Friday, November 30, 2018

Ivan Krastev: A European Goes To Trump's Washington

This wasn’t my first visit to America, but it was my most disturbing one. What I found so disconcerting was the pervasive political polarization afflicting the country. It was also clear that America has become inward-looking and conspiracy-minded. And in Washington now, people are incapable of discussing anything but President Trump. They talk about Mr. Trump even when they pretend to be speaking about something else. It’s all Trump, all the time.
He seems to indicate that most of the conspiratorial thinking--about Trump anyway--is on the left. Which seems right to me. The right has always seemed to me to have its conspiracy theories...I guess The Deep State Contra Trump is a new, trumpy one, though. It does seem to me that we now seem a bit like the Afghanistan/Iraq we sometimes hear about, in which everybody basically swims in a sea of rumors.
   Mr. Trump’s presidency has ushered in two significant changes that are likely to have staying power. First, with his administration, Americans have lost confidence in their exceptionalism. It’s not just the president but also the millennials (who predominantly oppose him) who no longer share the belief that America is an “indispensable nation” with a moral obligation to make the world safe for democracy. The difference is that the millennials believe that America is hardly better than other countries, while Mr. Trump believes that if America wants to defend its global leadership, it has to be nastier than others.
   Second, under the Trump presidency, rivalry with China has become the organizing principle of American foreign policy. Republicans and Democrats disagree on almost everything today, but one area where there seems to be effective bipartisanship is that America must change its policy toward China. Only a few lost souls in Washington continue to believe that China’s economic development will lead to a political opening. There is now a consensus that allowing China to join the World Trade Organization in 2001 was a mistake and that if America fails to contain China’s geopolitical reach now, tomorrow it will be impossible to do so. America’s anxiety about China is in my view a realization of the fact that China’s market-friendly, big-data authoritarianism is a much more dangerous adversary for liberal democracies than Soviet Communism ever was.
I don't even know whether the first thing is true, much less the second. 


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