Bringing his usual deft touch to another troubled international region, President Trump announced on Wednesday that the United States would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital and relocate the embassy there from Tel Aviv.
Predictably, this caused an immediate backlash from America’s European allies and the entire Arab world. Trump’s thinking was that our longstanding policy of trying not to inflame the Arab-Israeli conflict hadn’t resolved the situation despite many years of trying so why not do the opposite? It’s a theory not completely devoid of merit. On an episode of Seinfeld, George Costanza, frustrated by continued personal and business failures concluded, “If every instinct you have is wrong, the opposite would have to be right.” Pursuing this theory, Costanza orders a chicken salad on untoasted rye instead of his usual tuna on white toast. This immediately results in his obtaining both a girlfriend and a dream job with the New York Yankees.
Trump has been advocating this “what the fuck” theory of policymaking since August 2016 when he asked African Americans to support his racially stoked campaign on the theory that “what have you got to lose?” Applying the same reasoning to North Korea, Trump tweeted in October: “Presidents and their administrations have been talking to North Korea for 25 years, agreements made and massive amounts of money paid hasn’t worked, agreements violated before the ink was dry, makings fools of U.S. negotiators,” He then instituted the complete opposite of normal diplomacy by threatening the North Koreans with “fire and fury like the world has never seen”.
A reasonable question would be: has any of this worked? For African-American Trump voters, assuming there are any, the answer is probably “not so much.” North Korea apparently either didn’t understand the “fire and fury” message or didn’t care when it tested an ICBM capable of reaching the US on November 29th.
In a way, Trump’s entire presidency is premised on the philosophy of “do the opposite.” Trump’s perfect reverse barometer is Barrack Obama. Whatever Obama did or would have done, Trump does the opposite. If Obama filled the state Department with experts, Trump would decimate the State Department and leave many senior positions and ambassadorships vacant. If he bothered to fill a position, it would be with Calista Gingrich (Newt’s latest wife) or the equivalent. If nothing else, this process saves a lot of time and effort normally required to develop coherent policies and strategies.
The Americans that will most immediately be affected by this decision are the State Department diplomats stationed in Israel. They will be forced to move from the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv to the less secure backwater of Jerusalem. The irony of this will no doubt be lost on the President who decimated their agency, has been denigrating these diplomats for years, and who personally benefited most from the perceived lack of diplomatic security in Benghazi.
(Image source: https://pixabay.com/en/fire-smoke-smoke-fire-match-burn-1899824/)