Analysis

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on January 10 repudiated former US President Barack Obama’s Middle East policies while seeking to reassure allies of the United States’ commitment to the region. Ironically, allies have been rattled of late by US President Donald J. Trump’s decision to withdraw US troops from Syria. This decision, Pompeo insisted, is not a change of mission.

“Let me be clear, America will not retreat until the terror fight is over,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo, adding that the United States “will labor tirelessly alongside you to defeat ISIS, al Qaeda, and other jihadists that threaten our security and yours.”

Describing the United States as a “force for good,” the secretary said: “For those who fret about the use of American power, remember: America has always been a liberating force, not an occupying power, in the Middle East. We’ve never dreamed of domination. Can you say the same of the Iranian regime?”

We reached out to Atlantic Council analysts for their reactions to the speech. This is what they had to say:

Rivalry between the United States and China is deepening in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. While China is actively promoting its Belt and Road Initiative, the United States, together with its allies and partners, has put forward a Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. Both the United States and China are asking countries in the region to make a strategic choice between the two competing conceptions, making it difficult for partner countries to live in both worlds.

US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ departure removes the strongest Cabinet voice against dismantling the US-led post-World War II international order. Mattis’ stunning resignation letter is a historic rebuke of the policies and person who chose him two-plus years ago to lead the US armed forces.  There were disquieting trends in the Mattis Department of Defense, but there is little doubt that the outgoing secretary served the nation with distinction and was able to thwart some of US President Donald J. Trump’s worst impulses. 
Many of the “risks” we highlighted a year ago were suggestive of the serious structural problems at the heart of the global system. We wrote last year of a United States in crisis; if anything, it could be worse if US President Donald J. Trump is impeached in 2019. We correctly predicted then that populism would not be on its way out in Europe. The recent eruption in France of the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement is testament to the nagging torments in Europe and in the United States of a middle class that feels ignored and its plight underappreciated by the political system. The tension between the United States and China is more acute than ever, fueled partly by a growing realization that China is more technologically advanced and savvy than was assumed. The current trade truce may hold up and an eventual agreement reached, but the fear is that we are growing ever further apart. China resents the United States trying to set the rules for others, while there is a growing realization that China may not fit into our conception of a liberal order.


Why do we undertake such annual rituals?  In part, it is to make clear in our mind what unfinished business we have left for the next year. What things can we check out? And what tasks still face us. 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on October 26 marked the first time in seven years that a serving Japanese prime minister has traveled to China for official bilateral meetings with his counterparts. Lost in the headlines of this historic summit was the fact that the two leaders discussed North Korea and recommitted their nations to close cooperation on denuclearization and the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions aimed at Pyongyang.

Many experts are cynical about Chinese cooperation on North Korea. They tend to focus on the unique aspects of the China-North Korea relationship, such as shared communist ties and geographical proximity, and view China’s proactive diplomacy with North Korea, starting with the first summit between Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un summit in March, as an attempt to maximize its own interests, which do not coincide with those of the United States and its allies.

US President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on December 1 agreed to a truce in their trade war in order to allow time for negotiations. In what is a significant de-escalation of a conflict that has been marked by tit-for-tat tariffs, Trump and Xi put on hold threatened tariff increases for ninety days.

The agreement was reached during a dinner meeting between the two leaders after the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
George H.W. Bush, the forty-first president of the United States, died on November 30. He was ninety-four. In addition to serving as president, Bush was a vice president, director of Central Intelligence, US ambassador to the United Nations, and representative for Texas’ seventh congressional district in the US House of Representatives.
US President Donald J. Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping are scheduled to have a highly anticipated meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 (G20) summit in Buenos Aires later this week.

The meeting will take place against a backdrop of sharp trade acrimony that has been marked by tit-for-tat trade tariffs. The Trump administration, for now, plans to raise existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods from 10 percent to 25 percent on January 1, 2019.  Trump has also threatened to impose tariffs on an additional $267 billion of Chinese goods.

G20 leaders will meet in Argentina on November 30 and December 1.

Robert A. Manning, a resident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, will be keeping an eye on the Trump-Xi meeting. Here’s what he expects.

Presidential anger would risk United States being blamed for Pyongyang’s actions

A report released this week that exposes the existence of more than a dozen hidden missile bases in North Korea may not be news to intelligence services in Seoul and Washington, but the exposure has important political implications for US negotiations with the North, and indeed stability on the Peninsula. Equally, it highlights the power of crowdsourcing, open-source intelligence gathering, and analysis by the public at large. This, too, has implications for policy making well beyond the report’s findings.    

The Washington Post reported on November 12 on how a small group of Korea experts pieced together publicly available satellite imagery and interviews with North Korean defectors and government officials to identify thirteen undeclared missile bases. They conclude more bases may be hidden. The Washington Post reported on July 30, 2018, that North Korea could be constructing new missiles at the same factory that produced its first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States. 
The Great War ended one century ago. Like the Korean and Afghan Wars, it is one of the forgotten wars of American history. Our remembrance of the Great War is colored by its moral ambiguity, by our knowledge that it did not resolve its underlying causes, and by the fact that it ended up causing more problems by how it ended. But the war is enormously influential in American history because it set a template for how Americans forget wars when we forget why they were fought.


    

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