Donald Trump's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde formula won't work forever


Donald Trump's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde formula won't work forever
  1. Donald Trump's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde formula won't work forever
    theage.com.au
    Contrary to expectations, Donald Trump seems to be taking time to assess, rather than rushing to…
    Health

Donald Trump has been US President for two months now. He continues to say the most outrageous things. He still nurses dangerous ideas. And it's very early in a four-year term. Yet the worst fears of a Trump presidency have not, so far, been borne out.

No nuclear war has broken out. In fact, no new war at all. Not even a trade war. All America's allies are anxious yet alliances still stand. All America's rivals are circling the new president, yet, so far, only one is actively provoking him. 

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North Korea tests rocket engine

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has presided over a rocket engine test "of historic significance," according to North Korean state media.

That's North Korea, which continues to test missiles forbidden it by UN Security Council resolutions and in defiance of Trump bluster. Contrary to expectations, Trump seems to be taking time to assess, rather than rushing to irradiate.

What's going on? Thomas Wright, director of the Brookings Project on International Order and Strategy and also now a non-resident fellow at Sydney's Lowy Institute, was one of the Washington analysts who predicted the most serious consequences in the shortest possible order.

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"The day after a Trump victory," he wrote during the US election campaign, "allies would have to plan for the withdrawal of US security guarantees, rivals would look for ways to exploit the shift in US strategy, and markets would be rocked by the prospect of a new era of protectionism."

All of this may yet come to pass. But, just now, it's starting to look like Wright misjudged. How does he account for this? 

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"There is a little harm being done in the budget, in international co-operation, in resisting mutlilateralism, but yes, the real big shocks have been limited," he tells me. 

"Trumps' cabinet is a lot stronger than many of us feared." He lists Defence Secretary James Mattis, National Security Adviser Lt. General H.R. McMaster, and possibly the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, as "rational mainstreamers" who live in the real world. He puts Vice-President Mike Pence in the same camp.

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Illustration: Dionne Gain Illustration: Dionne Gain 

"These are fairly strong appointments that have created an alternative power centre. The real story is this deep tension between two factions within the administration. There's the Oval Office group of Trump, [chief political strategist] Steve Bannon and a few others, and then there's the mainstream in the cabinet and the National Security Council."

Three other important power centres constrain the president's agenda in his dealings with the wider world. First, America's courts ha…

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