A nation's government and its relationship with both its citizens and other countries are a matter of assets and diplomacy. Government has a variety of assets at its disposal. From a capitalist standpoint, even citizens are assets. They produce things that can be turned into capital, they pay public servants' salaries, and each adult has a "net worth."
In a capitalist system, a successful government exploits its assets for the benefit of its citizens. A good government helps citizens realize their potential as assets for the benefit of the nation as a whole. The economy is global. There's no going back on that. A nation is a citizen of the world, a single actor that must interact well with other world citizens in order to realize its own potential.
Enter diplomacy. If there's anything America has done well as the shining poster-child of capitalism, it comes down to using diplomacy in order to maximize our economic standing as a world citizen. Our economy benefits a great deal from international trade : in 2014 alone, we exported $2.3 trillion worth of goods and services. Nationwide, 38 million jobs hinge on international trade. Good relations with other nations allow us to sell more products and access foreign goods and materials. We see that competition from foreign companies helps maintain reasonable costs for products on shelves, as well as maintain consistency during seasonal and weather-related shifts.
It's easy to rail on global commerce when you're tired of seeing all this stuff flow in from China and Korea. But America helped create a global market from which we benefit. When it comes to manufacturing, a desire to see developing economies take a backseat to America is naive. It's not the direction we're going.
During the Obama years, we maximized diplomacy and trade, harnessing all of our assets to pull ourselves and the rest of the world out of a crippling recession. It wasn't all roses and there were those who didn't see benefits. The coal industry foundered. Manufacturing continued to decline. Banks came away unscathed for the sake of big money and global commerce, while wages for working-class people kept stagnating. There was the ever-present problem of wasted tax dollars : in 2016, the government could've saved $648 billion by cutting unnecessary programs.
But we didn't have the gross anti-diplomacy, the utter mismanagement we're seeing now.
First, there's the impending trade war with China . Because of Trump's tariffs on Chinese goods, China will impose tariffs on American soybeans. China typically imports about one-third of American soybeans, but because of Trump and his hardball trade policy, China will lower tariffs on five Asian countries, from which China can get all the soybeans it needs. From all appearances, this will hurt soybean producers in Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, and Indiana -- Trump states. Guess who's wallet it won't hurt? Let's just put it this way: we're certainly not going to see tariffs on "Make America Great Again" hats manufactured in China.
Next, there's the complete and utter anti-diplomacy of locking children up when they tried to cross the border with their families. Diplomacy isn't always backroom dealings with bigwigs shaking hands. It's also ideological and symbolic. It's a matter of respecting human rights. It's a message we send to other countries. When we show other countries we value human rights, like-minded countries want to make deals with us. That's how we built a coalition called NATO, which Trump recently bad-mouthed because he's coddling Russia.
In part, NATO came about because of the Marshall Plan, which was a beacon of economic diplomacy if there ever was one. The US extended aide to a war-torn Europe and eventually helped establish NATO in order to keep the Soviet Union from extending communism across Europe. Say whatever you want about NATO, but due to economic friendliness, all NATO countries are a lot better off economically than Russia is. We have nothing to gain by turning our back on NATO in favor of Russia, absolutely nothing.
Trump's diplomacy seems to extend only to dictators like Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin. His tariffs extend to our allies in the EU and Canada, which could cause hundreds of thousands of Americans to lose their jobs.
After he caged thousands of children, it's tough to give Trump the benefit of the doubt. There were, and still are no winners in that situation. But if I were to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding tariffs and foreign diplomacy, if for some reason I were to assume he has a strategy, I would take him for his word and assume that he's trying to "level the playing field." He is making the assumption that our allies are not going to desert us even if he gets tough on trade (although they won't be our allies anymore if we mess up NATO). He's assuming that it's best to buddy up with Russia and North Korea so that, in the end, we gain new allies while keeping our current friends.
He's counting on America's power instead of our diplomacy. The only reason NATO would want to stick with us, were we to enter into some sort of agreement with Russia, would be fear. NATO would be weaker without America. However, all other signees on the Iran nuclear deal are still dedicated to maintaining it without Trump. That could be a sign of what's to come.
Trump can't assume America's power extends further than it does. Other countries can get along without us. Even if our allies decide to grudgingly stick with us, our reputation is tarnished, our power diminished. Trump is fine with that. The man who has many business ties with Russia personally has nothing to lose by courting Putin and mocking NATO. In the end, Trump gets richer, America poorer, but what does that matter when you can fly out anytime to North Korea and hang out with your new friend Kim Jong Un in that new hotel you're going to build?