|Less gracefully than Obama, Trump attempts a bow|
to the Saudi king in a ceremonial presentation.
But he is also going out of his way on the first leg – Saudi Arabia and Israel – to trash Obama.
He insists he is good at making friends and advancing economies while the previous president was not. Indeed, he is attacking what conservative pundits call the Achilles heel of the Obama years – foreign appeasement or accommodation depending on who you are talking to. Apparently it was outrageous that Obama bowed before the Saudi king when receiving an award but not a big deal that Trump attempted something like a curtsy.
More centrist observers note that deeper belief in US ideals and maturity in leading the world were actually the heritage from Obama.
It is a strange case for a president who inherited a pretty decent economy and a great deal of foreign goodwill, but Trump may succeed in eroding that Obama image a bit by playing on the universal greed for something that sounds better – the same ploy of promises that has worked on Americans.
Trump was most successful with the entrenched wealthy autocratic sheiks and the hard right Israeli prime minister. The first are troubled that Obama showed concern for their human rights record and actually encouraged their serfs to act out, which is certainly a danger to them.
The second wanted a friend who overlooked raw flaws so much that he would not ever deal with Iran, while Iran in its recent election has strongly shown an interest in moderation. If that was a signal by the Iranian masses, Trump sure ignored it, though many in Jerusalem concede that Obama did very well in the nuclear deal.
The trip often seemed about bashing Iran even more than Obama, so if nothing else Trump may have chosen sides for the US in the endless rivalry between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
It will be interesting to see whether this bashing game continues at the Vatican.
Comedian Bill Maher joked that Trump made his first extended overseas trip a visit to the centers of “three major religions” – Catholics, Jews and oil. There is some sarcastic truth there – since there is no real olive branch in settling the long-festering Israel-Palestine dispute, just a lot of hope that ceremonial exchanges in lavish settings are a sign of progress. It’s a variation on his “try me – what do you have to lose?” strategy with US voters.
All Trump would say about Israel and Palestine was that it looked like one of the toughest deals ever but “I feel we will get there eventually . . . I hope.” That and crushing ISIS seemed the extent of his foreign policy details. His tsk-tsks on expanded Israeli settlements and Arab stabbing incursions are unlikely to push into meaningful bargaining.
Trump’s much anticipated speech to Arabs was about driving ISIS out and then to death, not just driving them out to other places as is most likely to occur if his advice is followed. He was addressing an Arab community whose strictest beliefs and Wahhabism education of the young are blamed as a major force in encouraging violence that less tribal strains of Islamic teaching reject. Driving them out and making the US more isolated are not comforting responses to a global gang of murderers. Killing them all is hardly that easy. They are going to go someplace and even walls won’t keep them out, given the modern techniques of how they get in.
There is also much fear that the chumminess with Netanyahu and policies centered around Arab royalty deliberately shut out the Palestinians from any equitable voice in bargaining.
|Nikki Haley tours refugee camp in Jordan|
while Trump wined and dined.
Part of this was once natural in a centuries old immigration reality. Up until the 1920s, sometimes 50% of a country’s immigrants to the US did return on their own volition to their homelands with new skills and insights. Today entrance and egress are xenophobically different. The Trump administration makes it clear the drawbridge is raised except for special skills needed, as defined by American industrial leaders or by Kushner family dealmakers in China.
The upshot seems to be that death and destruction will remain in the region where the disaster exists but with help from outside mainly in the form of money flowing in. It’s a Band-Aid for the conscience.
Much of the arms deal with the Saudis had been years in the making and the goodies may not be totally legal to Congress if the Saudis use American armament in its war in Yemen. The deal is most notable by offering Saudis jobs in our weapons of medium destruction industry.
There is no credit to past administrations and won’t be because the hosts are playing nice with the new team and the new guys don’t want to hear anything good about the old team. Bibi is just glad Obama is gone, perhaps because Trump looks far more malleable. He certainly downplayed any unhappiness in the Israeli intelligence community because Trump revealed to the Russians ISIS plans that could only have come from foreign implants (revealed by news sources as Israel). Now no one ever accused Trump of naming Israel but he repeated that falsehood often as some strange justification for his loose lips.
Other than that, he acted responsibly, at least like a celebrity tourist dropping in on the 19th hole. That will get him good marks back home until you peel away what it is really saying about his US.
Because the first part of the trip was about class and class structure. Jews are fine because they have a homeland to go to. Rich oil-drenched Muslims are fine and know best how to keep their people in check, they don’t need our advice. Refugees, those hungering for personal freedom and those shoved aside by isolationist policies may be rich targets for ISIS, but they continue to be the ignored targets for Trump -- the people he thinks should be driven out to someplace other than the establishment palaces.