Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Winning is NOT the only thing

I suppose that as a Fordham man I should be sentimental about Vince Lombardy and the Seven Blocks of Granite:  the legendary frontline of Fordham's days as a national football power.  But anyone with experience knows that winning is not the only thing.  That the art of the deal actually requires knowledge and respect for both the needs of the other - and one's own.  It also requires the desire to reach agreement.
The man who claims he will make us "tired of winning" actually has little success to point to:  a deal for a hotel or a gof course or an apartment building is thin experience compared to the complexity of international trade, and military policy,
Winning May Be the Only Thing for Trump, But Not For the U.S. « LobeLog
by Prof. Paul R.Pillar (retired National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia)

***consider the incoming U.S. president and what we know, and don’t know, about his outlook on foreign policy.  Despite the earnest and usually sincere efforts by many commentators to discern pattern, direction, and purpose amid Donald Trump’s tweets and other utterances, the dominant picture is still one of inconsistencies, contradictions, slogans, and lack of a record.  We are, late in the transition period, still mostly flying blind regarding the actual future foreign policy of this new presidency.  We have little idea of what Trump really cares about in the substance of U.S. foreign policy, as distinct from rhetoric that has worked in a campaign and that helps in his effort to portray himself as a populist.
We do know, however, that Trump cares a lot about winning—or more precisely, about being seen as a winner.  He constantly returns to the framework of “winners” and “losers” as his way of identifying what is good and bad and what matters to him.  His repeated stress on associating himself with the biggest or best or most successful whatever is part of making sure that he is always seen as a winner.  And on November 8th he registered the biggest win that any individual could.  The slogan about winning being the only thing does appear to apply to Donald Trump and to what drives him.
There are many drawbacks in applying to foreign policy an outlook that is more appropriate to sports, but one set of drawbacks is suggested in a perceptive piece by Mark Katz about prospects for U.S.-Russian relations in the Trump administration.  Katz observes that the principal demands that Vladimir Putin is likely to make as conditions for an improved relationship are ones that Trump would have good reason to agree to.  Accept the Russian annexation of Crimea?  It’s a fait accompli that is not going to be reversed anyway.  Lift Ukraine-related sanctions on Russia?  The sanctions are bad for business.  Promise that none of the former Soviet republics apart from the Baltic states will join NATO or the European Union?  The Europeans don’t want them as members.  Accept continuation of a Russian-allied Assad regime in Damascus?  The jihadist alternatives are even worse.  Although Katz doesn’t say so, these are valid reasons and low-cost ways for not just Trump but any U.S. president to accept much of what Putin wants in the interest of a better relationship that would have benefits for the United States.
The problem, as Katz points out, is that Trump cannot be perceived as caving in to Putin.  He has to be seen instead as having wrung concessions from Putin, and preferably as having gotten the better of him.  Katz emphasizes that Trump especially must be seen doing so in the eyes of a domestic audience that includes hawkish, anti-Russian Congressional Republicans.  Trump has the added baggage of the Russian hacking and interference in the U.S. election; any favorable move he makes toward Putin risks being interpreted as payback for election favors.

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