There are four real crises in the world, and the most important one is reaching boilover status. It would be useful if we all would put aside our views on 2020 and focus on them.
The first emanates from Beijing. "If the U.S. goes ahead with its tariff measures against China, China will have to resort to necessary countermeasures," a spokesperson for the Chinese government warned on May 8. More and more warnings, increasingly ominous, from various sources have followed.
Alongside this abrupt and sinister ratcheting up of rhetoric from China is the second crisis: a series of acts of war believed to have been ordered by Iran against Persian Gulf shipping and Saudi pipelines, acts bordered with bellicose rhetoric from the Islamic Republic's "Supreme Leader."
The third crisis is the long-running Russian assault on the West's open social media platforms. Russia's attack on our election in 2016 used new weapons in a far broader confrontation that has more or less raged since 1917 and that will continue unabated. As with China, it's a tense relationship that can be managed short of open conflict.
These 2016 cyberattacks foreshadow more to come; thank goodness, not a single American, much less the president, his campaign or family, conspired with Vladimir Putin to sow hatred and divide our country so deeply.
Had special counsel Robert Mueller's team declared these simple truths with anything approaching President Donald Trump's level of candor on everything, that would have been a genuine public service. Sadly, the would-be Javerts on Team Mueller lost their balance and the chance to sound a loud alarm. That alarm has been silenced by endless Trump-bashing and Trump's obligatory counterattacks. But the Russian menace remains, and is probably dwarfed by a far more subtle campaign of espionage by a great power of far greater capacity in China.
The fourth crisis is the catastrophe in Venezuela. Regime change is Trump's objective there: NicolĂˇs Maduro must go. Crippling sanctions but not regime change for Iran could force behavior changes. But Venezuela needs regime change. Trump has been clear.
Trump is responding to both his domestic political opponents and America's actual enemies with the same tactics: blunt, repetitive messaging and use of the walk-off. He is sometimes rude, often full of unnecessary slashes, but always direct. (It often seems as if Trump answers more questions from reporters in a walk to the helicopter than President Barack Obama did in formal press conferences.) And there is a transparent candor - what he actually is thinking at that moment - combined with a willingness to walk out of a charade.
Trump believes China badly mishandled the near-endgame of the trade negotiations. He doesn't want a war with Iran (but don't think about striking an American ship). He can smile at Putin and Kim Jong Un, do endless grips-and-and-grins with them, and not reduce sanctions on either of them an iota until he gets a deal. He'd do a real with Iran too, not a faux "breakthrough" like Obama had. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has outlined an Iran deal often, and it begins with the release of Americans unjustly held prisoner in Iran and with the ending of that country's export of chaos and terror.
Trump is not an adventurer, but he is a brawler. Syria has twice been on the receiving end of a fusillade of missiles for crossing red lines. The Trump walkouts on squabbling, showboating Democrats, like the walk out on Kim in Hanoi, have broadcast his go-to move.
Whether it's Nancy Pelosi, the Chinese trade negotiators or the North Korean dictator, Trump will do a real deal or nothing at all. And he won't be played. He will just walk away, and then he will tell his side of the story, repeatedly.
Trump has abruptly and with finality simply voided long-held shibboleths among the foreign policy establishment. He holds summits with bad guys and he doesn't care if the media thinks he's unprepared. He's recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, which it is. He recognized the annexation of the Golan Heights as a fait accompli, which it is. He has allowed Jared Kushner to put forward a peace plan for the Middle East, but everyone in the world knows he's got Israel's back.
"Clarity before agreement" goes the saying of my radio colleague Dennis Prager. Perhaps Trump's 2020 campaign can put that on a hat.
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