Trump’s Risky Bets in the World Arena

Commentary No. 481, September 15, 2018

There are two things concerning Donald Trump about which everyone, friends and foes, seem to agree. No one can be sure what he will tweet next. And he wants to stay in power.

Trump has made three risky geopolitical bets: He will get North Korea to denuclearize. He will be able to force Iran to renounce any attempt to have nuclear weapons. He will dismantle NAFTA to the benefit of the United States.

It is totally unlikely that he will achieve the first two at all. It is at best marginally possible that he will replace NAFTA with a more advantageous arrangement for the United States.

So then comes the second certainty. He wants to remain in power. If his bets all fail, what will he do to remain in power? Here there is no agreement, either among friends or foes. One group thinks he is pathologically mad and would pull down the world with him. The other group says that he would modify his priorities in order to remain in power.

So the risks turn out to be ours. Do we bet on his pathology or on his self-interest? If we choose the wrong one, we lose and lose in a big way. We cannot bet on both kinds of response from Trump. It is one or the other.

To resume: Trump will fail in his risky bets. He will respond in some way. But which? I tend to favor the self-interest prediction. But I’m frightened about being wrong.

 

Good News, Bad News?

Commentary No. 480, September 1, 2018

Most of us receive daily news by reading some set of headlines available to us. We tend to classify these headlines as good or bad news about our local community, our country, or the world as a whole.

But what is good news or bad news? The most obvious question to ask is: good news or bad news for whom? It is not at all simple to answer that question.

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Samir Amin: Comrade in the Struggle

Commentary No. 479, August 15, 2018

I first met Samir in the early 1960s. I had read his early works, and they resonated with me.

I was passing through Dakar and asked if we could meet.
I don’t think he knew who I was or had read any of my writings.

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Is Trump in Trouble? Everyone’s Question

Commentary 478, August 1, 2018

This is the question that all anti-Trump individuals and groups are asking today, loudly and regularly. They are hoping of course for a positive answer, but they are not sure they will get one.

This is the question that Trump supporters and Republican politicians are asking in private, seeking reassurance that the answer is negative.

This question is debated as well by Democratic politicians, hoping to get a positive answer. They discuss it more publicly however than their Republican counterparts.

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Two Cheers for Mexico’s AMLO: A Great Victory for the Left

Commentary Number 477, July 15, 2018

On July 1, 2018, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known by his initials as AMLO, was elected President of Mexico by a sweeping margin. He won 53% of the votes. His closest rivals were Ricardo Anaya (of PAN) with 22% and José Antonio Meade (of PRI) with 16 percent. In addition, his party alliance, MORENA, won a majority of the seats in the legislature.

His victory has been compared to that of Lula in Brazil and that of Jeremy Corbyn in Great Britain. But Lula did not come near having a majority of the votes, and his broad party alliance included reactionary groups. Corbyn is still struggling to maintain control of the British Labour Party and, even if he succeeds, faces a difficult election.

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Donald Q. Trump, Prestidigitator

Commentary No. 476, July 1, 2018

A prestidigitator is a public actor who seeks to make viewers believe that what they see is what he is really doing, but it is not. In the famous example, he saws the woman in half and then he shows you that she is still in one piece – due, he claims, to his exceptional magical skill.

Donald Z. Trump is an extremely talented prestidigitator. Using his constant flow of contradictory tweets and his ceaseless use of insults, both his core supporters and his fiercest opponents think they know what he is doing. But in fact they fail to observe the actual actions of Donald G. Trump.

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The G-7: A Demise to Celebrate

Commentary No. 475, June 15, 2018

An institution called the G-7 held its annual meeting on June 12-13, 2018 in Charlevoix, Quebec, Canada. President Trump attended in the beginning but left early. Because the views on both sides were so incompatible, the group of Six members negotiated with Trump the issuance of a quite anodyne statement as the usual joint declaration.

Trump changed his mind and refused to sign any statement. The Six then drafted a statement that reflected their views. Trump was angry and insulted the protagonists of signing the statement.

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Sadrist Victory in Iraq: Victory for Whom?

Commentary No. 474, June 1, 2018

On May 12, 2018, Muqtada al-Sadr’s list unexpectedly won a plurality in the Iraqi legislative elections. This event shook up the entire political situation in the Middle East. It was greeted in other countries with expressions both of surprise and of dismay – notably in the unusual parallel reactions of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.

Yet, there was no good reason to be surprised and even less to be dismayed. Muqtada al-Sadr’s victory should have been no real surprise, since it was long in the making. There was even less reason to be dismayed, at least by anyone who wished to see a progressive outcome of the political turmoil in the region. Some of the reactions were amazing. Time magazine even made the bizarre suggestion that Muqtada al-Sadr was Iraq’s “version of Trump.”

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