Sat, Feb 03, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan should be wary of Trump

By Ben Goren

John J. Tkacik Jr’s editorial on US President Donald Trump, Jerusalem and Taiwan, while commendable for a thorough contextualization of the international legal status of the two territories, relies on a mythology that flatters Trump and absents his relationship to Israel and the reasons he recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel (“Trump, Jerusalem and Taiwan,” Jan. 29, page 6). It is also rashly optimistic about how the Trump administration could affect Taiwan.

On Dec. 6 last year, Trump proclaimed recognition, but he did little more than carry through the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed by the 104th Congress on Oct. 23, 1995, by a 93-5 vote in the Senate and 374-37 in the House of Representatives.

From 1995 to last year, four successive presidents vetoed the implementation of this act every six months on the grounds of national security. Trump also vetoed implementation of the act for another half year, but broke rank to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and declare the US would seek to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Washington has since indicated that, rather than build a new embassy, the US will “upgrade” the existing consulate in Jerusalem to an embassy by next year.

Tkacik said that US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the “US had not taken a side in any final-status issues, including on the borders of Jerusalem itself.”

However, if the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and does not at the same time also recognize it as the capital of Palestine, the implication is clear: As long as the US maintains this contradiction between recognition and “final status,” Israel will continue to expand its occupation and control of East Jerusalem until such a time as it feels it can formally annex it.

At that time, no doubt the US will say “that is that” and recognize these new “facts on the ground” with the familiar performative regret it emotes when it has been caught surreptitiously supporting actions and values it claims to stand against.

Here is a president with no thought of how to carry through a policy, or its impacts, other than declare it so, as if he imagines himself Moses parting the Red Sea, the US’ exceptional military and financial power sufficient to convince the world to bend itself to a mold of his whimsy.

By inferring that Trump is a layman, “unschooled in international diplomacy” and having “no patience with legal fictions and diplomatic make-believe,” Tkacik reproduces complimentary myths that Trump has carefully cultivated about himself in ego-validating props such as Trump: The Art Of The Deal.

Indeed he built his presidential campaign around this fabricated persona of someone distrustful of bureaucracy and tradition, a “deal-maker” who would “clean out the swamp,” whose decisions are filtered through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis where only potential profit determines if an investment, or policy, has value — Trump as the Lady Justice or Judge Dredd of high capitalism.

We can see the internalization of this mythology when Tkacik said: “Unlike his predecessors, Trump’s brand of diplomacy is ‘transactional’ in the sense that he bargains.”

Trump is presented here as mold-breaking and unconventional, a rebel who gets down to business. Yet, all of international relations and diplomacy, for at least the past 500 years, have ultimately been a series of negotiations and deals, as nations seek to maximize the benefits of their relations with other states.

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