(Image: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
James Goldgeier and Elizabeth N. Saunders
In the age of Donald Trump, it often feels as though one individual has the power to chart the United States’ course in the world all by himself. Since taking office as U.S. president, Trump has made a series of unilateral decisions with enormous consequences. He walked away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris agreement on climate change, and the Iran nuclear deal. He imposed tariffs on Canada, China, Mexico, and the European Union. In June, he single-handedly upended the G-7 summit by insulting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and withdrawing the United States from the group’s joint communiqué. In July, his European travels produced more diplomatic fireworks, with a NATO summit in Brussels that raised questions about his commitment to the organization—before his deferential press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Each choice has brought howls of outrage—but little real pushback. Congress, for example, has proved unable to block the president from starting a trade war with China and with U.S. allies. For all of Trump’s talk of a shadowy “deep state” bent on undermining his every move, the U.S. government’s vast bureaucracy has watched as the president has dragged his feet on a plan to deter Russian election interference. Even the United States’ closest allies have been unable to talk Trump out of damaging and potentially withdrawing from institutions of the liberal international order that the country has led for decades. How can a political system vaunted for its checks and balances allow one person to act so freely? (Read more)
More than two years have passed since Britain voted for Brexit. Ever since that moment, the vote to leave the European Union has routinely been framed as an aberration; a radical departure from ‘normal’ life. Countless journalists, scholars, and celebrities have lined up to offer their diagnosis of what caused this apparent moment of madness among the electorate. Russia-backed social media accounts. Shady big tech firms like Cambridge Analytica. Austerity. The malign influence of populist ‘Brexiteers’ like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. The Brexit campaign exceeding its legal spending limit. Or a much-debated claim, written on the side of a bus, that Brexit would allow Britain to redirect its millions of pounds worth of contributions to the EU into its own creaking health service. Typical is a recent piece by a (British) columnist in the New York Times who argues: “Britain is in this mess principally because the Brexiteers—led largely by Mr. Johnson—sold the country a series of lies in the lead up to the June 2016 referendum.”
Britain has produced a Brexit debate that is utterly dry, sterile, and completely lacking in imagination. Much of the commentary has shared three features: an exclusive focus on incredibly short-term factors that apparently proved decisive; a clear and concerted attempt to try and delegitimize the result by implying that either voters were duped or that the Leave campaign was crooked; and absolutely no engagement whatsoever with the growing pile of evidence that we now have on why people actually voted for Brexit. Far from staging an irrational outburst, most Leavers shared a clear and coherent outlook and had formed their views long before the campaign even began. (Read more)
Clemens Hoffman and Can Cemgil
Turkey’s recently reelected president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is blaming the sudden and dramatic decline of the Turkish lira on an international conspiracy, variously railing against an “economic war” and a “currency plot”. On the surface, this looks like a reaction to US president Trump’s steel and aluminium sanctions, which are ostensibly designed to press Turkey to release American pastor Andrew Brunson, who is in custody on terrorism charges.
But Turkey’s financial crisis has not been caused by its refusal to release an evangelical pastor. The US’s new sanctions have merely inflamed a crisis that’s been a long time coming. And while Turkey’s woes are mostly homemade, they are nevertheless embedded in a fragile global political economy – meaning there is a serious risk of contagion. This is therefore not the time to merely point fingers at the structural deficiencies of Turkey’s political economy; Turkey is just the proverbial canary in the coal mine. This is a local manifestation of global problems and an indication of looming ones as well. (Read more)
The Washington Times