Happy 2019! It’s good to be back – and ready to interrupt. On that topic, expect to see a number of changes over the coming weeks, to this newsletter and to FPI in general. For one: a redesigned newsletter. It’ll be streamlined – more focused and easier for you to read on the go…. Cause that’s where we all seem to be….
And, sadly, where we are seems to be is stuck in the same place. (Yes, calling this the My Life on a Treadmill Edition did cross my mind). As noted in the Climate Change edition, global warming is at Code Red level and should be a top priority, along with growing inequality, extremism, global health, cyber security, and the unravelling world order. Instead, we’re wrapped up in talk about trade wars, whether – in the words of The Clash – to stay or go in Syria, and the “Wall”. All of it involves “deals,” which the man in the White House is fond of saying. Let’s make a deal!
China & Trade
Last we left them, at the end of November, China and the U.S. agreed to a 90-day ceasefire on their trade war at the G20 Summit in Argentina. Reps from both countries met this week in Beijing. At stake: $200 billion in U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods, with a similar response from China.
- Sarah Zheng and Catherine Wong report that the talks “ended on a positive note,” with a U.S. rep noting that they were “fine.” (South China Morning Post)
- Stephanie Miller definitely thought the talks went well. (CNBC)
- Catherine Rampell advises that Team Trump should be careful what it wishes for on China. (Washington Post)
- Meanwhile, Linette Lopez argues that China’s best hope is that Trump, Wall Street, and the whole world are willing to play pretend. (Insider)
On December 19, Trump announced that ISIS had been defeated and that U.S. troops would come home. (So it was a big surprise to read a few days later that his belief in Santa was “marginal.“) Former Secretary of Defense Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis wasn’t a fan and, as a result, resigned. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was, as a U.S. pullout would leave the Syrian Kurds without a protector, which the U.S. military was. But wait! Maybe the U.S. won’t pull out. That’s what John Bolton indicated this week as he and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit Middle Eastern capitals to “assure” allies that the U.S. is still committed to the region. 🙄 Erdogan, for one, was having none of it. He refused to meet with Bolton. Also, Pompeo, what was that speech in Cairo? Just so bad.
- Carol Lee reports on Bolton’s remarks about no Syria withdrawal without commitment from Turkey. (NBC)
- Bolton was right to try to slow down U.S. withdrawal from Syria and to avoid another Turkish-Kurdish conflict. But traveling to Ankara to try to dissuade Erdogan was the wrong start, says Aslı Aydıntaşbaş. She has suggestions for the Syria deal Trump should strike. (Washington Post)
- One of the objections to withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria was that it gives Turkey and Iran an advantage. Lina Khatib on why a U.S. withdrawal from Syria is good news for Iran. (Time)
- Despite the rhetoric in Washington, the United States continues to conduct air and artillery strikes— and has not yet sent troops home, Lara Seligman reports. (Foreign Policy)
- By the way, there are hundreds of foreign IS fighters who’ve been captured in Syria, and, as far as we know, U.S. officials don’t yet have a plan for what to do with them, Deb Riechmann and Susannah George report. (AP)
Dara Lind puts it best: “President Trump wants you, and everyone else in America, to believe that the US-Mexico border isn’t just in trouble but in crisis.” Hence, he shutdown the U.S. government at the end of December and said he would continue to keep it shut until Congress funded his “wall.”An editor’s note on the shutdown: For the past two years federal workers have been subjected to lies, confusion, derision, and grandstanding. Still, they continued their work, whether as diplomats, negotiators, inspectors, researchers, TSA officers, park staff, and more. Now, they are either forced to work without pay or forced into a no-man’s land where it’s unclear when they’ll go back to work and get another paycheck. This lack of compassion, gratitude, or respect to the people that actually make America great is callow and treacherous.
- Dara Lind with what’s actually happening at the US-Mexico border. (Vox)
- The shutdown isn’t really about the wall. It’s about Trump’s future, say Tessa Berenson and Brian Bennett. (Time)
- Rebecca Morin has a quick history of Trump’s evolving justifications for a border wall. (Politico)
- Related to the “Wall” – Annette Lin reflects on her travels with the Caravan from Central America through Mexico. (The Nation)
- A wall can’t fix America’s addiction to undocumented migrant labor, writes Julia Young. (Washington Post)
- FPI Fellow Alice Driver, who has been on the border for some time now, notes that Trump’s border visit is premised on lies. (CNN)