Dear President Trump
Congratulations on your election. We never supported your run for office, and we were frankly somewhat dismayed that it succeeded, as the trend in politics that you represent is far removed from our view of the world.
But we have to put that aside now. You’re in. And we have to work with you.
Of course we wish you well. The world needs a strong and successful America. You are still the locomotive at the front of the train that is the world’s economy. Or at the very least, one of the locomotives.
You are still the home of much of the most fortuitous innovations that will help us manage and preserve civilisation and the world. We need you to do well, which is why even those who oppose your brand of politics wish you success. Who knows? You may surprise us all.
But in saying that, Mr President, we have a problem.
It seems to us that a lot of what you’re saying simply doesn’t make sense. So we have some questions for you, which we hope you feel able to answer.
Your new White House website says the following:
The Trump Administration is committed to a foreign policy focused on American interests and American national security.
Peace through strength will be at the centre of that foreign policy. This principle will make possible a stable, more peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground.
Honestly, this strikes us as short-sighted.
Whilst we understand that you need to protect American interests, “peace through strength” just sounds to the rest of us like “if we’re big enough and ugly enough to make you do what we say, we’ll get along just fine”. Or in other words, more of everything that has managed to piss the rest of the world off about America on regular occasions since WWII.
There’s every chance that this type of attitude won’t result in a more stable or peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground, but possibly the very opposite. More chances for your country and others to rub each other up the wrong way, to create distrust about your motives, and to lead to more conflict, not less.
Next, we will rebuild the American military. Our Navy has shrunk from more than 500 ships in 1991 to 275 in 2016. Our Air Force is roughly one third smaller than in 1991. President Trump is committed to reversing this trend, because he knows that our military dominance must be unquestioned.
“Military dominance”? There you go again. But hang on a minute here, yes, you might have retired some ageing ships and aircraft – replacing them with better ones – but you still spend as much on defence as the NEXT TEN countries in defence spending in the world PUT TOGETHER.
So, Donald, if you don’t have military dominance now, we strongly urge you to look more closely at how you’re spending your trillions. Because you should be far and away the most powerful country in the world already.
And you are, of course.
You know that. Everyone knows that.
So what’s an increase in military spending really all about?
You know, since Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex in the first place, we have seen the taxes of Americans and the profits from American trade ploughed into a vast, bloated military, making some American corporations richer than Croesus. Is America really safer, as a result, or are just a bunch of banks and Wall Street types much richer?
Also, you said:
Defeating ISIS and other radical Islamic terror groups will be our highest priority. To defeat and destroy these groups, we will pursue aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary. In addition, the Trump Administration will work with international partners to cut off funding for terrorist groups, to expand intelligence sharing, and to engage in cyberwarfare to disrupt and disable propaganda and recruiting.
See: we’re not awfully sure what you’re getting at here. Sure, it sounds good, but honestly, what has the world been trying to do for more than a decade now? We’ve all been busy cutting off funding, expanding intelligence sharing, engaging in cyberwarfare and all the rest of it.
So the only thing that’s really different here is pursuing aggressive joint and coalition military operations when necessary.
A violently killed young Iraqi girl is prepared for burial. The photograph originally appeared at Salon.com some years ago.
It might be an idea to explain what that really means. See, we’ve just seen America endlessly tied up in Afghanistan and Iraq for what seems like forever. Apart from American losses, civilian losses in Iraq alone are up to about 600,000 and counting. We’re certainly not doing a great job of bringing enduring freedom to the Iraqi people, are we? And we’re getting out of Afghanistan with our butts kicked, and the probability that we will have achieved nothing very much at all. Honestly, we don’t really think the American public has the stomach for much more of that, do you?
So how about an alternative idea?
Sooner or later – and this is a very simple thought, but we encourage you to consider it carefully – the West is going to have to accommodate itself to an Islamic world with some very different agendas to ours, and different rules. As Churchill said, “Jaw Jaw is always better than War War”.
It would be hard to imagine more implacable enemies in the Cold War period than Russia and America – the titanic, historic struggle between state socialism and capitalism. And yet, ultimately, it was talking that wound back the tension levels, and created opportunities for both sides. Many, many more people died in the proxy wars fought to promulgate the cold war than have died in conflicts between Islam and the West. Yet we managed to talk our way to a better place.
So who in the Islamic world are you going to talk to, to try and bring some conclusion to the current conflicts? Yes, we know there’s no point talking to the leaders of IS, but they are only a very small part of the problem, and frankly most of the Islamic world hates them as much as you do. So where in your world view is the great West-Islam dialogue that must, inevitably, be the real solution to the problems we now face? What’s the plan? A few words about embracing diplomacy doesn’t really cut it, Donald. Would you care to be more specific?
Your website says:
For too long, Americans have been forced to accept trade deals that put the interests of insiders and the Washington elite over the hard-working men and women of this country. As a result, blue-collar towns and cities have watched their factories close and good-paying jobs move overseas, while Americans face a mounting trade deficit and a devastated manufacturing base.
Forgive us, Sir, but trade deals are not why blue-collar towns and cities have watched their factories close. Nor why America has a trade deficit. Nor why your manufacturing base is devastated.
All these things have happened because the American people have been sold a dream of an endlessly expanding consumer paradise with everything one could need for a modern lifestyle provided ever more cheaply, whether it’s cars or phones, or TVs, or white goods, or clothes.
And overseas – especially, but not exclusively, in Asia – clever, determined people produce those things at a fraction of a cost to them being produced in America. That’s why some of your very own private businesses manufacture over there, right?
So, Sir, the only way you can protect those all rust-belt manufacturers is either to forbid people from buying cheap consumer goods from overseas (good luck with that project) or by slapping tariffs on goods made overseas. That’s what your policy really means. And as soon as you do that, the countries currently supplying you will simply do the same to you, so the things you ARE selling into those countries (less and less already, as you know) will be priced out of their markets. (And the growing middle class in China and India and other such places will simply buy their own products. After all, they’re just as good. That’s why your own population buys them so enthusiastically.)
It’s called a trade war, Mr President. And like some other wars we could mention, it’s a war you can’t win.
Or we suppose you could try and persuade American workers to accept much lower pay and conditions. Somehow we don’t think you’re going to attempt that.
Sure, you can try and re-negotiate trade deals, but who’s to say anyone is going to want to negotiate with you? When you stand on the steps of the Capitol and call out “America First” like some sort of mantra, don’t you realise that what the rest of us hear is “And you guys second. Or last. Or nowhere. We really don’t care.”?
If you don’t believe us, can we suggest you watch this video from Holland? It’s not only very funny, but it explains the problem better than we can.
You see, if the success of a trade deal is no longer to be a quid pro quo – as the Jews say, “leaving a little something in the deal for everyone” – then can you explain, please, why you think anyone is going to want to negotiate with you?
Sir, the ONLY solution to America’s economic decline is to work harder, and more innovatively. To produce things that the rest of the world hasn’t worked out how to make yet, and to continue to produce those things at the lowest feasible cost until everyone else catches up, and then to repeat the process. Endlessly. That is your only defence against the new Tigers, wherever they are.
But we don’t hear anything about that from you.
Instead, for example, when the world is desperate for new, non-fossil fuel energy sources, smarter batteries, new power transmission technologies and all the rest, what do you offer us?
A huge increase in fracking and coal consumption. Have you walked down the streets in Beijing and Mumbai recently? Why would you want to visit more pollution on the people of the USA?
The inevitable result of an economy based on coal-fired energy. If we’re wrong, please tell us why.
And you say:
Lastly, our need for energy must go hand-in-hand with responsible stewardship of the environment. Protecting clean air and clean water, conserving our natural habitats, and preserving our natural reserves and resources will remain a high priority. President Trump will refocus the EPA on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.
But Mr President, even with “clean coal” technology (assuming it can be successfully developed, at a reasonable price, which is still highly uncertain) and even with the most careful rules over fracking, you can’t protect the water and air of the United States no matter how hard you try. And your statement completely ignores the effect on the climate of burning more and more fossil fuels.
Even if you don’t think climate change is man made, or entirely man made, or whatever your position is this week, surely you must appreciate that expanding fossil fuel production is taking a vastly greater risk with the environment that we don’t need to take? Renewable energy sources are now more than capable of taking up the slack, as Europe is demonstrating successfully in an incredibly short timescale.
If climate change disrupts American agriculture, the cost will be way higher than the cost of phasing out fossil fuel dependence.
If climate change means Americans cannot live in safety in the forests, deserts, or coastal plains that they live in now, then the cost will be way higher than the cost of phasing out fossil fuel dependence. In lives, and in dollars.
If climate change alters the make-up of the oceans so that fish stocks migrate away from your shores, or disappear altogether, then the cost will be way higher than the cost of phasing out fossil fuel dependence.
If climate change increases the severity of weather events – hot and cold – across your nation, then the cost will be way higher than the cost of phasing out fossil fuel dependence.
See, Mr President, this is our real problem. It seems to us that you must know all these things. You are clearly an intelligent and ambitious man. You surround yourself with bright people.
Yet despite the fact that you must know better, you are simply not levelling with the American people, or the world, about the depth and the scale of the problems in trade, manufacturing, energy, and defence.
We could keep writing on and on about other areas of your program, but that doesn’t seem fair.
Lord knows, there’s more than enough here to be going on with.
So, Sir, we respectfully invite you to address the questions we have for you. We’re genuinely interested to know what you think.
Or if it’s all just politics – if it’s all just a con, playing to the gallery, shoring up a base of domestic support, then why not admit it? As you have said, it doesn’t seem to matter what you say and do, they’re gonna love you anyway. But the rest of us would really like to know what you’re on about, because from over here, it simply doesn’t make any sense.
At all. Not even a bit.