August 18, 2017


How Donald Trump's plan to create a foreign policy revolution fell apart : The new administration has failed abjectly to forge any new Trump doctrine or foreign policy grand strategy, centered around his 'America first' vision (Andrew Hammond, 8/18/17, Independent)

Thus far the new administration has failed abjectly to forge any new Trump doctrine or foreign policy grand strategy, centered around his "America first" vision. Instead of clarity, there has been policy incoherence and U-turns on issues such as military action in Syria - a departure from Trump's isolationist campaign rhetoric; whether Nato is "obsolete" or "not obsolete"; and also confusion over his stance on the Paris deal.

These flip-flops reflect both the ad-hoc nature of the new President's style of governing and the divisions within his team on key foreign policy issues.

Take the Paris climate deal. Top Trump aides like son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wanted the US to remain part of the agreement. Trump, for his part, has combined longstanding criticism of the pact with apparent uncertainty about exactly where he stands on it.

In June, he finally gave notice he was pulling the United States out of the deal, yet when he met French President Emmanuel Macron last month Trump indicated he may yet reverse course, saying that "something could happen with respect to the Paris accord. Let's see what happens". This potential flip flop comes after intense criticism by world political and business leaders of Washington's abdication of leadership in tackling global warming. 

What the global backlash to Trump's Paris prevarication underlines is the dramatic shift in international opinion against his administration.

A Pew Global poll found last month that around three quarters of those surveyed had little or no confidence in his international leadership and policies. Remarkably, he already enjoys less support than did George W Bush at the height of his own foreign policy travails after the controversy of the Iraq invasion.

Other key strands of Trump's specific vision to make "America great again", that have - so far at least - failed to materialise include ending or renegotiating the Iranian nuclear agreement; and his pledges to re-define relations with Russia which have been set back by the new US sanctions legislation on Russia in which he was outmanoeuvred by Congress. In all these cases, Trump's plans have hit the reality of the complexity of international relations and/ or US checks and balances.  

Trump's political window of opportunity to put an enduring stamp on US foreign policy is narrowing. His ad hoc style of governing, which regularly exposes lack of experience and knowledge of international issues, risks even greater confusion and incoherence. 

Hating foreigners isn't actually a plan.

Posted by at August 18, 2017 8:01 AM