When commenters asked me why I worried about Trump’s foreign policy, I used the
Iraq Gulf War analogy. In that case, the US had sent Saddam mixed signals about his “border dispute” with Kuwait. Saddam wrongly took that as a green light for invasion—the US didn’t seem to care about the issue. But he was wrong; the US did care. We ended up capturing Saddam and he was executed. Of course lots of other people also died. In retrospect, it would have been better if we had been crystal clear about our intentions from the very beginning.
Update: I botched the first paragraph. I meant to refer to the first Gulf War. This is what happens when you write a blog post while heavily medicated.
Last week, the administration suggested that was up to the Syrian people as to whether Assad could stay in office. (Which is kind of silly, given their don’t have anything like free elections.) Assad took that as implying that we didn’t care about Syria. So he was emboldened to launch a chemical attack on civilians. But just like it turned out that Bush did care about Kuwait, today Trump tells us that he does in fact care when Assad kills babies with chemicals. (It’s a pity Trump didn’t say that before all those babies were killed.) Trump said that lots of red lines were crossed. I don’t know where all this leads (or what our policy should be), but we are learning the costs of ambiguity in foreign policy. Ambiguity leads to misunderstandings which leads to war. Trump’s buddy Putin provides logistical support for Assad’s attacks on babies, and so any US retaliation could result in us confronting Russia, perhaps unintentionally. (My criticism applies equally to Obama’s “red line” fiasco.)
Back in January, I pointed out that Trump’s appointment of nuts like Flynn and Bannon to the NSC was very worrisome. So today I should be happy that they are both off the council. The grown-ups are taking charge. And I am happy. I’m also happy that today Trump admitted that I was right about Assad, and that my Trumpista commenters were wrong. But I still think it’s dangerous to have a ignorant idiot like Trump as President. Basically we are continually hoping that the experts can prevent Trump’s mistakes from doing great damage. Maybe they can, but I’d rather we had someone that didn’t require this constant babysitting.
Fortunately, American presidents have far less power than most people believe, we have a “deep state.” But let’s not push our luck—they still have some power.
And of course lots of other typical Trumpisms today—accusing someone of a crime without providing any evidence, and then suggesting Bill O’Reilly was innocent despite a mountain of evidence against him (as he had previously done for Roger Ailes.) But then we all know that sexual predators like to stick up for each other. You can find occasional examples of this with other Presidents (such as Obama in the policy brutality cases), but with Trump it’s a firehose of idiocy every single day of the week.
I haven’t had much time recently, but a few comments on other things I’ve come across recently.
This caught my eye:
New York Federal Reserve Bank President William Dudley said Monday it may be time to consider making college tuition free because of the impact of student debt on the economy. Dudley said during a press briefing the burden of student loan debt has a negative impact on household spending power.
The comments followed the Federal Open Markets Committee decision last month to hike short-term interest rates by 0.75 percent to 1 percent, pushing rates to their highest level since 2008, with expectations for at least two more hikes this year.
This is wrong on so many levels that I wouldn’t even know where to begin.
The Atlantic reports that very liberal feminist professors no longer think somewhat liberal feminist professors should be allowed to speak at Wellesley.
The Guardian explains why Stalin was not such a bad guy:
No one, not even Stalin, ever became a communist in order to do evil, whereas that’s the whole point in becoming a fascist.
And people tell me that the Guardian is the NYT of Britain.
According to Inc., we now live in a world where this is considered a defense of intolerance:
From Buytaert’s statement, it is clear that Garfield’s expulsion was based on his ideology–or assumptions about his ideology–not his actions.
The National Review tries to imitate The Onion:
Do conservatives — or, for that matter, non-leftists — appreciate just how terrific Donald Trump has been as president? And how lucky we are that he won the presidency?
I don’t know the answer.
What I do know is that they ought to be deeply appreciative of him, and deeply grateful to luck or Providence, and certainly to Trump himself, that he was elected president.
If you read the links in this passage from a Scott Alexander post, you’ll learn a lot about the relationship between science and the left:
Jerry Coyne’s negative review of Cordelia Fine’s new book on the biology of sex/gender. Stuart Ritchie’s negative review. Greg Cochran’s negative review. Positive reviews from PZ Myers (though he possibly admits he gets his science wrong while also criticizing “the humanity” of anyone who points it out?) and of course the New York Times.
I’d like to end on a more positive note. If you are a fan of G.K Chesterton (and if you are not you should be) then I recommend this, also from Slate Star Codex.
I also recommend Ezra Klein’s interview of Tyler Cowen
There is one country that does not seem to be going completely insane, at least when it comes to education:
The Singapore curriculum is more stripped down at primary level than in many western countries, covering fewer topics but doing so in far greater depth — a crucial factor in its effectiveness, according to the OECD’s Schleicher. “When you look at England and the US, [their curriculums] are mile-wide and inch-deep,” he says. “They teach a lot of things but at a shallow level. Mathematics in Singapore is not about knowing everything. It’s about thinking like a mathematician.”
In contrast, my daughter is forced to memorize massive quantities of trivial information. I guess the new trend in American education is getting students to pass standardized tests.