Damage Report 2: Businessman Attempts Talking to Strangers

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SERVICE WITH A SMILE, EH?

Editor’s note: I’m going to go cower in my bomb shelter right now

Luis Gómez
Co-Editor in Chief

Donald Trump has spent much of the first weeks of his presidency embroiled with scandal and infighting. His admin­istration is among the leakiest in his­tory,

The most recent foreign policy chal­lenges presented to his administration are those of North Korea’s recent mis­sile test and the continued unfolding of Russian involvement with Trump’s cam­paign and administration.

North Korea

On February 12th, North Korea launched a new ballistic missile, Puk­guksong-2. While the exact range ca­pabilities of the missile are unknown, North Korean state media claims the missile has an operating range of 3500 to 5000 kilometers. Mid-range weap­ons of the same type are believed to have the capability to reach Guam.

The move attracted the derision of China, Russia, and the UN Security Council. However, the test was primar­ily believed to have been a deliber­ate prodding of the US, to gauge what President Trump’s response would be. The news of the launch broke while the President was having dinner with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Notably, the President did not retire to private, se­cured quarters to receive the briefing, preferring to have staffers bring papers over to the two heads of state while they were in the public dining hall. The President’s response was also rather interesting in that it did not mention South Korea, saying only that the Unit­ed States “stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.” UN ambassa­dor Nikki Haley released a statement a day later pledging to “hold North Korea accountable — not with our words, but with our actions.”

Agitation of this kind is common for North Korea, who have scheduled more missile tests under the rule of Kim Jong-un, after he gained control of the regime. The first missile test to occur under the Obama Administra­tion happened a mere five and a half months in. However, with the most re­cent test mere weeks into a new ad­ministration, North Korea seems to be adopting a more confrontational tone.

Israel & Palestine

A new round of settlement construc­tion in the West Bank has caused ten­sions to flare and was responsible for the Obama Administration’s decision to abstain from a UN ruling criticizing Israel’s continued expansion in the re­gion.

Trump’s meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu was surreal in his seem­ing lack of concern for the tensions between Is­rael and Pal­estine, or for the complex­ities of a two-state solu­tion. In fact, Trump seemed to indicate that he does not value the two-state so­lution, a cornerstone of US-Israeli-Pal­estinian relations, saying at the press conference that, “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two. But honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”

If Trump’s view on these matters be­comes the administration’s de facto approach to Israeli-Palestinian nego­tiations, it’s possible that the US en­ters a period of surprising restraint in its Middle Eastern foreign policy – not advocating for a two-state solution es­sentially leaves Israel and Palestine in a position to argue, or fight, over what to do and the US will act as a rubber stamp.

Russia

Russia has been intertwined with the Trump presidency since his campaign when US intelligence officials reported that the DNC had been hacked by a foreign actor. The unfolding saga of Mi­chael Flynn’s resignation, coupled with continuing intelligence community leaks that Trump cam­paign officials had close and consistent contact with Russian intelligence officials during the 2016 election has lent a certain Cold War-era climate to the administration, which continues to wobble between the President’s positive or neutral statements on Russia, and staffers’ reassurances that the administration takes Russian aggression seriously.

Moscow has recently taken provoca­tive action against the US, placing a spy ship just outside US waters, and conducting a missile test in clear viola­tion of a 1987 arms treaty. Much like the North Korean missile launch, these actions are taken in order to provoke some sort of reaction from either the President or from those within his party. The lack of any such response, apart from a handful of Congressional lawmakers, has pointed to a Trump ad­ministration that is reluctant to criticize Russia for any aggressive action it may take.

Looming over any concrete action taken by the administration is the background story of the election, the dossier published by Buzzfeed, and continuing encroachment from Rus­sian intelligence agencies. Reports have emerged from US intel sources claiming that agencies have been with­holding intelligence from the President because they can’t adequately trust the information will only be seen by the President.

Oh, Also

Not to be left behind are China’s continuing encroachment in the South China Sea, Brexit, the looming specter of French elections, and the seeming contradiction between what the Presi­dent believes and what the Vice Presi­dent & Secretary of State believe about NATO. VP Mike Pence recently had to reassure European nations that the US was still committed to their defense and mutual well-being. In its encoun­ters with the first serious foreign policy challenges, the Trump Administration has proved shaky at best, relying on conflicting messaging and on-the-spot decision making to guide an under­staffed State Department towards un­certain outcomes.

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