.... Now President Trump is escalating a trade war with China as politicians, policymakers and pundits from both parties urge him not to stop there. Senator Elizabeth Warren rejects America’s past “happy face” China policy, and Senator Marco Rubio tweets about China’s “comprehensive plan to achieve world domination.” Washington is gearing up for full-spectrum competition with the world’s No. 2 power. We may be witnessing the start of a Sino-American cold war.
Beijing must wonder what can satisfy Washington’s demands, beyond changing its regime or retreating from the world. We might find out from Vice President Mike Pence, who blasted Chinese “aggression” in an influential speech last October and is planning a follow-up, or from Kiron Skinner, who holds Mr. Kennan’s old post as director of policy planning at the State Department and who says she is formulating a Kennan-esque theory of the long “fight” with China.
...... (Mr. Trump's) election caused foreign-policy mandarins to panic over “isolationism” and scramble to save American power. After banding together to defend the “liberal world order,” they have arrived at a surer solution: contain China. Beijing presents an ideal foil — a major adversary that justifies globe-spanning responses but doesn’t pose much immediate threat of war. On Capitol Hill, getting tough on China ranks among the few causes that unite Democrats and Republicans. Economic nationalists imagine jobs returning to America, free-traders think pressure will open up China, and everyone gets to sound tough on defense. Today’s climate reminds Senator Chris Coons of “the 1950s when there was no downside, politically, to being anti-Soviet.”
The contrast between then and now is worth pondering in the Age of Trump — an age whose signature feature isn’t populism or nationalism or any other –ism widely attached to the president. It’s the attempted annihilation of shame. Shame is neither sin nor folly. It’s what people are supposed to feel in the commission, recollection or exposure of sin and folly.
In days bygone, the prescribed method for avoiding shame was behaving well. Or, if it couldn’t be avoided, feeling deep remorse and performing some sort of penance.
By contrast, the Trumpian method for avoiding shame is not giving a damn. Spurious bone-spur draft deferment? Shrug. Fraudulent business and charitable practices? Snigger. Outrageous personal invective? Sneer. Inhumane treatment of children at the border? Snarl.
Hush-money payoffs to porn-star and centerfold mistresses? Stud!
Will the cheaters of today — think of Jussie Smollett or Felicity Huffman — feel the same kind of self-reproach in 10 or 20 years? Hard to say, though I doubt it. Smollett, who was accused of staging a hate crime against himself, expressed no contrition after all the charges against him were curiously dropped and his court file sealed. Huffman did better by pleading guilty in the college-admissions cheating scandal, and will surely have to lay low for a while. But a comeback story — polished, perhaps, by a teary TV confessional and a tastefully publicized journey of self-discovery — surely awaits her, and maybe Smollett, too.
It was once the useful role of conservatives to resist these sorts of trends — to stand athwart declining moral standards, yelling Stop. They lost whatever right they had to play that role when they got behind Trump, not only acquiescing in the culture of shamelessness but also savoring its fruits. Among them: Never being beholden to what they said or wrote yesterday. Never holding themselves to the standards they demand of others. Never having to say they are sorry.
Trump-supporting conservatives — the self-aware ones, at least — justify this bargain as a price worth paying in order to wage ideological combat against the hypostatized evil left. In fact it only makes them enablers in the degraded culture they once deplored. What Chicago prosecutor Kim Foxx is to Smollett, they are to Trump.
There are things that matter more. Keeping faith with the fallen and bereaved is one of them.
Anyone who has lived in Israel gets this. It’s a young and improvising state resting atop an ancient and profound civilization. At the heart of the civilization is common memory. Elections come and go; memory accretes. It is to everyday life what geology is to flora and fauna: grounding, shaping, slow-moving, still-growing. Memory is the true land of Israel.
The Israeli government spent 37 years tracking Baumel’s remains to Syria and negotiating their recovery through Russia. The country will expend similar efforts to bring home other fallen soldiers held in enemy hands. It’s the core of the Jewish state’s social contract. It may not be able to keep its people safe, much less make them rich. But it will never forget or forsake them.
On what distinguishes his party from Netanyahu’s: “We have left and right; religious and secular; Druse; ultra-Orthodox women. Unity is very important. We cannot agree on everything but we must agree on the framework. … Netanyahu currently lives off this separation [between various Israeli groups]. I’m talking about my priorities, but I’m talking to everyone. He’s appealing to his base.”
That last observation is the essential point. In many ways, Israel has defied expectations and done remarkably well over the past decade. Much of this has been Netanyahu’s doing.
None of these quarrels are about Israel’s enemies, who are real, deadly, and growing in number. But the quarrels have become enemies in themselves. Israel is powerful enough to defeat any of its regional adversaries, in almost any combination. It can survive the challenge of the Palestinians and binationalism, too. Whether it can survive its own descent into sectarian and ideological tribalism is another matter.