Thursday 14 Nov 2019 | 04:35 | SYDNEY
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The Americas

The strategic nous of H R McMaster

Given the extraordinary events that continue to take place in the United States, it is salutary to note that the appointment of General H R McMaster as President Doanld Trump's National Security Advisor took place a bare two weeks ago. At the time his appointment was widely welcomed, with

The Trump trade agenda

Trade and migration were the two big economic issues in Donald Trump’s electioneering. As president, he has moved swiftly on migration but has done very little on trade so far. China has not been blacklisted as a currency manipulator; NAFTA remains untouched; and no tariffs have been imposed on

Letters from a more dignified America (Part 2)

This post is the second in a two-part series. For Part 1, click here. The second of Alistair Cooke's Letters from America I want to highlight honours General George Marshall. It was broadcast in 1959. Cooke says of Marshall that 'most Americans were willing to credit the reports of his eminence

Letters from a more dignified America

This post is the first in a two-part series. For Part 2, click here. As the world struggles to adjust to the Trump phenomenon, I’m reminded of a man who might have come closer than most to making sense of it all. Englishman Alistair Cooke, it can fairly be said, understood America better than

Welcome to the post-American era

The opening lines in US President Donald Trump's first speech to a Joint Session of Congress could have come from any recent president, with optimistic stock phrases about a 'new chapter of American greatness', a 'new surge of optimism', and a 'renewal of US spirit.' At first it seemed like a

Abe's Trump moves: Proactive pragmatism at its finest

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has accomplished what no other foreign leaders has with US President Donald Trump. Not only has he already met him twice — once before and again just after the inauguration — but Trump appears to genuinely like Abe. Of course, the state of US-Japan relations

Saving NAFTA: Canada’s three-point playbook

Last week Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau completed his first official visit with President Donald Trump in Washington D.C. Trudeau and his staff were no doubt aware that it’s usually the other way around: since the early 1980s, there's been an unofficial tradition that the first

Why Australia and Japan need a Plan B

Concern over the possible decline of US power and the resilience of its commitment to underwriting security in Asia is not new. In the post-1945 period, doubts over Washington’s commitment to maintaining a leadership role in the region have followed President Nixon’s shift to the Guam Doctrine

Trump's info wars not so easily won

While it might be overshadowed by future revelations on the extent of Russian-American collusion in the rise and rule of President Donald Trump, this week’s departure of the president’s national security adviser Michael Flynn is now most notable for the roles played by US intelligence agencies

Flynn the first casualty in chaotic Trump White House

What a mess. Less than a month in and the Trump administration is reeling from the forced resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn. The ostensible reason: holding inappropriate phone conversations with the Russian ambassador during the transition period and deceiving the vice

Trump critics need to be careful what they cheer for

It is surely no exaggeration to say that a large majority of the journalists and commentators covering the Trump White House are hostile to it, and would like to see President Trump fail. But Trump's critics have already done themselves a lot of harm, and Mr Trump a lot of favours, by the lack of

Battening down for an environmental war

The oft-repeated promise by Donald Trump when he was on the campaign trail last year to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency is now described as an 'aspirational goal' as the newly-installed Trump administration takes the measure of widespread opposition.   As previous Republican

Congress rallies around Australia

The US-Australia refugee deal may die once President Donald Trump has studied the 'dumb deal' and considered whether it will get him 'killed' politically. But if domestic political calculations are the primary factor shaping Trump’s upcoming decision, it seems likely the deal will remain intact

How Trump's economic plans will come unstuck

There is plenty to ponder about President Donald Trump's impact on global politics, but in the realm of economics, there are grounds to wonder if his administration will make quite as much difference to the rest of the world as either Trump promises or his critics fear. Trump has pledged to get US

Is Trump reigniting the currency wars?

In 2010 Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega warned that a 'currency war' was underway. Europe, the United States and the United Kingdom were attempting to boost their limp post-2008 recoveries through quantitative easing (QE) policies, which not only lowered interest rates but also depreciated

Losing the plot on immigration policy

After three decades in the immigration business, I thought I understood how it worked, but now I am convinced I have lost the plot. In the past, governments that were concerned about security threats from individuals of particular nationalities might have quietly intensified scrutiny of visa

Trump's travel ban likely to go to US Supreme Court

It is often said that a week is a long time in politics, but in the United States the weekend saw the political and legal landscape change almost by the hour. On Friday evening District Judge James Robart granted a temporary restraining order with nationwide effect suspending the travel ban

Mattis visit unlikely to calm Trump-rattled allies

This is a weird time for US allies in Asia. This week’s visit by the new American Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, to northeast Asia should be a routine alliance maintenance trip. A new presidency brings new people and new ideas. Officials need to make the rounds and get up to speed. But under

The Trump call forces Australia to confront a big question

Let’s consider a few alternative theories to explain President Trump’s behaviour in his phone call with Prime Minister Turnbull, revealed by the Washington Post yesterday, starting with what is probably the most conventional explanation. He’s erratic and guided by emotion rather than reason

Australian immigration in the Trump era

Earlier this week Malcolm Turnbull said it wasn’t his job as Prime Minister of Australia 'to run a commentary on the domestic policies of other countries' after President Trump signed an executive order banning travellers from seven majority Muslim countries. There are many reasons to question

The three factors that will drive US policy in Asia

In the 10 days since his inauguration President Trump has sought to convey the appearance of a strong and energetic leader committed to delivering exactly what he promised. Executive orders have come thick and fast covering most of the major election issues including immigration bans, building the

Trump’s trade protectionism

President Trump is off to a flying start on his promised trade protectionism, with executive orders on withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and renegotiation of NAFTA, together with his threatened import duty on any US company off-shoring domestic jobs and his promise to make Mexico pay for

The End of History, a generation on

This year it is 25 years since Francis Fukuyama published The End of History and the Last Man – the span of a generation, as traditionally reckoned. The book, like the 1989 essay from which it grew, is more complex and sophisticated than the first phrase of the title suggests. Much of it is

From Obama optimism to Trumpian gloom

When the heavens opened up and it started to rain just as President Donald J. Trump began his inaugural address, it was hard not to see it as an omen. Barack Obama, a relentless optimist and dedicated globalist is gone, replaced by a neophyte populist politician whose promise to 'make America

Obama’s legacy: Still a work in progress?

Barack Obama leaves office in the somewhat paradoxical position of enjoying unusually high approval ratings for a departing president, while also fearing the wholesale destruction of his legacy. Many of Obama’s most strident opponents have claimed that the election of Donald Trump was

Trump's confused mercantilism

Among the foreign policy issues raised by the imminent Trump White House, one that has received a fair amount of commentary is the President-elect's mercantilist leanings; that is, a pragmatic approach that views the world through the prism of financial return on US investment of various

Trump and the intelligence community

Not for the first time in US history, Russia hysteria has hijacked the political discourse. Rhetoric abounds that Russia 'hacked' the US election; the actual charge is that the Russian government covertly accessed the email account of senior Clinton aide John Podesta and later supplied his

Obama's legacy: The world is more dangerous for Australia

President Obama’s personal attributes, shown to great effect in his farewell speech in Chicago, may not be enough to carry his reputation through the consequences of his Administration. For Australia, Obama’s presidency has resulted in challenges to the world order not seen for decades. There

South China Sea: Tillerson throws a rhetorical bomb

US Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson has made some potentially explosive remarks about the South China Sea at his Congressional confirmation hearing: In comments expected to enrage Beijing, Rex Tillerson told his confirmation hearing before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that

Meet Rex Tillerson: Trump's pick for Secretary of State

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State designate, was not so much a dark horse as a late finisher for the most prestigious job in Washington apart from the presidency itself. President-elect Donald Trump seems to have had lingering reservations about other contenders including early frontrunners,

The merits of generals in government

As I facetiously said on a number of occasions during my recent abortive run for the Senate, you cannot have too many generals in parliament. Looking at developments in the US presidential transition, there will be a fair few retired generals supporting President-elect Trump. These include the

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