The Axis of Evil is back, minus the third wheel.
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But this time there’s no invading… and no public appetite for war.
From the beginning Trump has known that Iran and North Korea are the bad guys. China was “killing us” only figuratively. Russia had a trust problem it just wasn’t willing to solve. But Kim and the Mullahs, to take their own rhetoric at face value, wanted us dead.
So Trump tightened the screws… without dropping bombs.
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He almost singlehandedly flipped the script in the Mideast, drawing Arab and Israeli interests closer together, steering Turkey away from Russia and Iran, and ensuring the Saudis and our Gulf allies could continue their (poorly fought) war against Iran and its proxies in Yemen.
In the Pacific, he did the unthinkable and moved the US from an “inevitable” war on the Korean Peninsula to a tough but potentially conciliatory stance. After getting China to tamp down Nork nuke tests, he held out the offer of big business and international respect.
It was a good deal—too good, said the critics, but one that showed Trump went above and beyond in the event that force was later needed.
So now that Kim is firing rockets again… at the same time Iran is disturbingly moving its ballistic missiles around on water… the White House is shifting its force posture.
The goal is still to avoid war. Americans don’t want it, and America can’t afford it, not without taking on massive risk.
Trump doesn’t want it either: he saw how a bad war ruined George W. Bush’s administration, and how a good one couldn’t save Bush’s father from a pathetic and consequential defeat at the hands of Bill Clinton.
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That means he’s got to push some different levers than the old Bush-Clinton ones (bombs and cruise missiles). Obama’s old tricks (drones and black ops) won’t work either. Yes, Trump’s been handed a big bag of doo doo…
The only way out of the Axis trap is to go straight to the adults in the Asian room—China and Russia themselves. Europe is useless; Five Eyes is toothless; no regional ally south of the Equator can make a difference.
It’s a simple message Trump must bring to Putin and Xi: Our economy is the only one in the world that isn’t stuck in the dumps. Bring your bad dogs to heel or we’ll make your pocketbooks hurt even more than they’re hurting now.
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It’s not that we want to. It’s that you’ve created monsters who are going to ruin the post-New World Order for everyone.
It’s time for a new axis, Trump needs to say.
The Axis of Deal.