Pause the panic button


On May 1, 2003, President George W. Bush stood on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln and announced that the war in Iraq was “mission accomplished.” I noted at the time that the statement set off the media like a bunch of hyenas and the drums of disdain and attack started beating, blending with the chant regarding weapons of mass destruction (WMDs): Bush lied; people died.” The thing is, military facts can be difficult to either prove or interpret.

In the case of the “mission accomplished speech,” I think most military historians would agree that it had been accomplished.

Kerry Knudsen
Kerry Knudsen

A military action in historical terms would be two adversaries amassing men and materiel and trying to destroy each other. The U.S. attacked the Republican Guard and decimated it. However, the media glommed onto the post-defeat police actions the military was required to take over, which was, arguably, a totally different mission. The media is nothing, if not slow to comprehend that which is does not want to hear. Historically, Hitler’s Wehrmacht was defeated on May 8, 1945, but pockets of Nazi resistors continued to fight, particularly in the Balkans.

As for Bush lying about WMDs, I still can’t parse that one. I think everybody is aware that Saddam Hussein carried out a chemical attack on March 18, 1988, at Halabja. I also think everybody knows that Bush allowed plenty of warning to Hussein regarding the disposal of any remaining weapons for Hussein to move them to Syria or elsewhere, and if you don’t know, you should, that WMD containers are still being recovered in Iraq.

Was Bush misled about the number of weapons and the immediacy of the threat? I have no idea. I’m just saying the media gets a big charge out of conducting foreign policy — a big task for people whose primary social training is Twitter.

Believe it or not, this bears on the future of the wood industry in Canada. For example, it is arguable that the biggest topic of conversation in the politico-economic field surrounding our industry is the Trump presidency. In Bush’s case, the media dispelled any fantasy Bush may have had about getting along with the press. In Trump’s case, he took the initiative from the media and dispelled the fantasy they could control him with threats. Now, instead of the executive fearing a virtual assassination in the social sewer of Twitter, it has poured in a can of Drano.

As things stand, the politico-economic environment is staring at Trump and failing to understand, and they are failing very well. If I can sum up in a phrase what the majority of concerns are, we are worried Trump will destroy the trade relationship we have with America.

What I believe about Trump is that he is a negotiator, and he likes to win. So Trump says he is going to place a 45 percent tax on U.S. auto makers trying to outsource American cars and then drive them back with the profit being provided by cheap labour. So far, the threat, alone, has seemed enough to make significant changes, and at the time of this writing, Trump has not even been inaugurated.

So our question as businessmen is, “is Trump really going to assess a 45 percent tax, or is this a starting position in a negotiation?”

My money is on the negotiation.

Trump says he is for the American worker. Taking him at his word, what advantage does he get for Americans by breaking up CANUSA trade? He can’t argue that companies come here for the cheap labour. In fact, we buy much of our machinery and supplies to make wood products from the U.S., and the U.S. market seems to both want and need our products.

Do I know the outcome? Of course not. However, I think we should be very careful before we hit the panic button based on media reports of what Trump is or is not going to do. Very careful. To follow the fantasies of the biased media is to arm and trigger weapons of self destruction.
It could be Canada’s wood industry will find itself in a much more favourable situation vis-à-vis intercontinental trade, since that is more likely the thorn in the Trump’s paw.