President Trump’s alleged use of “tough language” last week during a congressional meeting on immigration led to yet another partisan fight between bickering Americans. Democrats labeled the president’s remarks racist while Republicans mostly shrugged.
Just Trump being Trump.
In fact, some of the president’s supporters wondered why the fuss. “Who died? No one,” a man tweeted. “So petty.”
And that really is the heart of the matter. For Trump supporters, there’s no harm if the president shoots from the hip and upsets the delicate egos of foreign leaders or snowflake Democrats.
To hell with them all. He wasn’t elected to play nice.
That’s a fair point. Trump’s victory represented a new direction for the country, with a mandate to shake up America’s democracy. And that he has.
But let no one be fooled that Trump’s approach – even if you love it – is without costs. Indeed, as a former CIA officer, I can tell you that there’s one in particular that worries me most.
The very future of humanity.
To explain, the world has entered the early stages of a new Cold War. On one side are nations like the United States who have come to embrace the often slow and messy path of democracy. Why stick with it? Our many wars and revolutions have taught us that no other path offers the freedoms we need for our people – any people – to thrive.
Unfortunately, there are other nations who fundamentally disagree. China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea believe that communism, monarchies, and religious dictators are better suited to decide humanity’s fate. They don’t want individual freedom. They want control of the masses. Suppression of free will.
Dominance by force.
The toll on the American economy has been profound. U.S. intelligence officials estimate that the Chinese Communist Party’s treachery has cost the American economy and her taxpayers in the low trillions of dollars.
This is not a new fight. The first Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union and ushered in what many in the West hoped would be the dawn of world peace and prosperity. One important player, however, remained elusive.
In the mid-1990s, President Bill Clinton – along with a Republican Congress – believed that if the West could get China to more fully engage with outsiders, the communist overlords might eventually come to embrace democratic freedoms.
But how would Clinton and Company do it? The spigot of global free trade.
Their reasoning was straightforward. If China’s economy were more fully integrated with the rest of the world, their embrace of dictatorship would surely lessen.
Better yet, economists argued, cheap goods from China would allow Western consumers to buy more stuff. More stuff would in turn mean bigger, better economies for all.
Thus launched the successful effort to allow China into the World Trade Organization in 2001. American businesses flooded into Chinese provinces at a staggering pace, lured by the promise of cheap labor and big profits.
And that’s when the wheels came off of Clinton and Company’s grand experiment.
First went the economic promises. As researchers now acknowledge, the American economy didn’t get bigger and better for all of its citizens. Only for some. The others – especially communities that lost out to cheap Chinese labor – were devastated.
They have yet to recover.
Second, there were unintended political consequences. Analysis shows that American communities hit hardest by Chinese trade abandoned moderate, consensus-driven politicians and instead hitched their wagons to political extremists.
The economic losers became the angry voters.
In short, China is aiming to lead the world. Democracy and its freedoms will be pushed aside while communism will be celebrated and encouraged in its place.
Clinton and Company could perhaps be forgiven if Western businesses at least provided their nations with trickle-down profits but that didn’t happen either. Why?
China offered Western businesses a poisonous exchange: you can have access to China’s market but only in partnership with Chinese companies.
Unbeknownst to most Western companies, however, was that these partnerships were not designed to last. Within a few years, Chinese businessmen would steal product designs and related intellectual property and instead launched their own enterprises that pumped out identical products.
Examples abound. Consider Germany’s Siemens and Japan’s Kawasaki, both of whom partnered with a Chinese company to build high-speed trains. Not long after their agreement to collaborate, the Chinese stole the designs and started building a competing product.
Siemens and Kawasaki had, to their consternation, created a new global competitor.
One might assume that Chinese officials would vehemently deny such tactics. On the contrary. They’ve gleefully encouraged the idea, calling it “bandit innovation.”
Meanwhile, Chinese spies and hackers joined in on the attack. In one egregious example, an American company had a $1 billion research program stolen in a single overnight assault.
The toll on the American economy has been profound. U.S. intelligence officials estimate that the Chinese Communist Party’s treachery has cost the American economy and her taxpayers in the low trillions of dollars (somewhere between $300 to $600 billion a year, for years).
And that’s not counting the counterfeit goods that knowingly flow from much heralded Chinese companies like Alibaba.
As the communists stole the global economy, so too did they kill the dream of a democratic government. In October 2017, President Xi Jinping was elevated as China’s unquestioned leader, with the party releasing a manifesto that specifically rejected democracy and individual freedoms.
Its economy, they promised, would remain open for business as usual.
And what of the Chinese people? Experts highlight that the average citizen lives in a dystopian police state where religious minorities are harassed and killed, dissidents are kidnapped or disappeared, and censorship – from imprisoning journalists to banning images of gay people – is the norm.
If their present is crushing, the future looks far worse. The government has announced an investment of billions of dollars in artificial intelligence designed to track and monitor the activities of each citizen.
An ascendant China has also flexed its destabilizing muscle around the world. The most publicized example is the seizure and militarization of vast amounts of contested space in the South China Sea. Next is the clandestine support of North Korea’s nuclear program and sanction-busting trading of coal and oil.
Finally, China’s communists have protected a man named Karl Lee, an indicted weapons dealer who has supplied Iran’s military with the nuclear and ballistic missile materiel it needs to threaten American allies throughout the Middle East.
If there were any confusion as to China’s long-term plans, they made it abundantly clear with the launch of the multibillion dollar schemes Asian Infrastructure Development Bank (AIIB) and New Silk Road. While both programs ostensibly seek greater economic development, the ultimate goal is to degrade the influence of the United States, India, and Japan throughout Asia and beyond.
In short, China is aiming to lead the world. Democracy and its freedoms will be pushed aside while communism will be celebrated and encouraged in its place. In fact, the propaganda campaign has already begun.
And that takes us back to Trump and the allegations of “s---hole” countries.
During the first Cold War, we built global alliances to fight back. We knew that while our military and diplomatic strength could not be matched, we needed other nations to fight with us, and in their own backyards. GI Joe – and our stable of diplomats and spies – could not be effective everywhere at once. We needed partners.
In order to win Cold War II, America must rebuild and strengthen this coalition. This includes expected partnerships with the likes of England, France, and Germany. But it will also need proud nations like India, Japan, Kenya, Ghana, Israel, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia among others.
America cannot go it alone.
Yet building this diverse coalition of democratic nations is made unnecessarily difficult when America’s leadership – Republican and Democratic alike – makes disparaging comments about our friends. Indeed, it runs the risk of pushing weak-kneed countries into the eager arms of an intoxicating China that’s willing to embrace dominance, control, and suppression of a restive people. Of any people. Of all people.
That’s why “s---hole” matters.
Make no mistake, this is the fight of our time. That doesn’t mean we won’t continue to have domestic debates about things like immigration. That’s good. Indeed, it’s the very strength of a democracy.
We argue. We bicker. We fight.
But we cannot allow our differences to distract us from the sobering reality that we are in the very beginning of Cold War II.
Every day counts. Every speech counts.
Every. Word. Counts.