Why Trump will get cold feet on trade

It is clear from the statement released by the White House and from Trump’s tweets on the subject that he has no idea what the goals or implications of his own administration’s trade policy are supposed to be. He isn’t thinking about steel or about the likelihood that all the domestic manufacturers who at present depend upon imported steel and aluminum will be able to get what they need without going abroad. He has a vague notion that the United States is “losing” because other countries have decided to “get cute.” The solution to this is “trade wars,” which seem to exist for him at the level of a team challenge in one of the game shows he used to host and which are also “good” and “easy to win.”

This is not the mental position from which a person refuses to retreat. Indeed, it is so lacking in substance that a retreat from it would in fact be nothing of the kind. All he has to do is decide that China or Germany or Canada or whoever the supposed purveyor of these “cute” antics is supposed to be has absorbed whatever amorphous message he was supposed to be sending. Then the “war” will be over before so much as a single aluminum order is delayed.