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Paul Krugman: Donald Trump Is Banging the Drum for War

Donald Trump is banging the drum for war. On Thursday, the president replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser with John Bolton, an Islamophobic ultrahawk who has called for pre-emptive strikes on North Korea and Iran, among other nations. Catastrophic as the appointment would appear, Trump has already kicked off a conflict with China, not to mention some of the United States' closest allies. As Paul Krugman writes in his Thursday column, "trade wars are rarely good, and not at all easy to win—especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. And boy, do these people not know what they’re doing."

The rollout of the president's tariffs on steel and aluminum has been an unmitigated disaster. Not only do these taxes stand to benefit a handful of corporations at the expense of American workers, they've managed to alienate our closest trade partners—so much so that the president felt compelled to scale back his proposal by exempting Canada, Mexico and the European Union.

"Was this climb-down a reaction to threats of retaliation, or did the administration not at first realize that the tariffs would mainly hit our allies?" Krugman wonders. "Either way, Trump may have gotten the worst of both worlds: angering countries that should be our friends and establishing a reputation as an untrustworthy ally and trading partner, without even doing much for the industry he was supposedly trying to help."

Trump's latest tariffs on Chinese goods could prove even more destructive. While Krugman describes China as a "bad citizen" in the international community, especially when it comes to intellectual property, its trade deficit with United States is neither as big nor as threatening as the president is convinced it is.

"Trump may think...China is winning and we’re losing, but it just ain’t so," Krugman writes. "Chinese trade—as opposed to other forms of Chinese malpractice—is the wrong issue to get worked up over in the world of 2018."

Instead of building a coalition of nations hurt by China's dealings, the Trump is fracturing existing alliances and forfeiting whatever leverage the United States has in future negotiations. A little more than a year into his administration, the U.S. stands on the brink of a full-blown trade war, and the consequences cannot be overstated.

"[These conflicts] are bad, and almost everyone ends up losing economically," Krugman concludes. "If anyone 'wins,' it will be nations that gain geopolitical influence because America is squandering its own reputation. And that means that to the extent that anyone emerges as a victor from the Trump trade war, it will be...China."

Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.

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