5 December 2018   Leave a comment

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave a speech yesterday to NATO in which he tried to position the US Administration’s emphasis on “America First” with the liberal international order the US helped to create after World War II.  The speech mentioned multilateral institutions that he believes have failed in their mission and called for reform.   He first praised the liberal order:

“The men who rebuilt Western civilization after World War II, like my predecessor Secretary Marshall, knew that only strong U.S. leadership, in concert with our friends and allies, could unite the sovereign nations all around the globe.

“So we underwrote new institutions to rebuild Europe and Japan, to stabilize currencies, and to facilitate trade. We all co-founded NATO to guarantee security for ourselves and our allies. We entered into treaties to codify Western values of freedom and human rights.

“Collectively, we convened multilateral organizations to promote peace and cooperation among states. And we worked hard – indeed, tirelessly – to preserve Western ideals because, as President Trump made clear in his Warsaw address, each of those are worth preserving.

“This American leadership allowed us to enjoy the greatest human flourishing in modern history. We won the Cold War. We won the peace. With no small measure of George H. W. Bush’s effort, we reunited Germany. This is the type of leadership that President Trump is boldly reasserting.”

He then goes on to raise questions about the virtue of multilateralism:

“After the Cold War ended, we allowed this liberal order to begin to corrode. It failed us in some places, and sometimes it failed you and the rest of the world. Multilateralism has too often become viewed as an end unto itself. The more treaties we sign, the safer we supposedly are. The more bureaucrats we have, the better the job gets done.

“Was that ever really true? The central question that we face is that – is the question of whether the system as currently configured, as it exists today, and as the world exists today – does it work? Does it work for all the people of the world?

The speech then goes on to defend the Trump Administration decision to leave agreements such as the Paris Accords, the Iran nuclear agreement, and the International Criminal Court.  The critique of the liberal order was intense (with the exception of NATO itself) , but the strategy articulated does not offer any hints about how to reform or replace any of the components of the liberal order.



For the first time in history, the British House of Commons found the British government in contempt of Parliament for failing to the cabinet’s full legal advice on Brexit.  The vote led to a flurry of newspaper articles in Britain castigating Prime Minister May, dealing her a humiliating defeat.  The controversy centered on the British government’s desire to avoid a “hard border” (one requiring the full gamut of legal and customs restrictions) between the Republic of Ireland (which would remain in the European Union (EU)) and Northern Ireland (which as part of Britain would leave the EU).  A hard border would institutionalize the separation of Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, an outcome that literally no one wants give the historic turmoil over that separation. The Irish Times points out:  “The legal status of the arrangements for preventing a hard border in Northern Ireland – and in particular, the UK’s ability to extricate itself – are at the heart of the bitter political row about whether MPs should accept the prime minister’s deal.”  Prime Minister May wants a “meaningful” vote in Parliament on the Brexit deal in a few days, but, at this time, it seems as if Parliament will reject the deal.



The news out of the COP24 climate conference in Poland remains unremittingly depressing.  After a brief hiatus, carbon emissions grew 1.6 percent in 2017 and the rise in 2018 is projected to be 2.7 percent.  According to the Washington Post, “The expected increase, which would bring fossil fuel and industrial emissions to a record high of 37.1 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, is being driven by nearly 5 percent emissions growth in China and more than 6 percent in India, researchers estimated, along with growth in many other nations throughout the world. Emissions by the United States grew 2.5 percent, while emissions by the European Union declined by just under 1 percent.”  Further, “Scientists have said that annual carbon dioxide emissions need to plunge almost by half by the year 2030 if the world wants to hit the most stringent — and safest — climate change target. That would be either keeping the Earth’s warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius — when it is already at 1 degrees — or only briefly “overshooting” that temperature.”


Posted December 5, 2018 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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