Days 85-88: The political headlines this past Easter weekend, from Good Friday to Easter Monday—Days 85 to 88 of Trump’s presidency—were dominated by one thing and one thing only: bombs.
Amidst skyrocketing tensions over the movement of a U.S. Navy Strike Team towards the Korean Peninsula, the North Korean government decided to test an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. The missile launch failed, with the missile exploding almost as soon as it had left the ground, but not before both the U.S. and North Korea threatened to launch preemptive nuclear strikes at each other. All the while North Korea’s only ally, China, called for an end to the increasing hostility, stating that the situation could potentially get out of control. Just yesterday, on Day 88 (April 17), the North Korean emissary to the United Nations warned that nuclear war was a very real possibility if the U.S. Navy continued to build up at the naval border with North Korea. On the other side, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence put North Korea on notice, saying that the U.S. was not going to accommodate North Korean hostility any longer and was ready to fight back if necessary.
Apart from the increasingly twitchy trigger fingers on the Korean Peninsula and in the Middle East, other news this week included discussions on climate change. The director of the EPA, Scott Pruitt called for the U.S. to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement was signed last year by President Obama, and calls for keeping global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degrees this century. Pruitt criticized the agreement, arguing that the regulations it entails would hurt American businesses and put them behind competitors in China and India. Officials say that the Trump administration will have come to a decision on whether to remain in the Paris Agreement before the G-7 meeting with other major nations next month in Sicily.
Finally, a steady stream of reports continue to come out on the various controversies going on in the White House at the moment. Vanity Fair published an article describing the intricate workings of Trump’s cabinet and advisors. According to the article, the only members of Trump’s administration with almost complete job security are his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, who are already reported to have clashed with Steve Bannon in a head-to-head that led to Bannon’s removal from his post as National Security Advisor. Furthermore, the New York Times reported that there continue to be significant conflicts of interest within the Trump White House, and many of those working in his administration have yet to completely cleanse themselves of any compromising commitments to previous employers or personal business interests.
President Trump’s approach to foreign policy is becoming clearer by the day. Much like most experts and pundits were warning, it appears that he has gone for the alpha-male, chauvinist, chest-beating approach to his dealings with those nations that are perceived as being hostile to the U.S. This is evident in his actions regarding North Korea and Russia. However, it is interesting to note that Trump has significantly toned down his anti-China attacks, and while some action has still been taken with regards to trade, he appears to be attempting to reconcile himself with the Chinese government. Perhaps Trump’s approach to foreign policy is more nuanced than many give him credit for, and he is brewing what may be an effective blend of a carrot-stick approach, with the stick being used a bit more than the carrot-prone Obama administration. Trump is also sure to face serious obstacles with the amount of bickering and infighting going on in his administration, something that could surely hobble him in his pursuits. However, his foreign policy is taking on a curious coherence that could either end disastrously in a series of savage conflicts around the world, or it could subdue those nations that have been growing increasingly feisty during the Obama administration, all while maintaining the allies Obama so carefully attempted to cultivate. However, we will have to wait and see how Trump’s actions work out. At the same time, Trump’s policy regarding the nations in Latin America and Africa has yet to become clear. It’s likely that Trump’s hostility to the U.S.’s neighbors to the south will completely demolish any goodwill Obama succeeded in building. In Africa, Trump has yet to evince a coherent policy, so we will have to watch for developments regarding U.S. involvement in the region. Regardless, these continue to be interesting times to live in for anyone interested in politics, and will surely continue to be for the foreseeable future.