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The Year in Review: Washington Wrap

Omri Nahmias

This was the year Trump taught the world never to say never

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

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Never Say Never

This was the year Trump taught the world never to say never. If during his first year in office Trump shied away from controversies on the international front (with the exception of his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change), in his second year, Trump showed the world that he’s afraid of no one.

Washington insiders and policy experts said the president could never move the US embassy to Jerusalem. Not only did Trump move the embassy, but the change went over relatively smoothly. Pundits said the US could never walk away from the Iran nuclear deal, but again, Trump did walk away, and the world did not explode.

International experts said channels of diplomacy could never be established with North Korea — a few months later, Trump embraced Kim Jong-un. Pundits said a lot of other things, too, like the United States could never impose tariffs on China or cut funding for the Palestinian Authority. But Trump did, anyway.

The president proved this year that he doesn’t want just to be called “president,” he wants to actively preside and carry out his campaign promises — even against the express will of top staffers. Meanwhile, the American economy is more stable than ever before, with employment at an all-time high and a bull stock market in its ninth year.

What’s the takeaway? First, never try to predict what Trump will do, nor scoff at what he says he’ll do. Second, Trump likes to see things happen in real time, but the fact is we’ll only see the outcome of his actions — the sanctions on Iran, and the ties with North Korea — in the coming months.

 

The Forecast

Extremism, extremism, and more extremism. It’s a worldwide trend that hasn’t skipped over the United States. For instance, a close examination of the list of Congressional candidates for the midterm elections shows that many of the Democrats are far to the left of party standard bearer Hillary Clinton. On the other side of the aisle, a number of veteran GOP senators and congressmen, whose positions are now more traditionally Republican than those of Trump, have dropped out of politics altogether. This year will force voters to take sides. Given the list of candidates, it will be hard to sit on the fence.

 

Letdown

Trump bolted the G7 Summit of world leaders early and refused to sign the joint communique. Then he tweeted that the summit’s host, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, was “dishonest and weak.” From there, he flew to a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whom he praised to the skies. That’s when the realization dawned that Trump does not necessarily view America’s traditional allies — the liberal democratic West — as his most important partners. He’s entitled to his differences of opinion with Germany, Canada, France, and Britain, but major global strife doesn’t bode well for America’s future place in the world.

 

Seeking: Reset

Without doubt, Trump’s handshake with Kim Jong-un, an event that no one could have imagined even two years ago. It’s not just the meeting and the handshake, but the dizzying speed at which it all happened. Barely three months passed from the minute that Trump accepted the invitation until the actual sit-down. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is continuing negotiations with the North Koreans on dismantling their nuclear program, with sanctions in situ. While we haven’t seen solid results yet, that diplomacy that has replaced talk of a doomsday war is undoubtedly a positive development for the world.

 

Game Changer

Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, is the most inspiring world leader of the past year, if not decade. Since taking office, he’s executed a laundry list of far-reaching reforms, freed thousands of political prisoners, canceled the country’s state of emergency, and announced a plan to privatize the country’s communications, flight, and electricity industries to attract foreign investment. Most significantly, he signed an agreement to end the 20-year hostilities with neighboring Eritrea. Not bad for his first four months in office.

 

Artful Diplomacy

There’s no doubt that canceling the Iran nuclear deal will have the greatest ramifications worldwide, and for many years to come. Trump took the gamble of his life, defying many of his advisors — and replacing those who were outright opposed. It looks very much like Trump’s move could trigger the fall of the ayatollahs’ regime. Meanwhile, Europe has taken the opposite tack, vowing to stay in the deal and aid companies affected by the threat of sanctions. Once again, international collision appears to be in the offing.  (Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 726)

 

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