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No Mr. Trump, The Art Of The Deal Won’​t Work For Diplomacy

The new U.S. president might want to think twice about taking a business-world approach to international affairs.

Trump and Japan's Shinzo Abe last month
Trump and Japan's Shinzo Abe last month
Farid Kahhat


LIMA — Donald J. Trump is the first person in U.S. history to become president without any prior experience in either politics or the military. That may be why, when it comes to foreign policy, he draws on lessons he claims to have learned in the world of business, many of which were spelled out 30 years ago in his book Trump: The Art of the Deal.

This, however, poses a serious problem: there is a qualitative difference between doing business deals and negotiations among state actors. Business talks generally proceed within the bounds of the laws of one or more states, and when firms have irreconcilable clashes of interests, they submit to the authority of tribunals or arbitrating bodies envisaged in by the laws of the jurisdiction. If a firm then refuses to recognize the relevant ruling, the state has the coercive means required to eventually make it comply. In other words, companies do not settle their disputes with force. Nor do they lay siege to the offices of their competitors.

But that, of course, is not necessarily the case when it comes to nations. Thus, warning China that the United States might reverse its longstanding support of the One China principle — which deprives Taiwan of international recognition as the "Republic of China" —is not akin to warning a rival corporation of a possible "hostile" takeover. Eventually, if a standoff between nations is not resolved, things could get hostile in a very real way.

States seek allies is to share the cost of attaining common objectives

In the 19th century, powers like Britain forced China to grant trading concessions through the Opium Wars, which, alongside other conflicts, contributed to China's territorial dismemberment. It was forced, for example, to cede Hong Kong to Britain at the end of the First Opium War. In the second half of the 19th century, during the Second Opium War, China's empire suffered the Taiping Rebellion, possibly the deadliest civil war in history.

Such historical events may give use clues as to why the Chinese have ruled out any talks until the U.S. government drops its One China threat. Indeed, the Trump administration already seems to be backtracking — albeit as quietly as possible.

One might also look at another incident in the early days of the presidency: Trump's treatment of Prime Minister Michael Turnbull of Australia, a solid U.S. ally. One reason states seek allies is to share the cost of attaining certain common objectives in the international system. But unlike corporations, states cannot always turn to an arbiter to force compliance with the terms of an alliance. That's why they go to such great lengths to reassure each other, to demonstrate time and again that they are trustworthy partners.

Australia did this by engagaging in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. It even participated in the U.S.-led Iraq War, perhaps for no other reason than to honor its alliance. Certainly it would be hard to argue that Iraq represented a security threat to Australia. But trust must be reciprocal, and after Trump's aggressive telephone exchange with Turnbull last month. Australia is waiting for clear signals that it won't be left by the wayside in critical times. The same goes for other U.S. allies. At the very least, they expect to be treated with respect, ally and adversary alike. Trump should know that whatever his experience in the world of business, there are standard operating procedures that must be applied to international diplomacy.

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

After Abbas: Here Are The Three Frontrunners To Be The Next Palestinian Leader

Israel and the West have often asked: Where is the Palestinian Mandela? The divided regimes between Gaza and the West Bank continues to make it difficult to imagine the future Palestinian leader. Still, these three names are worth considering.

Photo of Mahmoud Abbas speaking into microphone

Abbas is 88, and has been the leading Palestinian political figure since 2005

Thaer Ganaim/APA Images via ZUMA
Elias Kassem

Updated Dec. 5, 2023 at 12:05 a.m.

Israel has set two goals for its Gaza war: destroying Hamas and releasing hostages.

But it has no answer to, nor is even asking the question: What comes next?

The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the return of the current Palestinian Authority to govern post-war Gaza. That stance seems opposed to the U.S. Administration’s call to revitalize the Palestinian Authority (PA) to assume power in the coastal enclave.

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But neither Israel nor the U.S. put a detailed plan for a governing body in post-war Gaza, let alone offering a vision for a bonafide Palestinian state that would also encompass the West Bank.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers much of the occupied West Bank, was created in1994 as part of the Oslo Accords peace agreement. It’s now led by President Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005. Over the past few years, the question of who would succeed Abbas, now 88 years old, has largely dominated internal Palestinian politics.

But that question has gained new urgency — and was fundamentally altered — with the war in Gaza.

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