The readouts of Trump’s less-than-diplomatic phone call have provoked understandable concern about his capacity to work productively with America’s strongest allies. And the critics have good reason to question Trump’s combative approach; if Trump is angry at Obama for taking a deal he doesn’t like, he shouldn’t take it out on the Australian PM.And Trump didn't like it one bit:
|Study before you make the phone call, Mr. President|
Sorting through the deals his predecessor made will be an ongoing challenge, but bluster isn't the way to approach the leader of an ally. Back to Mead:
The deal between [Malcolm] Trumbull and Obama was a swap: Australia would take some of the Central American refugees that were embarrassing the United States in an election year and threatening Obama’s political interests, in exchange for a small number of Middle Eastern refugees from Australia. Central Americans aren’t a big issue in Australia, so Turnbull looked good at home; Obama (and presumably Clinton) felt that the deal would largely escape notice in the United States.The deal did escape notice, or at least reportage, until Trump decided to bring the matter up. I don't blame Australia for making the deal with Obama; as Mead notes, the Aussies have all manner of refugee problems themselves:
The debate over Australian immigration detention centers is not a new one; the first such facility was established on Australian territory in 1966. Even as the number of such centers has grown, they have always been controversial, with periodic riots and escapes and persistent human rights criticisms chipping away at support. The so-called Pacific Solution, first implemented in the early 2000s, established Pacific detention centers off Australia’s shores in Papua New Guinea and the island of Nauru, but support for that, too, has waxed and waned; offshore processing was abandoned in 2007 before resuming again in 2012 after an uptick in asylum seekers. Australia’s current asylum policy has established a “zero tolerance” stance toward illegal boat arrivals, combined with mandatory detention. This has helped keep asylum seekers out of Australia, but it has also left Turnbull with an intractable humanitarian problem.It's a problem that isn't going away, either. Trump, Turnbull and other leaders have work to do to sort out all these problems. But there won't be any progress if we find ourselves fighting our allies. Those of us on the starboard side criticized Obama consistently for his disdain of Great Britain. Trump can't do the same sort of thing with other allies and expect to conduct a successful foreign policy.