Foreign Affairs

A History of What Works with Iran

Michael Morell: “The Iranians have two objectives in the Middle East. The first is to become the hegemonic power in the region… Iran’s second objective is for Israel to disappear.”

“These two objectives are intertwined. Iran cannot achieve the hegemony it desires as long as Israel is on the map. But the destruction of Israel is not just a means to an end. It is a goal itself. To Iran, Palestine is the rightful owner of all of the territory that Israel now occupies.”

“There is good news here, though. Iran has shown at least three times since the 1979 Revolution that it is willing to change strategic direction. Each time it has done so, the regime was under intense pressure.”

Don’t Blame Trade: Low-Skilled Job Losses Will Not Be Solved by Protectionism

Alexander Hitch: “We need to roll TAA into a general job-training program for low-skilled labor. This can be accomplished by including it as part of a larger effort to retrain those in low-skilled labor sectors and struggling regions. Ideally, this program would be expanded into a new social contract for all American workers by providing more focused schooling opportunities and supplementing it with tax-free business incentives in particularly hard-hit geographies. To start, eligibility for benefits can be expanded to include industries affected by global economic trends (automation) that cannot directly prove the loss of jobs to trade, per se.”

“President Trump should tackle the problem of job dislocation broadly – and not focus on trade itself – by building a larger retraining system in sectors where the US possesses a comparative advantage. Yes, determining funding will be key to this effort. But I can think of $21.6 billion ways to begin.”

Trade Grows—Without the U.S.

“…a closer look at just how global trade has been re-aligning suggests that it’s likely to keep growing with or without us – and increasingly, it’s without us. Globalization is alive and well, regardless of whether the trade routes run through the US. And if an ‘America First’ White House does start to retrench and retreat, there’s a good chance the biggest loser will be America itself,” Parag Khanna writes for Politico.

“An example already in the public eye is Obama’s signature international economic effort, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). With the previous administration unable to push it through Congress and Trump ditching it in one of his first executive orders, most of the other signatories are moving ahead anyway in a ‘TPP minus one’ format. Even more significantly, more than a dozen Asian countries have rekindled their efforts towards advancing an alternative megadeal – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) – which differs from TPP in one crucial way: At the center lies not the US, but our economic arch-rival China.”

The Need for a Digital Geneva Convention

“Just as the Fourth Geneva Convention has long protected civilians in times of war, we now need a Digital Geneva Convention that will commit governments to protecting civilians from nation-state attacks in times of peace.  And just as the Fourth Geneva Convention recognized that the protection of civilians required the active involvement of the Red Cross, protection against nation-state cyberattacks requires the active assistance of technology companies.  The tech sector plays a unique role as the internet’s first responders, and we therefore should commit ourselves to collective action that will make the internet a safer place, affirming a role as a neutral Digital Switzerland that assists customers everywhere and retains the world’s trust,” Microsoft President and Chief Legal Officer Brad Smith writes.

“While there is no perfect analogy, the world needs an organization that can address cyber threats in a manner like the role played by the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear non-proliferation.  This organization should consist of technical experts from across governments, the private sector, academia and civil society with the capability to examine specific attacks and share the evidence showing that a given attack was by a specific nation-state.  Only then will nation-states know that if they violate the rules, the world will learn about it.”

Handling North Korea Is a Team Sport and We Need China

Admiral James Stavridis: “We have to recognize that all roads lead to Pyongyang through Beijing. Despite the Trump Administration’s desire to get tough with China, we will need political capital with President Xi Jinping to enlist his help. Without China, further sanctions are meaningless. An open dialogue and the outline of a plan are critical. We may have to moderate our approach on Taiwan (falling back to the ‘one China’ policy, which Trump has questioned) and ease our opposition to China in the South China Sea. Geopolitics, like life, is full of choices.”

“North Korea is a team sport. Our allies and friends — South Korea, Japan, Australia, Vietnam, Malaysia and others — all agree on the challenges. We should leverage their participation in diplomatic and economic initiatives to deal with the North. And we’ll need to conduct frequent allied exercises to leverage joint operational capability in things like missile defense.”

Donald Trump Is Helping Iran’s Radicals

The Economist: “The ritual chants of ‘Death to America’ had grown fainter in recent years. The feverish crowds had thinned. Some demonstrators seemed to wave Uncle Sam banners less to jeer America than to cheer it. Yet thanks to Donald Trump this year’s annual rally to commemorate Islamic Revolution Day on February 10th in Tehran looks set to be one of Iran’s biggest.”

“Hardliners who had warned that America was targeting Iran’s people, not just its regime, say they are vindicated, and that their government will not trust America again. ‘Thank you, Mr Trump, for showing the true face of America,’ mocked Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, in an anniversary address. Even reformists, who had dismantled Iran’s nuclear programme and handed over enough fissile material to build ten nuclear bombs as part of the deal, feel betrayed. Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, who negotiated the deal with six world powers, has lost his smile. Iran has difficult days ahead, he growled. Even Muhammad Khatami, a former president who had tried to mend fences with the West, called on reformists to join hardliners in decrying America.”

We Are Still Living With Eisenhower’s Biggest Mistake

Michael Totten: “Historians are tasked with delivering us from George Santayana’s curse, where those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but historians can only save those who take the time to study the historical record, and even then it only works if the historical record is accurate.”

“Thank goodness, then, for Hudson Institute senior fellow Michael Doran’s valiant attempt to save us from ignorance and bad history in his bracing new book, Ike’s Gamble: America’s Rise to Dominance in the Middle East. He expertly walks us through the Suez Crisis of 1956 and its ghastly aftermath when Republican President Dwight ‘Ike’ Eisenhower learned the hard way that Israel, not Egypt or any other Arab state, should be the foundation of America’s security architecture in the Middle East.”

“Why does any of this matter today? Because two of Eisenhower’s wrongheaded ideas are as hard to kill as the Terminator—that the Arab world is a homogenous monolith and the related notion that an American alliance with Israel harms our relationships with Arabs everywhere. Neither of these things are true, and they never have been. America’s natural allies in the Middle East either tolerate our friendship with Israel or secretly hate Israel less than they let on in public, and Israel’s most vicious enemies will never side with the United States anyway.”

U.S. May Export More Oil in 2017 Than Four OPEC Nations Produce

Bloomberg: “U.S. crude exports are poised to surpass production in four OPEC nations in 2017 and may grow even more if President Donald Trump honors pledges to ease drilling restrictions and maximize output.”

“The world’s largest oil-consuming country could sell as much as 800,000 barrels a day of crude overseas this year, according to four analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That’s more than OPEC producers Libya, Qatar, Ecuador and Gabon each pumped in December. The U.S. exported 527,000 barrels a day in the first 11 months of 2016, Energy Information Administration data show.”

Keystone XL Pipeline: A ‘Canada First’ Energy Plan?

Reuters: “U.S. President Donald Trump’s move this week to revive the Keystone XL oil pipeline marked a major step under his ‘America First’ energy plan to boost U.S. drillers and create new U.S. jobs. But the project’s biggest winners may be Canadian.”

“If built, TransCanada’s Keystone XL from Alberta to Nebraska would yield about $2.4 billion (C$3.2 billion) a year for Canada, split between government revenues, shareholder profits and re-investment into the still-recovering Canadian oil patch, according to a Conference Board of Canada research note prepared for Reuters on Thursday.”

If Trump Gets His 20% Tax on Mexican Imports, These Are the US Household Staples That Will Be Hardest Hit

Quartz: “The Trump administration has today suggested it would force Mexico to pay for the wall by implementing a 20% tax on all Mexican imports. Such a move by the White House—which isn’t allowed—would hit Americans hard in their grocery carts.”

“It would be difficult for Republicans to engineer a situation in which food companies would not pass the extra cost of doing business to consumers. There isn’t an easy replacement source for these foods, as in many cases Mexico is by far America’s biggest supplier. Over time, the US has grown more dependent on Mexican imports of fresh produce, which rose by 264% between 1999 and 2014.”

Trump Could Really Mess Up Mexico’s Economy

“Remittances, however, are just the beginning of the risk Trump’s presidency could pose to the Mexican economy. If he follows through on his proposed policies, Trump could change the calculus for doing business in Mexico, and thus endanger the economic prospects of the whole country,” Lucia He writes for FiveThirtyEight.

“Among his proposed policies, Trump has threatened to renegotiate or completely withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and impose a 35 percent tax on businesses that ship goods to the U.S. after relocating out of the country. Either policy could be devastating for the Mexican economy.”

How to Make America’s Robots Great Again

Farhad Manjoo: “In 2013, China became the world’s largest market for industrial robots, according to the International Federation of Robotics, an industry trade group. Now China is working on another big goal: to become the largest producer of robots used for factories, agriculture and a range of other applications. Robotics industry experts said that goal could be a decade away, but they see few impediments to China’s eventual dominance.”

“There’s a way to address this problem, but it’s politically perilous: The United States should invest in robots.”

“If we don’t, robot scholars said the president’s plans for a resurgence in manufacturing could backfire. Today, we buy a lot of stuff made in China by Chinese people. Tomorrow, we’ll buy stuff made in America — by Chinese robots.”

Will Trump Go After NAFTA With Tweezers or a Hammer? 

Neil Irwin: “Trade experts say there really is room to make major change in the two-decade-old agreement. A renegotiation could well lead to a better deal for all three countries. But it will require the United States to make concessions that the Trump administration may be wary of offering.”

“If not approached carefully, revamping an agreement that has created the economic underpinning of major industries would risk American jobs as well as higher prices for consumers. And the closer the Trump administration gets to blowing up the deal, the larger those risks loom.”