Fareed: What Trump Needs to Do on This Trip

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

May 19, 2017

Fareed: What Trump Needs to Do On This Trip

Fareed says that anyone in the Trump administration hoping that the president’s trip this weekend will offer the chance for a reset is likely to be disappointed. “No trip abroad will change that,” Fareed says. “As presidents from Bill Clinton to Richard Nixon know, you can try to change the narrative, but the domestic stories aren’t going to go away — they have a life of their own.”

Instead, Fareed argues, the trip should be judged on its own merits.
“The key test I think is going to be how he handles the first stop, Saudi Arabia. It’s an unusual choice – most presidents since FDR have gone to Canada, Britain or Mexico on their first trip overseas. And remember, Saudi Arabia is essentially the originator of radical Islamic terrorism, and foundations and people within it remain some of the leading funders of radical Islam around the world.
“With that in mind, I hope the speech that he is scheduled to deliver on Islam is somewhat confrontational — you need to speak truth to power. Because the danger on a trip like this is, frankly, that you get played. The Saudis have for 25 years now assuaged American presidents by telling them that of course they don’t like terrorism, that they are going to set up a center to counter it, and that they will introduce reeducation programs (and, by the way, buy lots of American arms). The Saudis always say these things, so the question is how do we know that this time it’s for real?
“The most important thing the president can do during this trip is surround himself with people that know these subjects, know these countries, know the history. Trump is obviously a good negotiator – he has been doing it most of his life. But these are very new negotiations on very different subjects from those he is used to dealing with. And there is a deep history there, so it’s important that he understand something of that history before entering the room.

“Ultimately, foreign leaders see the current problems facing the Trump administration as an opportunity. If they can make him look good, they know that it’s a win for him and that could also be a win for them. America is still the 800-pound gorilla on the world stage and a huge market. Other countries are undoubtedly thinking that if they can make Donald Trump look good, then maybe they can get a few things from the Americans.”

The Trouble with Trump’s Islam Speech

The biggest problem with President Trump’s anticipated speech on Islam may be its very premise, argues Shadi Hamid in The Atlantic. Namely, “the assumption that theology holds the key to combating extremism.” “Religion matters, of course, but the U.S. is on weakest ground when it inserts itself into internal debates over Islam and its role in politics,” Hamid writes. “More importantly, though, the focus on religion runs the risk of distracting the U.S. from the political factors that it can more readily shape.”

China’s Time Bomb Still Ticking

China’s hopes that abandoning the country’s one-child policy would help defuse a ticking “demographic time bomb” have been dashed, for now at least, a Bloomberg report suggests.
“After announcing a two-child rule in October 2015, officials estimated an increase of four million additional births a year through 2020 — but last year births increased by just 1.31 million from a year earlier to 17.86 million,” Bloomberg reports.
“In big cities such as Beijing or Shanghai, hefty living costs, long work hours and surging expenses linked to raising children have deterred more females from becoming moms.”

Fareed: The President Who Cried Wolf?

For President Trump, it’s what sounds right in the moment and gets him through a crisis that is important, Fareed writes in his latest Washington Post column. But as the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s role in the election unfolds, Trump may find that his words come back to haunt him. “He is president, and he is dealing with matters of war and peace, law and justice. Words matter, and in a wholly different way than he has ever understood… “It would be the ultimate irony if Trump now faces a crisis in which his lifelong strength turns into a fatal weakness. His rich and checkered history of salesmanship, his exaggerations, fudges and falsehoods, leave him in a situation now where, even if he is right on this one, people will have a hard time believing that this one time Donald Trump is finally telling the truth.”

Syria Has “Ceased to Exist”

“The state known as Syria has effectively ceased to exist,” argues Jonathan Spyer in Foreign Policy.
“With the regime and rebels now effectively reduced to client status and no great desire on the part of the patrons to commit to absolute victory for their proxies, the diplomacy on the Syrian war should presumably shift toward arrangements acknowledging the fragmentation of the country,” Spyer writes.
After ISIS’s defeat, “Syria will be divided between the regime enclave in the west, the Sunni Arab rebels in the northwest and southwest, a Turkish-ensured rebel enclave in the north, an SDF-controlled region in the northeast, and some arrangement involving both the SDF and Western-backed Arab rebels in the east.”

In Praise of the Deep State

Worried about the influence of a “deep state”? Don’t be. There’s one in Canada. And, judging by what’s happening south of the border, it might be the only thing capable of constraining Donald Trump, the Toronto Star argues in an editorial.
In a democracy like the United States, the so-called deep state “simply describes the bureaucracies that carry on the day-to-day business of governing, operating with long-established norms of behavior. It hardly amounts to a conspiracy against elected authority,” The Star argues.
“Canadians should not find that concept hard to grasp. We have traditionally valued our non-partisan civil service, whose mission is to serve whichever government is in office. Attempts to downgrade or bypass established professional organizations, as happened from time to time under the Harper government, are generally seen as dangerous attempts to politicize the bureaucracy.”

Trump Team’s South China Sea Folly?

The Trump administration’s apparent decision to halt U.S. Navy freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea could have serious long term costs, argue Mira Rapp-Hooper and Charles Edel in Foreign Affairs.
“It is possible that U.S. officials have scaled back their focus on the South China Sea as part of a broader gambit to gain China’s favor, perhaps hoping to secure Beijing’s cooperation on North Korea and concessions on trade. Such a transaction, however, would undermine the United States’ position in Asia,” they write.
“If the United States waits months to get tough in the South China Sea, it will do so from a weaker legal, military, and diplomatic position than it holds today. Making matters worse, a sudden shift after a long delay could cause whiplash in Beijing, sending the bilateral relationship into a crisis.”



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