Voice

Announcing the Trumpies!! [UPDATED]

Andrew Sullivan has wrung a lot of blog mileage from his myriad awards for stupid/extreme statements found in the news. In that spirit, as well as an effort to keep my sanity extract some humor from the 2012 presidential campaign, I hereby announce the Donald Trump Award for Assertive Ignorance in World Politics -- known on the street as the Trumpies.

Named in honor of the erstwhile presidential candidate who really likes to name things after himself, the award can be earned by either a presidential candidate or one of his/her foreign policy minions. To score a Trumpie nomination, the person must satisfy two criteria during a single statement or exchange. First, the nominee must display a breathtaking ignorance of some bailiwick of American foreign policy or world politics. Second, the nominee must do this while simultaneously demonstrating supreme confidence in the factual and/or analytical rightness of their statement. 

This second criteria is important. I won't begrudge a candidate who demonstrates uncertainty or befuddlement on a foreign policy question. World politics is a vast canvass, and as I've said before, expecting a candidate to demonstrate foreign policy omniscence is a fool's errand. Similarly, I'm not looking for your garden-variety gaffe or misstatement that just indicates a candidate is sleep-deprived. No, the key here is that a candidate is both too ignorant and too proud to admit or even recognize their own ignorance. 

During the brief, shining comedy moment that was Trump's proto-campaign, he managed to demonstrate this kind of cocksure ignorance on multiple occasions.  With his decision to bow out of the race, however, the field for the Trumpies is now wide open and your humble blogger will accept nominations from readers and commenters.  The actual award, of course, will not be announced until after Election Day 2012. 

To get the ball rolling, the first Trumpie nomination goes to GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, for his comments on Israel and Palestine on Fox News Sunday:

 

Now, let's be clear about what's so funny about this clip. Cain's first answer, on offering "nothing" to the Palestinians to make peace, is not what's funny. It's reckless and extreme, but Cain's position possesses some internal logical coherence. It's the combination of this answer with his observation that the Palestinian "right of return" should be negotiated that makes the clip so funny (get a Palestinian negotiator good and liquored up -- hell, just have hummus with them -- and they'll acknpwledge that the right of return is one of the things that they'll have to give up in any two-state peace deal). The combination of these two positions boils down to Cain favoring a single state encompassing both Israelis and Palestinians, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't favor that. 

The gaffe was significant enough for the Cain campaign to issue a "clarification of these remarks," which is always a good indicator that a Trumpie nomination has been scored.

Congratulations to Mr. Cain for the inaugural Trumpie nomination! The foreign policy analyst in me hopes that these nominations will be few and far between. The politics junkie, surveying the prospective field, is confident that  there will be many more nominations to come over the next 18 months. 

The field is now open for nominations -- submit yours in the comments or via-e-mail, and if the strict Trumpie criteria are met, you will see it in a future blog post. 

UPDATE: Oh, if Trump re-enters the race, there's gonna be a lot of nominations. Bravo to the Donald for trying to preserve the quality of his brand. 

ANOTHER UPDATE:  See if Cain had simply admitted to Wallace that he didn't know what "the right to return" meant, he'd have avoided the Trumpie nomination.  Instead, he admitted it to Sean Hannity the next day

Daniel W. Drezner

Don't go changing, Belarus

With all the doings in the Middle East, it's easy to miss developments elsewhere.  Let's take a look at Eastern Europe, shall we?  Like Belarus, in which the latest developments suggest a uniquely Belarusian path to misery. 

The Financial Times' Jan Cienski notes that Greece and Portugal aren't the only European countries looking for a bailout

Away from frantic negotiations over how to save Portugal and Greece, another peripheral European country is scrambling for a bail-out. But Belarus is looking not to the European Union or the International Monetary Fund but to a grouping of ex-Soviet republics led by Russia.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s prime minister, flew to Minsk on Thursday to offer Belarus about $3bn in loans over three years from the Eurasian Economic Community, in return for undertaking economic reforms and privatising state companies – which could see Russia take controlling stakes in strategic assets such as oil refineries and pipelines.

“It will help to improve investor sentiment,” said Anastasiya Golovach, an analyst with Renaissance Capital. “But Belarus will definitely have to pay something for this and Beltransgaz [operator of the east-west pipeline shipping Russian natural gas to the EU] will be the price.”

Moscow is relishing Alexander Lukashenko’s discomfort, as the authoritarian leader of Belarus, who has long had a prickly relationship with Russia, endeavours to calm the growing panic surrounding the Belarusian economy.

Belarus has plunged into a balance of payments crisis, with the current account deficit soaring to 16 per cent of gross domestic product and currency reserves dwindling to a month of import cover. The central bank has introduced multiple exchange rates, seeing a collapse in the rouble’s black market rate....

The outlook is gloomy. “We are heading in the direction of Zimbabwe here,” said a foreign diplomat stationed in Minsk.

Note to the Belarusian government:  anytime your country is compared to Zimbabwe, you are in Very Big Trouble. 

As the article notes, Lukashenko has managed to box himself into a corner.  After flirting with the West for a time, a domestic crackdown that intensified in December of last year alienated Germany and the United States, leaving Russia as Lukashenko's only lifeline. 

Russia is, not surprisingly, exploiting the situation in a manner remarkably consistent with trends I wrote about in The Sanctions Paradox oh so many years ago.  As a scholar, it's always nice to see a model demonstrate its durability.  In this case, there's the added frisson of seeing Russia tell others to enact policies that Moscow steadfastly rejected about a decade ago in order to advance Russian interests.  And there's something oddly comforting about watching Belarus continue to make policy misstep after policy misstep -- it's the IR equivalent of rooting for the San Diego Clippers. 

The downsides are that it prolongs Belarusian misery -- and makes the Visegrad states  just a wee bit more jittery

Developing....