August 19, 2019

Greenland: Deal or No Deal?

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“President Trump on Sunday confirmed his interest in potentially purchasing Greenland, but said it wasn’t a priority… The [Wall Street] Journal reported Thursday that the president has privately asked advisers whether the U.S. can buy Greenland, expressing interest in its abundant resources and geopolitical importance… It isn’t clear how the U.S. would go about acquiring Greenland, and officials from both Greenland and Denmark have dismissed the idea in recent days.” Wall Street Journal

See past issues

From the Left

The left is skeptical of the idea and instead advocates for improving existing alliances.

Is this crazy? Nope -- despite what Twitter might make you think. The United States has actually pursued the purchase of Greenland before… In 1946, US Secretary of State James Byrnes -- serving under President Harry Truman -- broached the idea with the Danish foreign minister at a United Nations meeting in New York. Nothing ever came of it. Almost 100 years before that, Secretary of State William Seward -- fresh off the US's purchase of Alaska -- apparently looked into buying Greenland from the Danes…

“Greenland is widely believed to be hugely rich in natural resources -- including iron ore, lead, zinc, diamonds, gold, rare earth elements, uranium and oil. And much of it is currently untapped, due to the fact that, well, 80% of the country is covered by an ice sheet. But due to global warming, that ice sheet is melting rapidly… and that erosion of the ice sheet is expected to make the mining of Greenland's natural resources more doable.”
Chris Cillizza, CNN

“It makes perfect sense if you happen to share Trump’s indifference to environmental issues and indigenous rights. Greenland is believed to contain a lot of natural resource wealth that is difficult to exploit due to the large amounts of ice and permafrost in the way. But the planet is getting warmer. A vision of American public policy that is neither interested in halting the warming process nor concerned about the environmental impact of exploring the resources would naturally want to acquire such a potentially rich land… [This is] an example of how many wealthy and powerful people see climate change more as an opportunity for profit than a problem to solve.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

“Greenland is home to 56,000 people, and the notion of buying an indigenous people and their ancestral lands smacks of colonialism and is deeply problematic. Given how Trump's real estate projects worked out for the islanders of New York City — $360 million in forgiven or uncollected taxes with another $885 million in tax breaks going to luxury apartments, hotels and office buildings — it would be financially savvy for Denmark to steer clear of President Trump's crony capitalism.”
Mikkel Rosengaard, CNN

Many note that “private land ownership does not exist in Greenland… In 2017, a sheep farmer in southern Greenland told me how he had recently built a new pasture: After deciding that he wanted to expand, he told the local kommune, which posted a sign advertising the change publicly. When no one protested, he went ahead and did it. And forget opposing Medicare for All: In Greenland, the entire health-care industry is nationalized. Both medical care and prescription drugs are free… President Trump will have to commit to supporting all those programs if he hopes to add Greenland to the union. And so the United States will gain a state quite unlike any it has had before: a state where landed property is illegal, where private medical care is banned, and where most major industries are state-owned.”
Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

“Greenland, of course, won’t be sold to the U.S. On the one hand, Denmark has no reason to sell it. It’s a wealthy country that runs a budget surplus. It can easily afford the annual subsidy of about $500 million that it pays to Greenland, and it sees itself as the island’s sensible steward rather than the unwilling owner of a vast, largely uninhabited territory. Besides, the 56,000 Greenlanders likely wouldn’t want to switch their allegiance… To protect U.S. interests in the Arctic, Trump would be better off working closely and constructively with European allies, including Denmark and Norway. Such cooperation can make more economic sense than territorial expansion.”
Leonid Bershidsky, Bloomberg

“By declaring that the United States will respond with airstrikes to any attacks on American targets or assets, Mr. Trump is drawing a bright red line that Iran cannot cross. And yet, Iran relies on a network of proxy actors from Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. Must they all respect Mr. Trump’s red line? There are plenty of hotheads in those proxy forces that will be incensed by the assassination, the same way young men with weapons and minimal discipline often are… Mr. Trump can’t keep an entire region from crossing his red line, making violent conflict all the more likely if the president holds to it…

“It is crucial that influential Republican senators like Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Mitch McConnell remind Mr. Trump of his promise to keep America out of foreign quagmires and keep Mr. Trump from stumbling further into war with Iran.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right is supportive of the idea, but acknowledges that it is unlikely to happen.

From the Right

The right is supportive of the idea, but acknowledges that it is unlikely to happen.

“The suggestion shows constructive, creative thinking, and it’s an intriguing idea… While there is absolutely no sign that Denmark or the mostly autonomous Greenlanders themselves would be interested in becoming part of the U.S., it does make a certain sense for them. Greenland holds no military value for a nation as small as Denmark, which has no need to worry itself with ‘force projection’ the way the U.S. does. And while the natural resources could be as valuable to Denmark as they would be to the U.S., Denmark right now spends nearly $600 million annually in subsidies to Greenland’s government. Ridding itself of those costs, plus getting a big lump-sump payment from its American allies to boot, could be a good deal for the Danes.”
Quin Hillyer, Washington Examiner

“If it is true, it would be the mother of all deals for the deal maker. There are tens of billions of dollars in mineral wealth in Greenland that we currently can't exploit because of the remoteness of the deposits and the difficulty of extracting the wealth in the subzero temperatures. But ten years from now, any amount paid for Greenland might be seen as a bargain.”
Rick Moran, PJ Media

“Through the U.S. Air Force base already present at Thule, Greenland offers critical intelligence capabilities to conduct satellite operations and to detect possible over-the-North-Pole nuclear missile launches from China or Russia. Thule better allows the U.S. to warn its citizens of an imminent attack. And it does more than that. Thanks to Thule's deep water port and long runway, the base provides a logistics hub for operations in the Arctic. And it gives the U.S. military the means to deter and defeat prospective aggression…

The purchase of Greenland would further strengthen these existing national security benefits. Unbound from political sensitivities in Denmark, for example, the U.S. could station missile forces in Greenland, including intermediate range missile forces. Russia's Arctic ambitions would have to be put on ice… But this isn't just about American interests. Greenland's small population also has everything to gain from a massive influx of American investment. The surge in tourism alone would surely offer a vast untapped potential.”
Editorial Board, Washington Examiner

“As it happens, in my spare time I’ve been taking in a Danish drama called ‘Borgen’ (the name for their primary government building)... one episode concerned Greenland and a pending visit to Denmark of the President of the United States! Denmark’s first woman prime minister (a moderate liberal and the star of the show) makes a visit to Greenland, where she hears a litany of complaints about how the mostly indigenous population of the icebound island is condescended to by Denmark, deprived of their autonomy, starved for adequate resources, etc. Hmmm. I suspect this plot line has a large element of truth to it. Denmark says it is not for sale, and it is not clear just who does have the sovereign right to decide the matter. Perhaps the inhabitants of Greenland might like to be acquired by the United States?Might be interesting to ask them.”
Steven Hayward, Power Line Blog

“The reason to want total dominion over Greenland is to gain the power to exclude: China is verrrry interested in the island as an Atlantic base that would put it on America’s (and Europe’s) doorstep. Denmark stepped in and blocked a Chinese attempt to buy an abandoned naval base there two years ago but Chinese mining interests in the country are expanding. If you want to keep the Chinese out, you’re stuck either relying on the unwavering loyalty of the governments of Denmark and Greenland as Beijing throws more money around — or, of course, acquiring the land yourself and telling the Chinese to beat it.”
Allahpundit, Hot Air

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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