Last night I had the pleasure of attending the Tom Ricks lecture at Arizona State University. In his retirement as a defense reporter he is a Fellow at Center on the Future of War. He currently writes the Foreign Policy Blog: Breaking Defense.
I found myself in the minority of the audience as a conservative, but I found the whole talk troubling financially. It was free for all attendees with food provided. If there had been a price of admission, it would not have been paid. I would say 40% of the small audience of not more than 50 was retirees who read his blog. 10% were working professionals and the rest ROTC kids attempting 5 points of extra credit. I guess I’m an enigma having been a liberal in most aspects and now find myself conservative in most aspects, but I have never set foot on a massive state university as a student.
I expected a cogent talk on the future of war, but rather a lot of fears were displayed by a man who has covered so many battles and conflicts that Trump may be the worst president since James Buchanan, which makes me think he forgot about Warren Harding. He seems to think that Trump is deeply indebted to Russian Oligarchs who of course always get their principal back on investments as well as satisfaction. (A quick google search gives no credible evidence) He thinks that many people in this administration will go to jail for perjury. He thinks that there are only three priorities for Trump and thats: Jobs, Jobs, Jobs. What he fails to understand or maybe doesn’t agree that globalization is bad. I for a fact know we’re not getting jobs back from China, that’s a fact, but China is losing jobs to Robots. We just need not ship robotic jobs overseas, we can have technicians grown here. The H1-B Visa program which should be eliminated has created a dearth of domestic IT talent. The majority of people that would enjoy the high paying jobs in the tech sector do not seek the education and training because it is just simply cheaper to hire folks from India and Pakistan.
Ricks thinks that Trump is going to have a problem with actually bringing back jobs, also believing that the recipe for crazy inflation of the 1970s because of the intent to cut taxes, increase infrastructure and defense spending. Admiring Eisenhower because of the high tax rates on the wealthy between income and capital gains taxes of the 50s. He definitely sounds like a re-distributor, but with multiple successful books I wonder if he understands that he’s only taxing himself. Talks a little bit about the Market and how he has removed all treasuries from his portfolio and bought equities which he claims is the reason for the Trump Rally and not the ever confidence in a Pro-Business President.
Then he gets into Mattis, Kelly, and McMaster, although he finds it a bit concerning with Kelly as the SecDHS. This team of rivals could be what keeps Trump afloat. But he thinks that the first crisis Trump faces with Foreign Policy he’s going to go internal and fail.
A lot of the questions asked seemed to fall into the lines of emotional liberal arguments, and then there was a very well put together student talking about the most recent polling data in Sweden. Actual Swedes believe their country is being run over with immigrants and refugees…and now there’s riots. The Murder rate since the surge in refugees from the middle east has skyrocketed in Sweden. I’d say that’s a problem.
Ricks is about strategic energy independence, he thinks coal is done, but is all about fracking and shale oil. But what he doesn’t understand is the need for the Saudi’s, this isn’t the 1970s where we actually need oil from the Middle East. We need the OPEC countries to play ball so that the price of oil globally isn’t in the drink, otherwise it will destabilize a lot of places.
In the end Ricks seems fearful of Trump, not because of domestic issues, as Ricks has a zero tolerance for any political violence, (although that’s interesting because the only political violence currently is coming from the liberal/anarchist camp) but whether we will weather the storm with our first foreign policy conflict. He does not seem to be a fan of engagement with Russia, which is something the last administration failed at. Russia is not an ally in most things, they are a competitor. But you still need to engage the Bear in healthy diplomacy. Pence appears to be a place holder, but so was Truman. You don’t know what you may get, you could get Gerald Ford, or even John Tyler.
It was informative, but not what I thought I was getting into.