Fury but no fire: World confused after Trump's first year

A year has passed and the lights are still on: we aren't speaking Russian, or at war with North Korea, or Iran. We've...

Posted: Jan 19, 2018 2:40 PM
Updated: Jan 19, 2018 2:40 PM

A year has passed and the lights are still on: we aren't speaking Russian, or at war with North Korea, or Iran. We've not started a self-defeating trade spat with China. And right-wing populists like Brexit pioneer Nigel Farage and France's Marine Le Pen are even less relevant than they were at the beginning of 2017.

But still, after a year in power, the rest of the West is left asking: what does US President Donald Trump actually want?

We in the rest of the world had been warned the great age of American isolationism was upon us -- that the US was tired of being taken advantage of, tired of, to quote his inaugural speech, defending "other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own."

Yet the truth, it turns out, was more complicated. After a year of tweets and turns, it's still not often clear what the Trump foreign policy actually amounts to, other than more of the same, with some white-knuckle, 280-character roller coasters on the way.

Let's start with Iran. Trump said he wanted out of the nuclear deal, "one of the worst deals" he's ever seen. Yet twice he has continued to waive sanctions under the deal.

The aim is clearly to escalate pressure on Tehran through other, unilateral sanctions and to get European allies to demand separate concessions under a "supplemental deal."

But a year in, the deal remains intact, its European signatories as wedded to it as before, and the rhetoric less and less threatening every time it doesn't amount to action. There's noise, but little real change.

Trump had hoped for the ultimate deal in the Middle East. Yet that has been given to his son-in-law to privately negotiate, while publicly the Palestinians have been offended by the US recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

This was something Trump promised to do when campaigning, yet he didn't use it as leverage to get the Israeli government to change tack, for example, on settlement activity.

The Palestinians appear to consider the US a voice they no longer need to listen to in the peace process. But, given the peace process was pretty much dead when Trump got here, the Jerusalem announcement hardly upturned the apple cart. We are pretty much where we started, give or take some serious damage to the US' image.

Asia has provided the most immediate challenge. Yet the current talks between the Koreas ahead of the Winter Olympics -- which seem to essentially usurp the pressure of North Korea's pariah status as a rogue nuclear state in favor of immediate calm -- are happening without the US at the table.

Trump says his tough military rhetoric of "fire and fury" has forced them to the table. But it's also meant North Korea is engaged in talks with the US' ally without giving anything up -- a major victory.

The US President has promised to "handle it", but we don't know how, as the military options are all too ghastly. After the Olympics, we may end up with a belligerent North that thinks they get to decide when they talk, rather than make concessions for the opportunity.

With China, the real estate mogul who once tweeted "we have to get tough with China before they destroy us" has found himself flattered by President Xi Jinping in the Forbidden City, and at times pleading openly for more Chinese pressure on North Korea.

The relationship has been pragmatic and complex, yet not majorly different from the Obama years, bar the noise that it soon will be.

There are two places where the Trump administration has stated a specific policy that they own.

First is the recent statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlining five major points that need to be satisfied for the US to stop being "engaged" in Syria.

It's pretty extensive, and hard to satisfy, amounting to a series of reasons why the handful of US troops in Northern Syria might remain there for months, if not years longer.

It's exactly the opposite of what US allies feared an isolationist and tired White House would do -- inserting American forces for the long haul into a war the Obama administration bent over backwards to keep out of. But it isn't a major change: those troops were there when Trump came into power, and they will stay there.

In Afghanistan, the Commander in Chief has personally articulated a strategy for "winning," yet it does not differ massively from the 16 years of policies that have gone before it.

It shows commitment and a slight uptick in firepower and capabilities. But it is not a new approach. NATO allies are being asked to help out too, but the effort is still an American one, and will continue to be.

So on the other side of the Atlantic we are left asking what has really changed? And the answer is little: that there is much fury and smoke, but not a lot of fire to go with it.

Trump often has an angry posture, or several, for every foreign policy challenge. But the actions that follow it are very familiar.

That might be comforting to fans of American engagement -- they are not wholesale retreating across the Atlantic as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon once intimated.

Yet they should not be lighting cigars either. The Trump White House has yet to experience a "bolt from the blue" challenge overseas. And its Commander in Chief hasn't yet been presented with real policy choices that match the fire of his tweets.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 320292

Reported Deaths: 7390
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22299271
Hinds20782424
Harrison18455317
Rankin13933282
Jackson13740249
Madison10276225
Lee10068176
Jones8475167
Forrest7845153
Lauderdale7263242
Lowndes6524150
Lamar636688
Lafayette6315121
Washington5427138
Bolivar4842133
Panola4671110
Oktibbeha466398
Pearl River4610148
Marshall4576105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc426173
Monroe4163136
Union415977
Neshoba4066180
Lincoln4009113
Hancock387687
Leflore3516125
Tate342586
Sunflower339491
Pike3374111
Alcorn327474
Scott320374
Yazoo314771
Adams308586
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma299084
Simpson298689
Tippah292468
Prentiss284461
Leake272474
Marion271480
Covington267283
Wayne264842
Grenada264087
George252451
Newton249064
Tishomingo232469
Winston230382
Jasper222148
Attala215173
Chickasaw210759
Holmes190574
Stone188833
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174232
Yalobusha167940
Smith164134
Walthall135547
Greene131934
Lawrence131424
Montgomery128943
Noxubee128034
Perry127538
Amite126542
Carroll122330
Webster115132
Jefferson Davis108534
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96729
Franklin85023
Quitman82316
Choctaw79218
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66328
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 549394

Reported Deaths: 11328
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810851571
Mobile42180832
Madison35733524
Tuscaloosa26186460
Shelby25638255
Montgomery25103615
Baldwin21921314
Lee16301176
Calhoun14725329
Morgan14650286
Etowah14192364
Marshall12465230
Houston10798289
Elmore10302214
Limestone10191157
St. Clair10166251
Cullman9975201
Lauderdale9621250
DeKalb8978190
Talladega8467184
Walker7351281
Autauga7244113
Jackson6993113
Blount6957139
Colbert6418140
Coffee5650128
Dale4931116
Russell455241
Chilton4476116
Franklin432082
Covington4283123
Tallapoosa4137155
Escambia402380
Chambers3731124
Dallas3609158
Clarke353361
Marion3264107
Pike314878
Lawrence3135100
Winston283672
Bibb268664
Geneva258782
Marengo250566
Pickens237062
Barbour234460
Hale227078
Butler225071
Fayette219763
Henry194844
Randolph187744
Cherokee187545
Monroe181041
Washington170639
Macon163051
Clay160159
Crenshaw156157
Cleburne153744
Lamar147237
Lowndes142154
Wilcox126830
Bullock124642
Conecuh113830
Coosa112129
Perry108826
Sumter106032
Greene93734
Choctaw62125
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More hot and humid conditions will be in store for our area on Friday. We will see some isolated showers and thunderstorms as the rule on Friday. All of this will be due to some bits and pieces of low pressure working their way through our area.
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