Tuesday, September 15, 2020

What did Donald Trump do today?

He celebrated peace between nations already at peace.

Trump held a signing ceremony today at the White House for an agreement between Israel and two other Middle Eastern nations, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Among other things, Trump credited himself with having "change[d] the course of history after decades of division and conflict."

In reality, however, Israel has never been in conflict with either Bahrain or the UAE—ever. Israel is almost a thousand miles from Bahrain and even further from the UAE, and the governments of all three countries have been generally within the American sphere of influence. There was already normal trade and unofficial diplomatic relations between Israel and the two Arab states.

The White House did not really try to deny that it was designed to provide Trump with a foreign policy "achievement" just before the election. It seems to be all that will come from Trump's assigning his son-in-law, Jared Kushner—a real estate heir with no experience in government, the region, or diplomacy—to come up with a Middle East peace plan.

The real external threats to Israel are Iran, and the Assad regime in Syria. Trump has done everything possible to provoke Iran, unilaterally withdrawing the United States from a treaty that was successfully dismantling the Iranian nuclear program. He also ordered the assassination of an Iranian general in what looked more like an attempt to stir up political support during his impeachment than to achieve any national security goals.

In Syria, however, Trump—who occasionally gets confused about which side of the conflict the United States is on—has done almost everything possible to allow the Assad regime to stay in power. While he's failed to bring American troops out of harm's way, he did order a sudden and hasty retreat that abandoned the United States's Kurdish allies to ethnic cleansing by advancing Turkish forces, and let Russian troops occupy American bases. The Putin regime, which Trump is personally financially entangled with, is pro-Assad. (Abandoning the Kurds in Syria also helped Iran.)

It's not clear if Trump really understood there was no "conflict" to resolve, or whether he simply thinks voters will believe there was. It's also not clear what the United States has had to give Bahrain and the UAE in order to get a signing ceremony on the White House lawn just before an election—because the White House wouldn't say.

Why does this matter?

  • It's wrong to take credit for solving problems that didn't exist in the first place.
  • Voters may not like Trump assuming they're dumb.
  • Diplomacy is not a campaign stunt.