and amidst the carnage of the post-Brexit Tory leadership campaign (see below Political suicide bomber of the year and Media moment of the year) she was literally the last candidate standing.

May’s ascent might have been comparative – less her rise, more others’ fall – but she is now resident in Number 10 and has the opportunity to define her governing creed.

Her challenges are plentiful and the whispers flowing out of Whitehall about micro-management and institutional sclerosis do not augur well. Her very Brownite journey to the top, defined by studied inaction, seems to have extended into a quintessentially Brownite management approach to the Number 10 in-tray.

Nevertheless, for the good of the country, Uncut wishes her well in understanding how Downing Street differs from every other department of state and a better fate than 2015’s Uncut British politician of the year.

Political suicide bomber of the year – Michael Gove

This is a special category created to recognise the extraordinary endeavours of Michael Gove in 2016.

He started the year as a family friend of the Camerons, a close political confidant of the Prime Minister Cameron and widely regarded as one of the smartest in the Cabinet with impeccable personal connections across the parliamentary party.

He ends it estranged from the Camerons, shunned by Prime Minister May, out of the Cabinet and with a new cadre of lifelong political enemies from the Boris Johnson campaign, sitting along-side him on the backbenches.

In 2016, Michael Gove couldn’t pass a bridge without burning it.

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Labour must fight the cancer of post-truth politics, not sign up to it

24/11/2016, 06:06:01 PM

by Rob Marchant

If there were to be a nadir of democratic politics, in the sense of public apathy towards truthfulness in their politicians, even in the strange world of 2016, we may not yet have reached it.

The unprecedented election of a seemingly pathological liar to the post of leader of the Free World is pretty bad. But 2016 may yet, appallingly, see a lying far-right politician elected as French president. It is not expected: but then, no-one really expected Trump, either. These are strange times. Worst of all, it seems that, the more mainstream politicians warn against a populist being elected, the more people vote for them.

But the real disaster that this populism brings in its wake is this: others believe that “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”. And so we see mainstream politicians lying: for example, about Brexit, with the now-notorious £350m to be saved and pledged to the NHS.

Now, there are two lazy clichés that commentators, or members of the public, will periodically trot out about politicians. One is that they are “all the same”, when that is patently not the case. There are decent British politicians in all parties, at least the major ones. Those of us who have worked in politics for any length of time will testify to the often quite pleasantly surprising levels of dedication to public service in the face of constant brickbats, lack of job security, aggressive whips, hostile colleagues and an often thankless public.

But the second is even more familiar: “all politicians are liars”. Well, no, they’re not – historically, mainstream politicians tend to be demonstrably truthful, as it’s too easy to humiliate them when they get caught. But the precedent is certainly being set currently that it’s increasingly ok to lie.

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