How do we even start to analyze this? It could be “Trump is stupid” but is he?
He’s been calling leaders of nations in China’s orbit, including Sharif of Pakistan, Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan (vital in the new silk road), was visited by Abe, has invited Duterte to the White House. Especially in the latter contact you’d almost think he’s trying to bling-charm these egos to his frat-white-house where they can hang with the big American boys. What if Kim is on his calling list? The North Korean dictator is especially sensitive to American praise, he gave Dennis Rodman, the famous basketballer, the red carpet treatment. Trump hasn’t been that busy with Europe or the Middle East, could this be the Asian pivot?
Really, the US could become an autarky when it comes to hydrocarbons, why should the Middle East be its security problem when its the Europeans and Chinese who really depend on it for their energy? Why should China profit from freedom of navigation shipping all that oil halfway around the world while ignoring international law when the US is picking up the tab for both? I’ve long since felt that the US was getting played by China which has profited immensely from freedom of navigation and open markets, giving no geostrategic support for any of it in return.
It’s impossible to say what’s going on, there may be a strategy, there may not be. Trump isn’t listening to too many security briefings and prefers twitter to the white house press corps. But if there is a strategy, then whose is it? And if there is a strategy, will we who are versed into traditional strategies, recognize and accept that there is one? There are so many known unknowns here that it would make Rumsfeld’s head spin.
Then there’s China. It’s not ready for a confrontation over and even with Taiwan. It has heavily invested in anti-naval missiles to deter the US Navy but its actual ability to invade and hold Taiwan is still extremely limited and the leadership in Beijing knows it. It would be the most stunning self inflicted wound if China were to try to militarily bully Taiwain into complaisance. An invasion could very well lead to defeat not even in the worst case scenario and to loss of any pretense to global leadership even in the best.
Maybe we should get a few good heads together who can make better assessments here than most can. I’m certainly wholly flummoxed and everyone else seems reduced to uninformed theorizing as well. What can we really make of all this?