Saturday, February 04, 2017

Be Respectful to Australia and Mexico

In these days of the media and Trump opponents being hyper-sensitive to everything and turning the outrage dial to 11 for everything, it is hard to say if President Trump really sent relations with Australia into a funk. But I'd make efforts to respect a very good friend and ally in Asia.

Okay, that sounds bad:

First, the AP reported that according to a transcript of a phone call between the presidents of the US and Mexico, Trump threatening to send US troops to Mexico if it was unable to stop the "bad hombres down there." Then, in a separate report from the Washington Post, Trump labeled a refugee swap deal with Australia "dumb" on Thursday after a Washington Post report of an acrimonious telephone call with Australia's prime minister, replete with alleged "yelling" and which Trump hung up after just 25 minutes, that has threatened a rift in ties between the two ally nations.

One, we aren't going to send troops into Mexico to help them fight their drug cartels (who do act like jihadi groups in many ways). We only went into Mexico before we entered World War I when civil strife in Mexico led to a Mexican raid on American soil that killed Americans, and the Mexican government was unable to control the raiders. We aren't anywhere near that situation.

And on a personal note, my grandfather in the New York National Guard was sent to the border to guard it from further raids. Sadly, the source online that has access to the records has not responded in many years to my request for my mom to get whatever records they had for him. It seems unlikely that anyone really staffs that entity.

Trump may have a point that the deal with Australia is bad. I don't know enough. Given Australia's role in helping us in Afghanistan and Iraq, it may be a price we should pay despite any risks. Again, I don't know. But the public lambasting of a good ally is surely as bad as President Obama's stiff-arming of our allies and serial apologies.

Although to be fair to Trump, it is only public because the information about private calls was leaked.

If that leak was from the State Department, heads should roll. Releasing that information was anti-diplomacy motivated by pure spite. President Obama set the standard on leak-hunting. Trump should use that precedent. WikiLeaks is bad enough without StateLeaks.

And it is possible that the two foreign leaders were puffing up their chests in an equally undiplomatic fashion and that Trump called them on it.

Regardless of the details of this kerfuffle, supporting allies and opposing enemies should guide Trump no less than it should have guided Obama.

Nor do I know if, as the wording implies, that Trump slammed down the phone rather than--perhaps undiplomatically--ended the call less than half way through the planned discussion.

[PRE-PUBLICATION UPDATE: My suspicious mind is correct. The Australian prime minister said there was no hang up and that "the call ended courteously."]

And note from the first story this positive description of Australia's Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull:

"I do stand up for Australia. My job is to defend Australian interests," the former Goldman employee said in Melbourne.

Of course that's his job. It is natural that an Australian leader would have an "Australia first" view of his job. That applies to Mexico, too, of course. Fancy that.

Look, we have a lot of shared interests and deep ties that won't be shaken by a bad phone call. That's not how the world works. If America's relations with the Philippines can endure despite serial insults by Duterte, American-Australian relations will survive this faux pas.

Heck even the refugee deal Trump condemned will likely survive as our government has stated in response to the call fallout.

But let's have fewer presidential faux pas incidents with our friends and allies, eh?

UPDATE: No, we didn't tell Australia to get lost. And the rest of the opinion peace is lunacy, too. But this is Roger Cohen writing, and he's pretty much a dolt.

UPDATE: It's funny. I started out this post to criticize Trump. But even as a wrote it something seemed wrong in regard to the phone slamming implication. And so pre- and post-publication updates made this story less about Trump and more about media bias.