ESADEgeo Daily Digest, 14/03/2018

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Washington Post – David Ignatius / Tillerson’s departure removes another check on an impulsive Trump

  • A successful secretary of state needs to be able to speak for the president — something Rex Tillerson could never do and Mike Pompeo will probably achieve from Day One.
  • “Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect,” Trump said of Pompeo. “We are always on the same wavelength.”
  • But Tillerson offered solid, traditional foreign policy counsel, operating in tandem with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Now, the axis of caution is broken. The danger is that Pompeo will remove the dampers that have sometimes tempered the president’s disruptive instincts.
  • Trump nominated a career CIA officer, Deputy Director Gina Haspel, as Pompeo’s successor. Although she’s popular with CIA colleagues, her confirmation hearings will be ­contentious because of her involvement in the CIA’s secret detention and interrogation programs.

Foreign Policy – Dan de Luce & Keith Johnson / Tillerson’s exit could doom the Iran nuclear deal

  • Rex Tillerson’s sacking signals the United States’ likely withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement, and raises the risk of a possible military confrontation with the regime in Tehran.
  • “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay…. So we were not really thinking the same,” Trump said about Tillerson.
  • Critics of the Iran deal welcomed Tillerson’s departure, in particular because Mike Pompeo is regarded as an Iran hawk. Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies: “Two months to go and President Trump will snap back the most powerful economic sanctions against Iran unless there’s a real not a fictional fix to the Iran nuclear deal.”
  • If Trump opts to reimpose US sanctions on Iran after May 12, European Union officials have warned that Brussels might try to block the American measures and protect European companies investing in the Iranian market. However, analysts say European banks and other firms are already reluctant to do business in Iran.

Brookings – William A. Galston / Is public sentiment shifting toward support of authoritarianism? Not really.

  • Are Americans losing faith in democracy? The answer to this question, according to the latest report from the bipartisan Voter Study Group, is no. Trends toward increased anti-democratic attitudes have reversed in recent years.
  • Digging deeper, the authors find that anti-democratic attitudes are especially prevalent among the least educated and least politically engaged citizens, and among those who don’t follow the news or vote regularly.
  • Of the Americans who regard themselves as economically liberal but culturally conservative—one standard description of populism—40% express openness to non-democratic forms of government, and 52% support a strong leader without checks and balances from Congress or elections.
  • Regarding young people, the verdict is mixed. Only 9% of adults ages 23 to 29 favor strong leaders, a much smaller share than for any other age cohort. But 29% of these young Americans say that democracy is not always preferable to other political forms, a far higher share than older Americans.

Financial Times – Martin Wolf / Italian election results expose eurozone inadequacy

  • The election results in Italy are quite as shocking as the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Tump in the US: 55 per cent of the voters chose Eurosceptic and anti-establishment parties.
  • Why are Italian voters so disenchanted? The obvious answer is that economic performance has been dismal. And the eurozone offers an external scapegoat, which unscrupulous politicians are happy to exploit.
  • The biggest frustration may be that the people Italians vote for have next to no room for manoeuvre. The question has rather been whom to elect (or sometimes not even elect) to carry out the policies decided in Brussels and Berlin.
  • Unless and until the eurozone is able to generate widely-shared prosperity, it remains vulnerable to political upheaval. Systemic weakness, plus the impotence of democratic politics at the national level, remains a recipe for populism and fragility.

The selected pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of Javier Solana and ESADEgeo. The summaries above may include word-for-word excerpts from their respective pieces. 

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