A Dangerous “Soft Coup”

Insights, analysis and must reads from CNN's Fareed Zakaria and the Global Public Square team, compiled by Global Briefing editor Jason Miks.

September 6, 2018

A Dangerous "Soft Coup"

An anonymous New York Times op-ed from a "senior official in the Trump administration" should outrage allies and critics of President Trump alike, suggests David Graham in The Atlantic. It is, in essence, a soft coup.
"Given that one of Trump's great flaws is that he has little regard for rule of law, it's hard to cheer on Cabinet members and others openly thwarting Trump's directives, giving unelected officials effective veto power over the elected president. Like Vietnam War-era generals, they are destroying the village in order to save it," Graham writes.
"Defense Secretary James Schlesinger, worried by Richard Nixon's heavy drinking, instructed generals not to launch any strikes without his say-so—effectively granting himself veto power over the president. There's no evidence he ever actually used that veto, though."

"The scale of the apparent resistance to Trump is much grander than Schlesinger's fail-safe—even if it's limited only to what we already know, which seems unlikely. While the president has railed against a 'deep state' of liberal bureaucrats throttling his administration, the reality is much stranger: The saboteurs are the president's own appointees and close aides."

Putin's Intelligence Headache

British Prime Minister Theresa May told lawmakers Wednesday that the country believes the two suspects in the Novichok poisonings case are officers of the Russian military intelligence service, known as the GRU, CNN reports, involvement that Russia has denied. Leonid Bershidsky writes for The Moscow Times that the group could be causing a headache for Vladimir Putin.
"If, like Stalin in 1934, Putin is interested in deniability, he's not getting it with the swashbuckling GRU. It's possible, of course, that the Russian president's real interest is in enhancing his reputation as a fearsome enemy. May told Parliament on Wednesday that she thought the Skripal poisoning was meant to send a message to other Russians in London that they weren't safe," Bershidsky writes.
"If so, Putin should be fine with the publicity the military intelligence service is getting—but only up to a point. The GRU, after all, is not publicity-oriented, and the scandals are undermining its usefulness in real intelligence work by drawing the attention of Western adversaries."

The Big Lesson of the Crash? We Didn't Learn Anything

This month marks 10 years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Unfortunately, Martin Wolf writes in the Financial Times, little has changed since the global financial crisis.
"The financial crisis was a devastating failure of the free market that followed a period of rising inequality within many countries. Yet, contrary to what happened in the 1970s, policymakers have barely questioned the relative roles of government and markets," Wolf writes.
"Conventional wisdom still considers 'structural reform' largely synonymous with lower taxes and de-regulation of labor markets. Concern is expressed over inequality, but little has actually been done. Policymakers have mostly failed to notice the dangerous dependence of demand on ever-rising debt. Monopoly and 'zero-sum' activities are pervasive. Few question the value of the vast quantities of financial sector activity we continue to have, or recognize the risks of further big financial crises."
  • The irony of the crisis. The US handled the financial crisis well, Fareed argued in a recent Take. But "having led the world safely out of the financial crisis, the US is now leading the world in a wave of nationalism, protectionism, and populism that just might send everything crashing down once again."
Watch Fareed's full Take here.

How Canada Can Emerge from America's Shadow

Current US-Canada tensions are likely to persist even after Trump leaves office, writes Noah Smith for Bloomberg. If Canada wants to ensure it doesn't get pushed around, it should take a page from an old US playbook.
Canada's "current population of about 36 million is roughly 11 percent of the US's. Furthermore, Canada's fertility rate of 1.6 children per woman [is] well below the 2.1 required for natural population stability," Smith writes.

"Fortunately, Canada has embraced immigration to a degree that few other countries have, even the US."

"Thanks to this continuing surge of mostly skilled workers from around the world, Canada's population growth rate is now above that of the US, despite lower fertility. If that can be maintained or accelerated…then the country has a chance to one day emerge from the US's shadow and be a power in its own right."

Trump Pulls in Welcome Mat. Chinese Say "Meh"

The Trump administration is pulling in the welcome mat for some Chinese researchers with tighter visa controls. The truth is, though, that America was already starting to look less appealing, writes Stephen Chen for the South China Morning Post.

"China had about 600,000 students studying overseas last year…More than half of them were studying in the US," Chen writes.

"In past years, more than 95 percent of Chinese students obtaining an advanced degree in a developed country chose to stay there after graduation. By the end of last year, however, more than 83 percent had returned to China, most within the five years starting in 2012.

"Despite the Trump administration's restrictions on US-bound Chinese students and researchers, many young Chinese scientists have responded to those moves with a shrug given the pay is better back home."

Trouble in Paradise?

Sweden has long been viewed as a bastion of progressive governance. But as voters head to the polls this weekend, concerns over rising crime, immigration and a stagnant economy are leaving the future of the country's vaunted welfare model in question, writes Nima Sanandaji for Foreign Policy.
"Alternative right-wing media sometimes gives an exaggerated picture of the level of crime in Sweden. In truth, Sweden is still a relatively safe society. However, issues such as rising gang violence and car burnings have increased voter support for the Sweden Democrats," Sanandaji writes.
"The Sweden Democrats may have moved on from their neo-Nazi past, but Sweden is again grappling with rising support for neo-Nazi groups. One openly racist party, Alternative for Sweden, is campaigning on sending home immigrants who have Swedish citizenship." 



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