De­cod­ing the Don­ald’s ap­proach

The in­com­ing pres­i­dent is prag­matic, not ide­o­log­i­cal

The Washington Times Daily - - OPINION - By Peter Morici Peter Morici is an econ­o­mist and busi­ness pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Mary­land, and a na­tional colum­nist.

Cozy­ing up to Rus­sia, ques­tion­ing the “one-China pol­icy,” dis­put­ing CIA in­tel­li­gence and nam­ing sev­eral gen­er­als and bil­lion­aires to his Cab­i­net, Don­ald Trump has set aghast many for­eign pol­icy an­a­lysts, economists, se­cu­rity ex­perts and main­stream jour­nal­ists who are ac­cus­tomed to or­derly think­ing and a pre­tense of what they view as prin­ci­pled de­ci­sion-mak­ing from Washington’s po­lit­i­cal lead­ers.

Sadly for them — but not for the vot­ers who elected Mr. Trump — the pres­i­dent-elect has no big, ide­al­is­tic vi­sion of an or­derly world to an­chor Amer­i­can in­ter­na­tional pol­icy or limit strate­gies at home to res­ur­rect the econ­omy.

Mr. Trump lacks John Kennedy’s in­au­gu­ral con­fi­dence that Amer­ica has the wealth and will to bear any bur­den, en­dure any price to de­fend free­dom in ev­ery cor­ner of the world. Nor does he em­brace Barack Obama’s sense of Amer­i­can re­spon­si­bil­ity and guilt to risk our na­tional pros­per­ity, cul­tural iden­tity and se­cu­rity to pro­mote an ethe­real global com­mu­nity.

Mr. Trump has a tougher, more re­al­is­tic view — ap­peal­ing mostly to or­di­nary folks who must bear the eco­nomic and so­cial costs of glob­al­iza­tion, the threats of ter­ror­ism in pub­lic places and risks of serv­ing in the ranks of our mil­i­tary. Sim­ply, Amer­i­can for­eign and do­mes­tic eco­nomic poli­cies should pro­mote Amer­i­can in­ter­ests — af­ter all, Ber­lin, Tokyo and Bei­jing are busy look­ing out for their cit­i­zens’ wel­fare and na­tional in­ter­ests.

Sim­i­larly, Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions who profit and ben­e­fit from Washington’s largess at home and pro­tec­tion abroad should weigh the in­ter­ests of work­ers and tax­pay­ers when they con­sider whether to lo­cate a fac­tory in In­di­ana or Shang­hai.

In Ger­many, which is sup­posed to be bound to the same World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WTO) obli­ga­tions to pro­mote free trade and in­vest­ment as the United States, Volk­swa­gen must con­tend with pro­vin­cial govern­ment of­fi­cials — who to­gether with union lead­ers hold ma­jor­ity seats on its su­per­vi­sory board — when de­cid­ing whether Ger­man or for­eign fa­cil­i­ties must bear the brunt of lay­offs made nec­es­sary by au­to­ma­tion and com­pe­ti­tion, and where the next gen­er­a­tion of au­to­mo­biles and com­po­nents are to be made.

In China, fail­ure to com­ply with Bei­jing’s mon­i­tor­ing ap­pa­ra­tus for its cit­i­zens or to make prod­ucts and con­duct re­search and de­vel­op­ment do­mes­ti­cally can have grave con­se­quences for the pro­tec­tion of Ap­ple’s and other tech­nol­ogy firms’ in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty. Hence, their ex­ec­u­tives ac­cept Bei­jing’s sub­si­dies to build plants in the Mid­dle King­dom and de­cry the qual­ity of Amer­i­can work­ers as a fig leaf for com­plic­ity.

Seen in this con­text, Mr. Trump’s warn­ings to China about its mer­can­tilist strate­gies and to Amer­i­can com­pa­nies about mov­ing plants abroad sig­nal a ra­tio­nal change in pol­icy. The WTO can’t ad­e­quately de­fang Ger­man or Chi­nese pro­tec­tion­ism, but Mr. Trump can make it as costly for U.S. multi­na­tion­als to ig­nore Amer­i­can in­ter­ests as it is for them to bend to the will of for­eign pow­ers.

His rat­tling of Bei­jing’s cage on Tai­wan and trade are a more sim­ple warn­ing to Bei­jing. The new regime in Washington knows what’s re­ally im­por­tant to Com­mu­nist lead­ers — the myth of one China, the preser­va­tion of China’s so­cial­ist mar­ket econ­omy and the grip of the Com­mu­nist Party on power. Hence, it’s time for Bei­jing to get rea­son­able on trade, in­vest­ment and even the South China Sea, be­cause an an­gry eagle could prove the worst imag­in­able night­mare for an ar­ro­gant dragon.

Re­gard­ing Rus­sia and the Mid­dle East, a U.S. pres­i­dent can­not ask the Amer­i­can peo­ple to put their sons and daugh­ters in harm’s way to counter Moscow’s in­cur­sions into East­ern Europe or to de­feat the Is­lamic State if the rich­est and largest na­tion in Europe, Ger­many, and oth­ers on the con­ti­nent are not will­ing to bear sim­i­lar bur­dens to de­fend their free­dom and make their streets safe. More­over, de­feat­ing the Is­lamic State on the ground will not end, but only re­duce ter­ror­ist threats from Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, and desta­bi­liz­ing Syria and sim­i­larly seek­ing regime change else­where in the re­gion will only make mat­ters worse.

For the time be­ing at least, Amer­ica has to make the best deal it can with Rus­sia to se­cure the east­ern fron­tiers of the West in Europe, and to tol­er­ate Syria’s Bashar As­sad and sim­i­lar bad ac­tors.

Mr. Trump is a pop­ulist and a prag­ma­tist. His ap­proach to each chal­lenge is rooted in what or­di­nary vot­ers will ac­cept — not the high think­ing and lofty ideals of in­tel­lec­tu­als. He ap­proaches each prob­lem like any other deal — he as­sesses what the other guy wants, what he has to of­fer or with­hold, and then bar­gains hard.

Mar­kets are ral­ly­ing for a rea­son. Mr. Trump’s ap­proach is how busi­nesses and na­tions ul­ti­mately suc­ceed.

ILLUSTRATION BY LINAS GARSYS

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