Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Uncertainty Is The Policy

Jonah Goldberg, whom I respect immensely, approves of the the missile strike on Syria, but doesn't see anything but chaos, confusion and unfocused behavior after that.
If I may extend Krauthammer’s metaphor a bit: A staple of nearly every Western with a new sheriff in town is the nefarious saloon full of scoundrels and women of easy virtue. The new lawman comes in and fires a warning shot in the air. The piano player pauses. The bartender freezes.

And the sheriff says . . . ?

Well that’s just it, isn’t it? Trump got everyone’s attention with those 59 Tomahawk missiles. But he doesn’t seem interested in telling us how to interpret them.
As much as I love Jonah, I think he's missing the point. He's right in that there's no Trump policy; inconsistent statements by his people show that conclusively. What he's missing is that Trump's lack of core beliefs is itself a policy. His policy is whatever he wants right now. His willingness to use the awesome power of the US means his whims have enormous weight, hence China putting 100,000+ troops on the North Korean border.

To continue Jonah's analogy, the sheriff shoots some bad guy's horse, glares around, makes some crazy statements about not liking this or that and then goes back to his office. What does it all mean, the townsfolk wonder. Who knows? Just don't get on his bad side! You have no idea what might set him off, but you know he's perfectly willing to shoot your horse, your dog or even you.

Now I think it's unfair to say Trump has no policy. He doesn't work in detailed policy statements, he works in broad directions. If you doubt that, check out his appointments. They might not know the details of what he wants, but it's clear that jobs is the most important thing domestically and respect is the most important thing internationally.

Is that so bad?

Something like this.


tim eisele said...

Yes, sometimes I think that international relations has the same characteristic as the stock market: if there is any discernable pattern in your behavior, others will find ways to take advantage of that pattern, and once enough people take advantage of it, the pattern can't be sustained any more and it goes away. And as a result, the people who base their careers on careful analysis and planning to thwart their competitors, end up getting constantly thwarted in return, to the point that the people who just do things at random get just as good of results on average.

So while you can sometimes get a short-term benefit from jumping on patterns established by others, it is hard to consistently beat true randomness as a long-term strategy.

ligneus said...

A bit like Reagan he lets the opposition underestimate him and given their mindset I don't think they'll ever catch on.