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Is Trump embracing aggressive withdrawal?
#1
Back in the early 1980’s when I was a deficit hawk and a foreign policy realist, I favored something I called aggressive withdrawal.*  The idea was the US would begin a phased withdrawal from Europe and a full pullout from Japan and S. Korea, which would include a withdrawal of naval forces from the Western Pacific and redeployment in the Indian Ocean. The idea was that Western Europe and Japan were now strong powers and they could easily afford to the conventional forces in Europe and the Far East necessary to keep the Soviets in check.  The US would focus on making sure the oil routes would stay open and deter any Soviet intrusion into the Middle East or South Asia that had been made more likely by the loss of the Shah and the Soviet intrusion into Afghanistan, both relatively recent events at the time.  It was simply a more cost-effective (for us) way to continue the US containment strategy.

In the wake of Trump’s phone conversation with the Australian leader, his friendliness with Putin and his comments about NATO and Japanese nukes, I have started to wonder if Trump may be pursuing a modern version of aggressive withdrawal.  Russia is objectively weak.  The Europeans can easily deter them, so Trump would get in a huff, started a tweet war with the Europeans order the US to pull out—fuck them!  If Russia then overruns Ukraine and the Baltics, this should serve as a wake-up call to them.
As for Japan, they need to be nudged.  So stir up trouble with China, then pick fights with our allies in the region, which gives you an excuse to take or ball and go home and let them deal with a resurgent China. 
This of course is a ridiculously reckless policy.  But when I thought along these lines I was a twenty-something, “young and dumb and full cum” as the guys in the plant put it.  But I note that Trump seems to take pains to present himself as just as young, dumb, and full of cum as any twenty-something.  Who knows, maybe he’s not pretending.

*The aggressive part comes from coupling the strategic withdrawal with uber-hawkish rhetoric.  Sort of how Reagan was able to turn tail and run like a scared girl from Lebanon leaving hundreds of American’s killed by terrorists unavenged, while maintaining his image as this super aggressive hawk that you do not fuck with.
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#2
We can only hope.
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#3
I've been saying that there's no telling whether or not Trump will remain "America First" no intervention; let others do it; stir them up and let them stew, or start crying "betrayal" and listen to his hawks who want to make America great again in the traditional way by beating up on other nations and peoples. Time will tell, and it may not take long.
"I close my eyes, and I can see a better day" -- Justin Bieber

Keep the spirit alive;
Eric M
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#4
(02-03-2017, 06:47 PM)X_4AD_84 Wrote: Or, he could be setting up the US for defeat, either with malice aforethought or unwittingly.

I blame the lizard-people.
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#5
(02-03-2017, 02:46 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: We can only hope.

I was wondering if I was engaging in wishful thinking.  If it happened it would be a great way to resolve the 4T more or less in the way you envision.

Also, there is little doubt the lizard people have a hand in all this.
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#6
(02-04-2017, 07:34 AM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-03-2017, 02:46 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: We can only hope.

I was wondering if I was engaging in wishful thinking.  If it happened it would be a great way to resolve the 4T more or less in the way you envision.

Also, there is little doubt the lizard people have a hand in all this.

It would be a damned sight better than the way Alphabet is pushing to end it, and which my non-S&H-reading friends were beginning to notice in 2016 with all the rhetoric about Putin.
China too, I was reading a book about Obama and Hillary in the White House by some guy from the NYT where he was relating something I found indicative of the split between the two:

Quote:A few months after my interview in her office, another split emerged when Obama picked up a secure phone for a weekend conference call with Clinton, Gates and a handful of other advisers. It was July 2010, four months after the North Korean military torpedoed a South Korean Navy corvette, sinking it and killing 46 sailors. Now, after weeks of fierce debate between the Pentagon and the State Department, the United States was gearing up to respond to this brazen provocation. The tentative plan — developed by Clinton’s deputy at State, James Steinberg — was to dispatch the aircraft carrier George Washington into coastal waters to the east of North Korea as an unusual show of force.
But Adm. Robert Willard, then the Pacific commander, wanted to send the carrier on a more aggressive course, into the Yellow Sea, between North Korea and China. The Chinese foreign ministry had warned the United States against the move, which for Willard was all the more reason to press forward. He pushed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, who in turn pushed his boss, the defense secretary, to reroute the George Washington. Gates agreed, but he needed the commander in chief to sign off on a decision that could have political as well as military repercussions.
Gates laid out the case for diverting the George Washington to the Yellow Sea: that the United States should not look as if it was yielding to China. Clinton strongly seconded it. “We’ve got to run it up the gut!” she had said to her aides a few days earlier. (The Vince Lombardi imitation drew giggles from her staff, who, even 18 months into her tenure, still marveled at her pugnacity.)
Obama, though, was not persuaded. The George Washington was already underway; changing its course was not a decision to make on the fly.
I don’t call audibles with aircraft carriers,” he said — unwittingly one-upping Clinton on her football metaphor.


Emphasis mine.

Pure lizard people behavior, right there.
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#7
It would also be an improvement over the other option, now that Hillary is no longer relevant, of taking Trump's belligerent rhetoric seriously, in which case we could be in for a rough ride after all.
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#8
(02-04-2017, 12:01 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: It would also be an improvement over the other option, now that Hillary is no longer relevant, of taking Trump's belligerent rhetoric seriously, in which case we could be in for a rough ride after all.

And that is a real possibility since Trump has revealed himself to be serious and literal about the conservative aspects of his program (e.g. immigration restriction, ending Obamacare) although less so about the non-conservative aspects (he has reversed himself on government health care programs negotiating for better drug prices).  Omnidirectional belligerence (with the exception of Russia) is a conservative-friendly stance and so something on which maybe we should take Trump seriously and literally. 

The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?
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#9
(02-03-2017, 06:51 PM)SomeGuy Wrote:
(02-03-2017, 06:47 PM)X_4AD_84 Wrote: Or, he could be setting up the US for defeat, either with malice aforethought or unwittingly.

I blame the lizard-people.

[Image: latest?cb=20090202215831]

You're mean.  Sleestak (lizard people from Land of the Lost).  I'm already dealing with awful 1970's flashbacks from those lame Black bloccer Weather Underground Wannabees.  Then you just did this.
---Value Added Cool
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#10
(02-03-2017, 02:44 PM)Mikebert Wrote: Back in the early 1980’s when I was a deficit hawk and a foreign policy realist, I favored something I called aggressive withdrawal.*  The idea was the US would begin a phased withdrawal from Europe and a full pullout from Japan and S. Korea, which would include a withdrawal of naval forces from the Western Pacific and redeployment in the Indian Ocean. The idea was that Western Europe and Japan were now strong powers and they could easily afford to the conventional forces in Europe and the Far East necessary to keep the Soviets in check.  The US would focus on making sure the oil routes would stay open and deter any Soviet intrusion into the Middle East or South Asia that had been made more likely by the loss of the Shah and the Soviet intrusion into Afghanistan, both relatively recent events at the time.  It was simply a more cost-effective (for us) way to continue the US containment strategy.

The US started the maritime part of this in 2013.  Regular carrier task force patrols stopped, and the only carriers deployed at sea were the ones supporting the war in Afghanistan.

Somehow, the result was not the Philippines building their own supercarriers, but instead China building artificial islands to control the South China Sea.

Honestly, there can only be two results from this:

1.  Our existing adversaries take over the abandoned territory.

2.  Our current allies develop strong militaries and, with the associated power, chart their own geopolitical course independent of ours, becoming adversaries.

Neither seems a good result for us.
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#11
(02-04-2017, 04:46 PM)Mikebert Wrote: The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?

Russia has as many nukes as we do, so we're not much stronger than them militarily.  And our natural areas of current geopolitical interest don't conflict that much.  Thus, Trump is polite, though his reiteration of demands for Russia to vacate eastern Ukraine and the Crimea are hardly submissive.
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#12
(02-05-2017, 03:40 AM)Warren Dew Wrote:
(02-04-2017, 04:46 PM)Mikebert Wrote: The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?

Russia has as many nukes as we do, so we're not much stronger than them militarily.  And our natural areas of current geopolitical interest don't conflict that much.  Thus, Trump is polite, though his reiteration of demands for Russia to vacate eastern Ukraine and the Crimea are hardly submissive.

I was talking about conventional forces.  The USSR matched US military spending.  Since much of US spending went to the Navy, while USSR spending went more to the Army, the Warsaw Pact always maintained a large numerical majority over NATO, although NATO's equipment and personnel were better, giving a rough balance that kept the peace for forty years.  Today the US vastly outspends Russia and so NATO has a advantage numerically and quality-wise.  As a result Russia is a lot weaker than China in terms of military potential, yet Trump has no compunction about insulting China, but takes pains to say nice things about Russia.

It doesn't make sense.
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#13
(02-05-2017, 03:35 AM)Warren Dew Wrote: Somehow, the result was not the Philippines building their own supercarriers, but instead China building artificial islands to control the South China Sea.

Honestly, there can only be two results from this:

1.  Our existing adversaries take over the abandoned territory.

2.  Our current allies develop strong militaries and, with the associated power, chart their own geopolitical course independent of ours, becoming adversaries.

Neither seems a good result for us.
Why?  What trade routes on which the US is one end point pass through the South China Sea?  The purpose for our far-flung military power (what the folks at AntiWar call "the empire") is to maintain the globalization project.  I thought Trump ran against this. Doesn't he want to scale back trade from that area of the world.  Another reason for our military posture was to ensure the free flow of Mideast oil to Europe.  Were oil routes to be threatened, prices would rise like in 1990, which would kick US domestic production into high gear and complete the transition to energy independence.  Isn't that what Trump's base wants?

Seems to me he could in a fit of pique take his ball and go home.  Put the troops on the border to keep the bad guys out. And he will have achieved a giant step towards making American (economically) great again like it was after WW II.  All he needs is a way to run away while looking strong, the way Reagan did it in 1983.
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#14
(02-04-2017, 04:46 PM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-04-2017, 12:01 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: It would also be an improvement over the other option, now that Hillary is no longer relevant, of taking Trump's belligerent rhetoric seriously, in which case we could be in for a rough ride after all.

And that is a real possibility since Trump has revealed himself to be serious and literal about the conservative aspects of his program (e.g. immigration restriction, ending Obamacare) although less so about the non-conservative aspects (he has reversed himself on government health care programs negotiating for better drug prices).  Omnidirectional belligerence (with the exception of Russia) is a conservative-friendly stance and so something on which maybe we should take Trump seriously and literally. 

The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?

Yes, it's a concern.

As for the Russia bit, come on!  Everybody knows you don't bully people who can effectively fight back.  That's like Bullying 101.  Rolleyes

To which the natural rejoinder is, what about China?  It's an interesting question, and in so far as I, who don't know the parties involved personally, can speculate on their motivations, I would say that there is a realist streak (classic balance of power, ally with number 2 on the Continent versus number 1), and perhaps an intent to use saber-rattling as a negotiating tactic versus somebody who unlike Russia is a major trading rival.  Possibly a racially motivated bit as well (pushing around little yellow people versus other white people) which could influence the calculus of what they feel they can get away with, which would be unfortunate and likely to cause problems.

All in all, I am hopeful that this sort of omni-directional belligerence (a little Larrison, huh?) is just a cover for exactly the sort of aggressive withdrawal you mentioned (which I support), while cognizant that there are extreme risks involved as well.
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#15
(02-05-2017, 12:43 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: To which the natural rejoinder is, what about China?  It's an interesting question...I would say that there is a realist streak (classic balance of power, ally with number 2 on the Continent versus number 1), and perhaps an intent to use saber-rattling as a negotiating tactic versus somebody who unlike Russia is a major trading rival.  Possibly a racially motivated bit as well (pushing around little yellow people versus other white people) which could influence the calculus of what they feel they can get away with, which would be unfortunate and likely to cause problems.

Why would Russia wish to adopt a hostile position wrt China?  In recent times, both powers have tended to support each other against the US.  The US and Russia have little basis for a great power coalition.  It is hardly in their interest to support US hegemony.

As for the bully comment, I would point out that both China and Russia are authoritarian regimes and have the institutional knowledge to be good players of the great power game.  They should know what they are doing and do not have to worry about electoral politics.

I submit that Russia's greater number of nukes does not confer the sort of power than large and capable conventional forces--at least not in the perception of players of the game like Russia, China and the US. And so their is no reason to show more deference to Russia than China, if anything the reverse would be true.

My reasoning is as follows. The USSR and the US were both nuclear powers facing off against each other for 40 years.  By the 1960's the USSR gained the ability to devastate the US with their nukes, while the US had been able to do this from 1950's.  Both powers were immensely strong in the nuclear dimension and so were effectively invulnerable to attack from the other. Yet both spent large amounts on conventional weaponry despite their nukes.  Clearly neither side saw nukes by themselves as an effective instrument of power.  In contrast, both sides demonstrated a belief in the effectiveness of conventional power by using it in Korea, Vietnam and Afghanistan.  After the Cold War ended, the US continued to maintain an enormous advantage in conventional weaponry, and wielded it in Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya--you get the point. This argues that the US still continues to believe in the effectiveness of conventional forces.

As you have pointed out, China is building conventional forces. What China never did was build up a nuclear arsenal like the other two superpowers, which they could easily do if they wanted to (nukes are a lot cheaper on a cost per firepower basis than conventional forces).  It seems clear to me that China does not see nukes as particularly useful instruments of national power--but they do see conventional forces in this way.

It seems to me that there is no reason at all to assume that Russia, China or America believe that nuclear forces are what matters in estimation of relative strength and not conventional forces.  By a conventional forces measure China either is or is in the process of becoming a much stronger power than Russia, and there is nothing Russia can do about it.  The US must know this, so it seems curious that Trump shows so much more deference to the weaker of the two.
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#16
Quote:The US must know this, so it seems curious that Trump shows so much more deference to the weaker of the two.


This was already addressed.  Why did the US ally with the Soviet Union against the Nazis?  Why did Britain ally with its long-time rivals France and Russia versus Germany?  Why did Nixon/Kissinger pursue rapprochement with Maoist China to balance the Soviet Union?

This is basic balance-of-power.  The British did this for centuries.  If you're number 1, you're most concerned about number 2 (and vice versa), and so you pursue relations with numbers 3 & 4, especially if they're neighbors with number 2.  If you are concerned with a rising China becoming a major maritime power and pursuing a bid to displace you from the Western Pacific, you prop up Japan, you back Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, and if you're really smart, you try and pick of major flank powers like Russia.  Russia doesn't have the means to threaten to displace the US anymore, China does.  We're already threatening China's naval supply lines, and China is responding by bumping up its investment into overland rail and pipelines, and threatening to displace Russian influence in Central Asia.  

It's smart, sensible policy.  I doubt Trump could or would formulate it like that, but he obviously has good instincts to have won the way he did, and I don't think all of his advisers are stupid, either.
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#17
And again you edit while I am responding.


I have been arguing with John about this, Russia and China HAVE been cooperating, and while there are certainly good historical/geopolitical for friction between the two, they have been making a good faith effort to set those aside, at least for the moment.  However, the US can accomodate Russia's desire for a sphere of influence in the FSU and selected places abroad (Tartus, for one) much more easily than it can afford to accommodate Chinese desire for parity.  Making an effort to do so with the former is unlikely to bring Russia on line to support the US bid to maintain hegemony directly, but it could buy neutrality and an end to distractions from the "pivot to Asia", and at the very least help to prevent active Russian assistance of China if things turn south.

Russia doesn't really like US hegemony, but I doubt it would like Chinese hegemony any more (and quite possibly a whole lot less).

So, like I said, I see it as a very sound geopolitical move, one I happen to support.
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#18
(02-05-2017, 08:08 AM)Mikebert Wrote:
(02-05-2017, 03:40 AM)Warren Dew Wrote:
(02-04-2017, 04:46 PM)Mikebert Wrote: The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?

Russia has as many nukes as we do, so we're not much stronger than them militarily.  And our natural areas of current geopolitical interest don't conflict that much.  Thus, Trump is polite, though his reiteration of demands for Russia to vacate eastern Ukraine and the Crimea are hardly submissive.

I was talking about conventional forces.  The USSR matched US military spending.  Since much of US spending went to the Navy, while USSR spending went more to the Army, the Warsaw Pact always maintained a large numerical majority over NATO, although NATO's equipment and personnel were better, giving a rough balance that kept the peace for forty years.  Today the US vastly outspends Russia and so NATO has a advantage numerically and quality-wise.  As a result Russia is a lot weaker than China in terms of military potential, yet Trump has no compunction about insulting China, but takes pains to say nice things about Russia.

It doesn't make sense.

The question is why Trump is being nice to Russia, not why you are being nice to Russia.  You shouldn't assume that, just because you ignore nuclear weapons, Trump does too.  By any sane measure - which is to say, any measure that takes nuclear weapons into account - Russia is a lot stronger than China in terms of military strength.
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#19
(02-04-2017, 04:46 PM)Mikebert Wrote: The Russian stance is curious.  Both Putin and Trump are alpha males. The US is far stronger than Russia,  so why is Trump being submissive?

There is the possibility that Putin actually has something of value on Trump.  His business dealings are far from pristine.  Note: this is conjecture.
Intelligence is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom, but they all play well together.
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#20
(02-05-2017, 05:09 PM)SomeGuy Wrote: And again you edit while I am responding.


I have been arguing with John about this, Russia and China HAVE been cooperating, and while there are certainly good historical/geopolitical for friction between the two, they have been making a good faith effort to set those aside, at least for the moment.  However, the US can accomodate Russia's desire for a sphere of influence in the FSU and selected places abroad (Tartus, for one) much more easily than it can afford to accommodate Chinese desire for parity.  Making an effort to do so with the former is unlikely to bring Russia on line to support the US bid to maintain hegemony directly, but it could buy neutrality and an end to distractions from the "pivot to Asia", and at the very least help to prevent active Russian assistance of China if things turn south.

Russia doesn't really like US hegemony, but I doubt it would like Chinese hegemony any more (and quite possibly a whole lot less).

So, like I said, I see it as a very sound geopolitical move, one I happen to support.
I don't see it as sound.  Russia is an ally of Iran.  Trump has said hostile things about Iran and has surrounded himself with advisors who want war with Iran.  A war with Iran is nutty, but so was a war with Iraq, and we now know this was something the last Republican president discussed internally in their first weeks in office.  I see no reason to disbelieve the speculation that the Trump administration is contemplating war with Iran.

It seems to be that Chinese hegemony would be much more acceptable to the Russian than American hegemony.  Recall that the hegemonic powers in the M&T scheme have been maritime powers.  Typically they benefitted from a "flank" location that limited their vulnerability to direct attack.  The Netherlands had a series of defensive waterways and fortifications that conferred great defensive strength, Britain is an island, and the US had a hemisphere as its sphere of interest. 

China borders Russia, a land-based great power with an enormous nuclear arsenal, and India, with a population roughly similar it is own. China does not have the luxury of friendly neighbors allowing them to focus on power projection.  They will have to remain a considerable land power.  Thus they will need probably twice the military potential to match the US as a hegemon and are a long way from being able to act with strength in the Atlantic, or even the Indian Ocean. Russia, with its enormous size can source most raw materials internally and has internal lines of transport with most of Eurasia, and with its Iranian ally, with the rest of Asia and Africa.  It need not fear Chinese hegemony.  One the other hand, US hegemony was more of a problem for them because of Western Europe and Japan, which surrounded Russia with a majority of the world's military potential allied with its principal adversary.
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