What Will Trump’s Foreign Policy Look Like without Bolton?

Security Advisor John Bolton is the latest White House figure to fall prey to the Trump staff’s high turnover rate. Bolton was seen by many as a hawkish influence on a president who, for better or for worse, has tremendous faith in his own ability to make diplomatic inroads with hostile foreign leaders. Now that Bolton’s out, what will Trump’s foreign policy look like?

Once in a while, even President Donald Trump makes a wise decision, and firing Bolton as his national security adviser—which he did Tuesday, tweeting, “I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration”—ranks as one of his best.

Had Trump selected a national security adviser aligned with his foreign policy views, it is entirely possible that by now he or she might have accomplished a number of valuable foreign policy achievements to advance our national security.

One of the questions many of us had was whether Bolton and other hawks like Secretary of State Mike Pompeo might succeed in manipulating Trump into a new war on Iran that he was plainly disinclined to launch.

That never happened, but we’re still in a very bad place with regard to Iran.

Should Anyone Believe Bibi’s Annexation Promise?

Election polls show that Israel’s upcoming election may yield yet another stalemate in which no one politician has a path to becoming Prime Minister. Bibi’s last-minute promise to annex all Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley could break the tie if anyone believes that he’s serious.

Netanyahu promised that if he wins, he will carry out the annexation “immediately after the election, if I receive a clear mandate to do so from you, the citizens of Israel.” If anyone in Israel still believes that immediately after the election, should Netanyahu win, he will be focused on anything but tailoring an immunity suit against prosecution, then they deserve not just one more term of Bibi but another couple of decades.

…just because the promise is campaign rhetoric doesn’t mean it’s empty. Experts warn that the very act of putting annexation on the table will shift Israeli politics even further to the right, potentially scuppering the peace process for good.

This time around, Netanyahu faces a president who has been tremendously supportive of Israel…The Trump administration has made it clear that it does not believe settlement construction is an obstacle to peace, and has given the appearance of supporting Israel’s continued presence in Judea and Samaria… On September 17, the voters will have to decide how much faith or lack of faith they should have in those words.

Where Is Avigdor Lieberman’s Political Home?

Though a right-winger himself, Lieberman has taken a stand against Netanyahu and will refuse to sit in Bibi’s coalition if it means buckling to the demands of the religious parties. As long as Netanyahu sticks with the religious parties, Avigdor Lieberman will oppose him. But does this make him a leftist?

When Lieberman brought down the right-wing government after the April election, the simple dynamics of politics went into motion. When he took action against the right-wing bloc, he effectively joined the opposing bloc, and even if he doesn’t agree with its beliefs, he has to cooperate.

Though the total number of center-left seats—including Arab members, whom Blue and White has not exactly embraced—falls at least five short of a majority, Lieberman can still plausibly believe that Netanyahu and the ultra-right parties will also fall short, and that his own party will hold the balance of power.

No longer appealing to immigrants or to the radical fringe, his campaign is aimed at Tel Aviv professionals. Commuting to their high-tech jobs outside the city, they pass billboards with Lieberman’s still-glowering face but a different slogan, this one in English. “Make Israel Normal Again,” it says, a clear reference to President Trump. How normal will we be, Israelis may wonder, with the prince of our paradoxes as prime minister?

Is Mayor de Blasio Doing Enough to Protect Jews?

The problem of antisemitic attacks against Orthodox Jews in New York City is finally getting attention. As solutions are weighed and causes are pointed out, people are demanding to know if Mayor Bill de Blasio is doing enough to protect the city’s vulnerable Jewish population.

De Blasio clearly identifies himself as a progressive politician. Yet seemingly contradictorily, he also is a staunch supporter of the State of Israel and consistently calls out antisemitism when he sees it.

There is no short-term fix to ending the longest hatred. As someone who has devoted three decades of my professional career to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred, I know that it requires a multi-pronged approach that focuses on education, law enforcement, and community relations. In my conversations with Mayor de Blasio, he has expressed his deep belief in and understanding of this approach.

In the one city most vulnerable to terrorism, the mayor is fiddling around in places like Des Moines, Las Vegas and Los Angeles while New York burns, sometimes literally. De Blasio is frequently not around to perform what has been called the nation’s second hardest job while pursuing the presidency in the Democratic primaries, and so far with little success.

Is It Too Late to Save the Planet?

A recent piece in The New Yorker (below) by Jonathan Franzen makes the argument that it’s too late to stop climate change. Is this realism or pessimism?

If you care about the planet, and about the people and animals who live on it, there are two ways to think about this. You can keep on hoping that catastrophe is preventable, and feel ever more frustrated or enraged by the world’s inaction. Or you can accept that disaster is coming, and begin to rethink what it means to have hope.

[Franzen is] far from alone in encouraging the masses to succumb to existential terror rather than believe there’s still ample, meaningful action to be taken to avert an utter crisis. The gravity of questions in my inbox has escalated from “What’s the best way to recycle my jeans?” to “Should I end my own life to resolve climate change?” I attribute the latter, which is a heartbreaking message to receive, to that insidious narrative.

…the longer fussy liberals in positions of power dawdle and drag their feet on climate policy — as Barack Obama frittered away almost his entire presidency — the more necessary revolutionary passion will become, and the likelier it will be to break out. Jonathan Franzen is too chicken and ideologically blinkered to imagine the kind of fervent energy necessary to carry out a climate revolution. But he might yet live to see one anyway.

Should Colleges and Universities Be Safe Spaces?

There’s a growing movement on campuses to make colleges and universities into “safe spaces.” According to activists, safe spaces are zones where diversity is promoted and individuals can feel safe from persecution and harassment. Conservatives, however, often criticize the idea of “safe spaces” for promoting intellectual laziness and over-sensitivity.

As a college president for almost 20 years, I am a strong proponent of creating spaces that are “safe enough” on college campuses… campus cultures are different, but each should promote a basic sense of inclusion and respect that enables students to learn and grow — to be open to ideas and perspectives so that the differences they encounter are educative. That basic sense is feeling “safe enough.”

There is a difference between true psychological harm and hurt feelings. Perhaps Roth’s “safe enough” standard is meant to recognize that difference, but the reality on many campuses is that safe spaces encourage, in Roth’s words, the “siloing of perspectives” against which “[u]niversities must push back.”

What characterizes the comfort college? The slogan of the comfort college is “diversity and inclusion.” [.] But another agenda, an agenda that runs counter to true diversity and inclusion, has (often silently) accompanied these positive changes. At some point along the way, this laudable attention to the language of inclusion turned from a psychologically realistic sensitivity into a harsh and confrontational tribal marker.

Today’s Hot Issues

What Will Trump’s Foreign Policy Look Like without Bolton? Should Anyone Believe Bibi’s Annexation Promise? Where Is Avigdor Lieberman’s Political Home? Is Mayor de Blasio Doing Enough to Protect Jews? Is It Too Late to Save the Planet? Should Colleges and Universities Be Safe Spaces?