Flat White

Do Trump’s gut feelings beat the tenets of the left?

3 April 2018

4:50 PM

3 April 2018

4:50 PM

One has to admire Donald Trump’s gall. Against the best economic advice that the experts could give, he went and raised tariffs on steel and aluminium imports. Despite the pundits’ caution that a trade war would follow which would severely damage the United States economy and plunge the world into recession, some of the American steel plants that had been closed since the days of Bill Clinton have now re-opened and employees have been called back to work. Go figure: maybe there is a difference between theory and practice.

What went unnoticed was that that important distinction arose again when the President announced that China had been stealing US intellectual property for years and manipulating currency prices to improve their market access. Didn’t China, like a panda in the cross-hairs, declare it would retaliate with a great trade war and would never surrender its rights to cheat? It is only a few days since Trump imposed tariffs on US$50 billion worth of Chinese goods. The pundits in the Washington Post, as China belligerently responded, stated that Trump didn’t understand foreign trade and a trade war would hurt the US economy.

But then, to use an expression that the President himself might have, something wonderful happened.

The first wonderful thing to happen was the dramatic change in the North Korean claim to nuclear weapons as a sovereign right. Suddenly and seemingly against those expert opinions who thought war imminent, North Korea announced its desire for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. Goodness, who would have thought it possible? Definitely not the pundits from the left wing media, like the New York Times, the Washington Post or our own Fairfax and its sister, the ABC.

Their respective opinions on the likelihood of such a statement can be summarised under one thread: Trump’s vulgar, crass bargaining methods will be outfoxed by the wily and untrustworthy North Koreans who break promises as often as they break fortune cookies. After all, the rogue state had developed nuclear weapons under the watchful gaze of the United Nations, despite the best endeavours of the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations to enforce negotiated settlements which had included US payments of enormous sums of money in order to purchase compliance by the extortionist.

The second wonderful thing to happen, despite the negative commentary of the left, was the total capitulation by the Chinese to Trump’s policy. It came quickly in two steps. The first step was the reports of a mystery green train with the yellow stripe that was seen arriving in Peking (sorry, Beijing) Central Station. It was quickly identified as the Kim family train and when it departed a day or two later it was acknowledged to be carrying Kim Jong-un to his palatial home in the desolated nation of North Korea. The second step in a humiliating back-down came when China media confirmed that President-for-life-and-then-a-bit Xi had met with President-until-death Kim and given the North Koreans some friendly riding instructions regarding the upcoming conference with the Trump administration.

Despite the refusal of left-wing media to give Trump credit for anything that happens unless he is President when the Russians start a nuclear war as part of Putin’s next re-election campaign, there is every reason to believe that the talks between the United States and North Korea will actually be successful in removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. It will be successful because the Chinese blinked at starting a trade war with the US and the North Korean government blinked at Chinese threats.

It will be successful because the much-derided negotiating strategy that Trump has applied was based on a principle that is as old as time; tyrants only respond to superior force. People like Clinton and Obama were filled with theories of human behaviour and what they didn’t know; they obtained from theorists to advise them. The truth about men of theory is that even the best of them will endlessly talk about a problem rather than take action (compare Hamlet decision at 3.iii.97 with Laertes at 4.vii.124, for example). They don’t realise that there are some problems that a treaty cannot solve. GW Bush justified his invasion of Iraq on the rather personal basis that Saddam plotted to assassinate his father which is hardly a sufficient reason for going to war. Although it might have justified GW Bush personally going to Iraq for that purpose.

What was evident in those administrations was the absence of prudent, experienced men and women (other than military experience) who might have advised on proper courses of action. In the case of Clinton whose character defects were so large, such advice would not have been heeded.

In the US, the experts and the pundits from the left have so far been wrong about Donald Trump even if they refuse to acknowledge it. Trump’s threat and his imposition of tariffs created sufficient pressure on China to induce that nation to assist in achieving his immediate foreign policy objective, North Korea. And in defying the expert economic advice and imposing tariffs, he has also begun the turn-around of the US economy and created further full-time employment opportunities. The success of his policies actually offers hope to the Republican Congress in the midterm elections due later this year.  Alternatively put, Trump’s practical policies trumped the left’s theory.

In Australia, however, theory still holds sway over practice. Whether that theory is economic theory and the theory of free trade, or whether it is feminist theory, gender fluidity theory or the theory of multiculturalism, the social science experts control the dialogue and the politicians, like journalists hoping to give their pet ideas some intellectual altitude, look for the social scientist who is prepared to endorse their view of the world; or in the words of the relativist, their worldview.

Before any political success can be achieved in this country, reform of the theoretical opinions from the universities that so dominate our public discourse is an absolute necessity.

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