Rethinking America

Trump: A New Reagan? Or a New Chamberlain?

Trump is the worst appeaser since Britain’s Neville Chamberlain. He is weakening the United States, emboldening its enemies and shattering the world order.

Credit: R. Gino Santa Maria Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Trump is the worst appeaser since Britain’s Neville Chamberlain. He is weakening the United States, emboldening its enemies and shattering the world order.
  • Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union with a very firm hand -- the opposite of what can be said about Trump’s stance toward Russia.
  • Trump threatened a trade war with China and imposed tariffs, but the moment China bit back he got cold feet -- so much for standing up for principle.
  • Trump doesn’t care about peace or America’s strength, all he cares about is self-aggrandizement. That is why people he negotiates with find it so easy to play him.
  • We will see many deals struck by Trump in the coming months in which he will claim victory but in reality agreeing to ignore more serious problems. As long as he gets cosmetic concessions, he will claim that he has won big.

Donald Trump often claims that his recent predecessors, both Republicans and Democrats, didn’t have what it takes to stand up to America’s foes and its unscrupulous trading partners abroad.

In the saga according to Trump, he alone is willing and able to negotiate on behalf of the United States from a position of strength.

In reality, Trump is emerging as the worst appeaser since Britain’s Neville Chamberlain. Trump is weakening the United States, emboldening its enemies and, possibly, shattering the world order.

A hedge fund manager talking to his rich investors two years ago was surprised to hear from them that they were looking forward to the Trump Administration. Their line of reasoning? Trump was going to be a “second Ronald Reagan.”

Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize

These days, Trump supporters are drawing this parallel all the time. A group of Republicans in Congress nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize the moment the possible — and now cancelled — summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un was announced. This showed, they declared emphatically, that Trump, like Reagan was achieving “peace through strength.”

Bret Bauer, the chief political anchor at Fox News, sees remarkable similarities with the Gipper. In particular, with regard to how Reagan dealt with Soviet Russia and how Trump is handling North Korea.

To separate fact from fiction and wishful thinking from the historical record, one should remember that Reagan called the Soviet Union “the Evil Empire” and initiated massive rearmament. He supported the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to make the Soviet occupation more costly. And he announced his Star Wars program to develop a system to shoot down Soviet ballistic missiles.

It was his relentless pressure, not any spineless soft balling and cuddling up, that brought Gorbachev to the negotiating table. The rest is history: Perestroika, economic reforms and liberalization in the Soviet Union were followed by the collapse of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe and German reunification. Then, in 1991, the Soviet Union itself disintegrated and communism was no more.

Of course, this sketch of how things unfolded is somewhat simplistic. It ignores the massive economic and ethnic pressures within the USSR and the restive mood in Europe, as well as the generational change in the Soviet leadership. Still, conventional wisdom has it that Reagan won the Cold War.

A very firm hand

But he certainly dealt with the Soviet Union with a very firm hand, the opposite of what can be said about Trump’s stance toward Russia. It is interesting to note that Luke Harding, in his book “Collusion: How Russia Helped Trump Win the White House,” has gone farthest in substantiating charges against Trump being the subject of Russian blackmailing.

As the author and Guardian reporter points out, even though Trump likes to sue everybody and goes up against books presenting an unfavorable view of him by trying to prohibit publication, no such actions have been filed against Mr. Harding or his publisher.

Trump followers want to let bygones be bygones. What matters, they say, is to look ahead. And that is precisely where they see important parallels between Reagan then and Trump now.

Trump, his followers suggest, is using the Reagan approach toward North Korea. He attacked Kim Jong Un in a series of abusive tweets and threatened to attack North Korea with nuclear weapons. And, wouldn’t you believe it, the North Koreans appeared at the negotiating table in no time to consider nuclear disarmament.

A second Chamberlain

However, this is an illusion. Not only is Trump not a second Reagan, he may be a second Neville Chamberlain. The man who served as UK Prime Minister from 1937 to 1940 is (in)famous for claiming to bring “peace in our time” to Europe. In reality, he gave Hitler a free hand to invade his neighbors, thus making World War II inevitable.

Much like Chamberlain in Munich, Trump is susceptible to pressure. North Koreans have already said that they won’t disarm because they don’t want to suffer regime change on the model of Libya.

Trump immediately disavowed any intention of removing Kim, a bloody and repressive dictator. Instead, he promised that North Koreans will be “very rich” and Kim will be very happy once he makes a deal with Trump.

Similarly, Trump threatened a trade war with China and imposed tariffs, but the moment the Chinese bit back, Trump got cold feet. So much for standing up for principle and achieving trade deals for the United States that are tough on other nations.

A vague promise by Beijing to buy more U.S. oil and agricultural products put the trade war on hold. The promise to bring back manufacturing jobs and reduce the annual trade deficit with China by $200 billion has been largely forgotten.

It’s a reflexive appeaser’s move. Chamberlain had hoped that, once he gave in to Hitler’s demands and allowed him to grab the Sudetenland, Hitler would be satisfied. Chamberlain was driven by the memories of World War I and desire to avoid another murderous conflict.
He was probably naive, but at least he meant well. He did not realize the immense depth of the murderous impulses of the Nazi dictator.

No excuse

Trump has no such excuse. He doesn’t care about peace or America’s strength. All he cares about is self-aggrandizement. That is why people he negotiates with find it so easy to play him.

As long as Trump’s ego is stroked and he is allowed to walk away looking like a winner and a strong leader, Trump doesn’t mind giving up ground on issues that matter. He abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, walked away from the Iran nuclear deal and moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in order to appear decisive. In reality, all these flashy gestures harmed the interests of the United States.

We are likely to see many deals struck by Trump in the coming months in which he will claim victory while in reality agreeing to close his eyes to more serious problems. Trump couldn’t care less. As long as he gets cosmetic concessions, he will claim that he has won big.

This will be tantamount to appeasement. Because in the meantime North Korea, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others happily operate in the shadows of Trump’s vanity and pomposity.

Happy to exploit a truly needy U.S. leader, they will pursue their nefarious objectives. In the process, they are not only destabilizing the world. Their actions may also possibly lead to the first major military conflict since the end of World War II.

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About Alexei Bayer

Alexei Bayer is the Eastern Europe Editor of The Globalist. [United States]

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