“In the United States and the United Kingdom – two of the world’s oldest democracies – national governments are at a standstill. This, for better or worse, could be the future of politics. It will be a system in which things have to get worse before they can get … worse. Perpetual political gridlock: it won’t be pretty, and for many it may be painful.
“Both the US government’s shutdown and the UK’s Brexit have become problems with no exit. Every strategy offered fails for lack of legislative support or national leadership. The American and British political classes look intellectually exhausted and clueless about a path forward.” (Gridlock is the new normal,” by Daniel Henninger, Wall Street Journal, 1/17/19)
The above about sums it up. The two nations that have dominated the world for as long as anybody can remember are essentially out of commission.
What will this mean?
AMERICAN WITHDRAWAL FROM MIDDLE EAST
Middle East Chaos Will Escalate Following the Departure of the Americans: If America departs the Middle East, then the region will become a free-for-all for others.
The National Interest * January 17, 2019, by Tanya Goudsouzian: a Canadian journalist who has covered Iraq and Afghanistan for over fifteen years. She is former Opinion editor of Al Jazeera English Online.
The inexorable direction of the U.S. administration is towards less intervention, less engagement, and fewer “dumb wars in the Middle East.” Although Pompeo may trumpet steadfastness, the U.S. president can pivot on a dime.
The smart money is on disengagement from the region and anyone who thinks subsequent administrations will rush back in will probably be disappointed.
In filling that vacuum in Syria, expect the Russians, the Iranians and the Turks to rush in or stay in. They have kept their eyes on the prize; to them, it’s not just about Syria but the whole region.
. . . Europe must also understand the consequences of yielding significant Western influence in the region.
. . . More Russian territorial influence means less European territorial influence. More Chinese trade crowds out European trade. Iranian ideological expansion displaces Arab cultural norms. All mean “less Europe,” and certainly more instability.
. . . America’s departure will not be leaving the region to itself, but to a free-for-all for others. And to put it bluntly, the others may not (and probably do not) share the vision or values of the European experiment. If Europe is unwilling to “up its game” when the Americans withdraw, then it may find the only thing worse than U.S. hegemony is everything else
TRUMP THREAT TO ISRAEL
“The strategic reality facing the new chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, will depend largely on one factor – the political situation in the United States. More precisely, it will depend on the vagaries of U.S. President Donald Trump. At the outset of 2019, the Trump administration continues to convey uncertainty and instability. The amount of news generated by the president in one week, like this past one, is equivalent to several months’ worth with previous presidents.
“Trump hunkered down in the White House, telling interviewers that he hadn’t emerged in months, forgetting for a moment his frequent trips. He’s up to his neck in the crisis resulting from the government shutdown, continuing with his promises to build his wall on the Mexican border. But the latest crisis is only a symptom. The deluge of headlines in recent days included the following.
“The FBI investigation into Trump began right after he was sworn in two years ago, on suspicions he was a spy or acting on Russia’s behalf. There was a report he was considering an American withdrawal from NATO, an idea whose very mention sends shivers down the spines of strategic experts, Democrats and Republicans alike. There was also news of a secret plan initiated by the national security adviser, John Bolton, for attacking targets in Iran.” (“A wild card thousands of miles away,” by Amos Harel, Haaretz, January 18)
US-EUROPEAN TRADE WAR
“Transatlantic trump trading” was the title of today’s Brussels Briefing, by Jim Brunsden.
“Ideally trade negotiations between countries should begin on a note of hope: the desire to deepen economic ties, nurturing prosperity and friendship among their peoples.
But optimism and positivity are not the words that first come to mind when thinking about the talks about to start between the EU and US.
Brussels is expected today to publish its plans for negotiations with Washington that were conceived last year as a way to divert Donald Trump from initiating a full blown transatlantic trade war.”
Things aren’t looking good. Expect a full-blown trade war between the two trading superpowers.
The PM has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at Davos next weekend to handle her crisis at home. (Politico)
Mrs. May has ruled out any further delays on Brexit. Speaking with Holland’s PM, Mark Rutte, she convinced the PM that there would be no attempt to prolong Brexit beyond March 29th.
The Labour Party’s leader, Jeremy Corbin, gave a strong anti-EU speech, finally making it clear where he stands on the issue.
Leo Varadkar, Irish Prime Minister, is a major obstacle to Brexit. Brexiteer Lord Lamont says that his refusal to amend the “Irish backstop” makes it impossible to reach agreement on other issues.
From Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, 1/19/19:
“Current events in Britain’s Parliament are making politics in both Israel and America look positively sane and tranquil by comparison.
Around the world, jaws are dropping at the UK’s convulsions over leaving the European Union. This resembles not so much a divorce as an amputation without anesthetic using blunt knives and a broken saw, with the surgeons throwing punches across the operating table.
“This week, the deal struck between Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU over the Brexit terms was thrown out by an enormous majority in the House of Commons.
Although this was the largest prime ministerial defeat in British history, Mrs. May survived a motion of no-confidence the following evening.”
LA PUBLIC SCHOOLS STRIKE
LA teachers are on strike, demanding more pay and smaller classes. Sometimes, there are up to 35 pupils per class.
That’s definitely too many. By comparison, there are 26 in one of my grandchildren’s schools. The others are in the mid-twenties. Private schools keep theirs down to 20, which is why their children receive more attention.
One reason for the mess in Los Angeles is that the schools are overwhelmed by immigrants. One school reported on this week is 70% Hispanic, only 10% white.
It’s impossible for schools to keep up with the demand on their services.
Immigration is a major focus of Brexit – most people voted for Brexit because they wanted less European immigrants in the country. It’s the same thing here in the US – most people want to keep the country as it is, and not allow other cultures to dominate. Those at the bottom have to compete with new immigrants who are willing to work for less.
And finally . . .