Wednesday Night #1888

Written by  //  May 16, 2018  //  Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Three foreign policy issues dominate the news this week and all relate to Donald Trump’s impetuous foreign policy moves.
Some commentators believe that Trump is illustrating brilliant ‘art-of-the-deal’ strategy, ignoring diplomacy in favour of bullying, sudden reversals and ambushes of more moderate members of the administration. Others are not so sure of the brilliance of the tactics, as the United States becomes increasingly isolated from its traditional allies in two dossiers and seemingly more reliant on China in the third. At present, perhaps in view of the dangers of the Mueller Russia probe, we are hearing little about Russian influence over the Trump administration.

In a sudden move, North Korea pulled out of high-level talks with South Korea — and warned that Kim Jong-un’s meeting with President Trump next month could be in jeopardy. The North was protesting a joint South Korean-U.S. Air Force drill, and informed the South of the decision in a phone call shortly after midnight Tuesday local time. The news injected sudden tension and uncertainty into what had been months of warming relations on the Korean Peninsula. The State Department said the U.S. had no information about the postponement and would move forward with its planning for the historic meeting.
Should the meeting in Singapore go forward (as we suspect it will) the Straits Times offers What you need to know about the historic summit – Experts said “neutrality” was the keyword behind the venue choice, as it could offer a comfortable environment for the summit without both leaders stepping on each other’s “home turf” and adding that “Malaysia was likely ruled out due to the allegations that Mr Kim had ordered the murder of his half brother there”, which sounds reasonable to us.The next critical decision is where exactly the meetings will be held. According to the article, “Experts flagged three possible locations in Singapore for the summit: The Shangri-La Hotel, Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa. Shangri-La Hotel, which hosts the annual high-level Shangri-La security dialogue is said to be the top contender with its know-how in terms of logistics and security. MBS is owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp, whose chairman and chief executive is [the odious] Mr Sheldon Adelson, one of Mr Trump’s major donors.” Bets, anyone?

While there is a range of honestly held opinion on whether or not the U.S. embassy should have been moved to Jerusalem, it is hard to imagine that anyone could have wanted the inflammatory, ill-conceived,  Grotesque Spectacle in Jerusalem that the world witnessed on Monday. Al Jazeera reported on World leaders react[ion] to US embassy relocation to Jerusalem, noting that”all 86 countries with diplomatic missions in Israel were invited to the embassy opening, yet only 33 countries confirmed attendance.” Note, Canada, along with France, Germany, the UK, Nordic countries, Italy, Spain, Portugal, India, China and Russia did not attend. Jeremy Kinsman and Lawrence Haas debate on CTV: “Larry and I disagree. Trudeau today said that Israelis and Palestinians have to get together and negotiate a two-state solution. The problem is that in this Israeli government there’s no one who wants it. What they seem to want is for Palestinians to accept a status quo that to them is rightly unacceptable. What we do know for sure is that on this issue, as on several others, the US is no longer a leader to look to. Sad and strange.”

Finally, there is the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal. The Guardian sums up the dilemma for the  allies;
Trump is wrong over Iran, but Europe can’t afford to divorce the US
No other US president has been as antagonistic to European principles. But there’s no alternative to a strong transatlantic partnership
(The Guardian) This US move amounts to an open assault on multilateralism – something that, as history has taught us, Europeans have an existential interest in protecting and upholding. Trump’s decision can only be an own goal. US credibility will be severely affected. When a German chancellor declares – as Angela Merkel has just done, for the second time in a year – that Europe can no longer rely on the United States, you know something is amiss. Many others will now ask: how can we ever again trust a country that can withdraw overnight from solemn international agreements?
Thomas Friedman’s take focuses on  President Trump’s approach to every one of Barack Obama’s policies, including his nuclear deal with Iran: “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” …  Trump, by taking a hard line on Iran, drew some needed attention to Iran’s bad behavior and created an opportunity to improve the nuclear deal. But to do so would have required Trump to admit that there was merit in the deal Obama had forged and to be content with limited, but valuable, fixes that our European allies likely would have embraced.”
Haaretz sounds a different note of warning: Dumping Iran Deal May Well Spur Regime Change. But It Could Be Trump’s Regime. Or Bibi’s

Not at the same crisis level, but of concern because China will most certainly play a key role in the Korea negotiations:
Why Trump Is Suddenly Worried About Saving Jobs in China: 6 Theories.
There could be any number of explanations for Trump’s reversal of policy on ZTE – or a combination of factors.
In recent months President Trump launched a trade war with China, a nation he’s accused, in vivid terms, of stealing American jobs, wealth, and intellectual property. “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country, and that’s what they’re doing,” he said during one campaign rally.
Then on Sunday, Trump suddenly became very concerned about protecting Chinese jobs.. or is there a murkier reason, as Charles Pierce, among others, suggests “Casual observers noted that the Trump Organization is involved in a huge project in Indonesia—golf courses, resorts, etc.—that is backed with $500 million from China”, prompting Vanity Fair to ask Is China Straight-Up Bribing Donald Trump?

Tom Wolfe has died. Among the many tributes, one of our favorites is New York Magazine’s Tom Wolfe, New York and New Journalism Legend, Dies at 88. The delightful – and tragic – Margot Kidder is also gone.

Other notes in no particular order

Like the Marie Celeste, MH370’s mystery will likely never be solved, but will always fascinate.
MH370 experts think they’ve finally solved the mystery of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight

Bravo to Westmount Magazine and Wanda Potrykus for a great new series on a local living history collection based at the Atwater Library. Birth of a local living history collection /1 introduces the collection, Birth of a local living history collection /2 profiles some fascinating individuals who have each contributed to the evolution of the community, while Birth of a local living history collection /3 is a meticulously researched and beautifully written account of the history of the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the future development of that site. Wanda is open to ideas and personal accounts, so don’t be shy to contact her.

This item from the Harvard Business Review will likely remind each of us of our own weaknesses, or those of a colleague/friend.
Insecure overachievers are especially susceptible to working long hours.
If You’re So Successful, Why Are You Still Working 70 Hours a Week?
Laura Empson writes in the Harvard Business review: My research, published in my new book about leadership in professional organizations, shows that our tendency to overwork and burn out is framed by a complex combination of factors involving our profession, our organization, and ourselves. At the heart of it is insecurity. As one senior business unit leader in a law firm admitted to me: “I just come in here and work as hard as I can all the time. I feel like I’m doing a good job, but it’s hard to measure. That’s the nature of what we do: It’s feast or famine. And we all tend to be such insecure people that we’re all scared all the time.”

Montreal is hosting the 2018 ICLEI Congress  (19-22 June) and the very good news is that Jaime Revenaz-Webbe will be in town from Copenhagen where she leads the adaptation team of the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). We are hoping she will be able to join us on Wednesday Night 20 June for a WN devoted to climate change issues.

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