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Predictably Inept


Secretary Tillerson, Japanese Foreign Minister Kishida, and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Pose for a Photo Before Their Trilateral Meeting in Bonn (32897966296).jpg

Latest at the Diplomat plays with some ideas about reputation:

Arguments about credibility abound in discussion of the politics of the Asia-Pacific. Most of these discussions revolve around perceptions of toughness and resolve; how do we indicate to a potential opponent that our threats are credible? Although there are substantial reasons to question the logic of credibility, the arguments on both sides remain intense.

In a recent Foreign Policy essay, Stephen Walt asks a different question, one that has bounced around the edges of debate on U.S. foreign policy since the George W. Bush administration; what happens if the United States develops a credible reputation for utter incompetence?

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  • Yixing’s Fluffer

    Considering South Korea bought into the F-35 program I think they already knew we were incompetent.

  • what happens if the United States develops a credible reputation for utter incompetence?

    Here we are.

  • randomworker

    It’s springtime, for grifters, and larceny!

  • Bruce Vail

    Robert, I don’t follow your corner of the foreign policy news very closely, so I have a dead-serious question that I have been wondering about for months:

    Did anybody in the foreign policy world (except a small click of oil men) ever think it was a good idea to name a 40-year ExxonMobil man as US Secretary of State?

  • Downpup E

    I wasn’t all that impressed with Walt’s article.
    There seem to be some things he disagrees with – e.g. ditching the TPP – mixed in with the inept. Also, it needs to be mentioned that some of this stuff is more corrupt than inept. A reputation for corruption is worse than a rep for incompetence for the country, while to the Trumps it means business opportunity.

    • Aaron Morrow

      A reputation for corruption could mean that Trump/U.S. foreign policy is controllable, but at least it would mean the world sees Trump as a rational player. A reputation for incompetence is similar to a reputation for being irrational, which seems like the worst possible participant in international politics.
      Regardless of which of us is correct, you have an international actor who is to big to fail to be shunned. This is a Problem.

  • Dr Colossus

    What are the odds of an arms race involving China, Japan, and the Koreas. If South Korea and Japan don’t see the US as a reliable ally I could see them wanting to cannon up in order to contain an expansionist China. The question is if that would cause China to increase their military spending more than they already are and if North Korea has the capacity to try to keep up.

    If China does start ramping up I could see India responding, leading to Pakistan…

    • Aaron Morrow

      Not to mention the current Sino-Russian relationship, and how an Asian exit by Trump leaves a Putin-sized hole in the region.

  • AlexSaltzberg

    I have new found appreciation for the orb — it was much better than the awkward three-person handshake in that picture.

  • LosGatosCA

    I think incompetence by the leaders, elected and unelected elite in the United States has been clearly demonstrated going on three decades now. The Democrats feed into the problem by being less confident and more reactive than proactive on national security and intelligence policy. That’s how they ended up getting jammed on the AUMF back in 2002 and you end up with Republicans running DOD half the time in Democratic administrations. The Republican incompetence is well documented and extensive, leading to the exact opposite outcomes from their patently stupid goals of globally dominating imperialism through military intimidation.

    But there is a deeper problem even than the leadership and that is the country itself. The political structure and the basic insanity of 45% of the electorate is leading to inherent instability that makes the US an unreliable partner. Sure, some Democrats seem more competent than all of the Republicans. But the bench isn’t deep enough or assertive enough. As a country without the continuity of rational actors workers toward intelligent goals with international cooperation as a default, partners have come to realize – Hey, we’re on our own. The ROI just isn’t there anymore.

    When you get to the point where the richest country in the world that has benefited the greatest of the world order they had the largest role in creating thinks that paying its debts is optional or keeping its infrastructure current – well just how smart do you need to be to realize that these are the spoiled trust fund babies of the world living off the inherited wealth and privilege built by previous generations with a great deal higher collective IQ of the current inhabitants.

    • MikeG

      Half the country thinks our foreign policy should be a toxic combo of revenge fantasies and bible fan-fiction.

  • Mojrim ibn Harb

    Ask and ye shall receive, Robert. Our reputation for ineptitude has been growing for about 25 years. The only reason anyone still takes us seriously is that we have the bomb.

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