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Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Chris Good
Aug. 6, 2019
America’s Currency Gamble
Now that the US Treasury has officially labeled China a currency manipulator, former Treasury secretary Larry Summers calls into question the legitimacy and strategy of the move. “China does not come close to fitting this template” of currency manipulation, he writes in a Washington Post column, arguing the “move down in the yuan on Monday was not artificial—it was an entirely natural market response to newly imposed US tariffs.”
Moreover, Treasury has become an arm of President Trump’s confrontation with China, Summers writes; the move “damaged” the department’s credibility and spooked markets. “We have only limited capacity to shape Chinese behavior. Should we not focus on areas where our position is clearly right and the stakes are high rather than areas where our claims are dubious and prosecuting them damages our economy?” Summers asks.
White Supremacists and Jihadists: Cut from the Same Cloth
Though US law enforcement, intelligence, and courts may treat jihadist and white-supremacist mass murderers differently, they’re not so different in fact, writes Ali Soufan, a former FBI special agent, author, and CEO of The Soufan Group, in a New York Times op-ed.
“Having spent almost 25 years fighting jihadi terrorism here and abroad, I see disturbing parallels between the rise of Al Qaeda in the 1990s and that of racist terrorism today,” he writes. Both communicate and organize online, and both seek political ends through violence. Soufan recommends the US follow the lead of Britain’s MI-5 and allow the use of more tools to seek out domestic terrorists—echoing sentiments expressed by fellow former FBI agent Clint Watts, who called in May for the FBI to open a broad investigation into domestic, right-wing terrorism, in a paper for the Foreign Policy Research Institute.
A Trade War, Lost?
Beyond fears of currency devaluation, analysts have had more cold water to throw on President Trump’s latest threat of a new 10% tariff on Chinese goods. Writing for Foreign Policy, Edward Alden argues the trade war has only become more intractable with this latest development. Beijing simply can’t accept a deal after Trump’s provocations, he writes, warning that the trade war could live on “zombie-like” past Trump’s presidency. Trump’s actions have strayed from strategy, Alden writes, as tariffs “have gone from being a means to force changes in trading practices to an end in themselves.”
Trump’s tariffs risk a recession, Kimberly Ann Elliott writes at the World Politics Review, wondering why such a threat would come on the heels of a Fed rate cut—and predicting Trump has damaged one of his strongest reelection arguments: a thriving US economy. National Interest editor Jacob Heilbrunn goes a step further and asks if Trump’s mix of tariffs and nationalism will recreate the Great Depression, proposing that his “serial damage on the American economy” will make a great case for his eventual Democratic opponent in 2020.
MBS on the Outs
Once a rising player on the world stage, Mohammed bin Salman’s star is falling, Emile Nakhleh writes at LobeLog. With the UAE’s withdrawal from Yemen, the Saudi crown prince is solely on the hook for that disastrous war, Nakhleh writes; his partnership with Jared Kushner in seeking Arab investment in Palestinian territories, meanwhile, failed to produce results and revealed MBS’s “inability to deliver Arab support to his friends in the White House.”
If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu wins again in this fall’s elections, forms a government, and continues his talk of annexing Palestinian land, MBS’s alignment with the US and Israel, and his bet on a Trump-administration peace deal, will have failed—all of which would leave the crown prince's influence diminished.
A Future of Eco-Wars?
Deforestation of the Amazon hurts everyone, The Washington Post argued in a recent editorial (it’s risen under Brazil’s populist President Jair Bolsonaro, as Herton Escobar noted in Science). Trees absorb carbon, and the fewer earth has, the faster the planet can warm. Writing in Foreign Policy, Stephen Walt uses Brazil as a jumping-off point to ask if we’re in for a future of ecological conflict, imagining a hyperbolic, fictional scenario in which the US, in 2025 under Democratic president Gavin Newsom, threatens to invade Brazil to stop it from cutting down trees.
“Brazil happens to be in possession of a critical global resource—for purely historical reasons—and its destruction would harm many states if not the entire planet,” Walt writes. Far-fetched as such a war might sound, as global warming becomes an even more urgent problem, and as single actors can damage world environmental interests by seeking their own gains, Walt predicts sanctions and other tools (if not tanks and bombs) might get deployed against bad actors.
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