Trump’s foreign policy decisions

For most of his administration, Donald Trump has done the unexpected in foreign policy. His meetings with the leaders of North Korea and Russia demonstrated that he was willing to do the unorthodox. But recently he has shown that he is leaning toward the neo-Conservative position championed by John Bolton and Mike Pompeo.

The recent tariffs aimed at Turkey have caused a run on the lira. Surprisingly, former critics applaud his actions. The dispute was precipitated by the continuing detention of a minister from the United States for actively supporting the coup that nearly overthrew Recep Erdogan in 2016. Forget that Turkey has imprisoned thousands of intellectuals and army officers this preacher has deemed special.

No doubt Bolton is popping the champagne at the prospect of a return to old fashion regime change politics. But he has friends, Barack Obama’s administration’s finger prints were all over the place in the coup attempt.

Now what makes it different is that Trump is supporting tariffs on Turkish steel at a rate of 50 percent. The lira plunged at this news and once more neo-Conservatives rubbed their hands gleefully at the notion that once more the big dog — the United States — reasserted itself. Maybe, just maybe, the make America great again rhetoric was simply old wine in new bottles. Sort of a retread and rebranding of George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

But how wise was the move? Erdogan has been drifting away from the United States for years. Despite being a strong opponent of Bashar al Assad, he has lately softened his position and made nice with Vladimir Putin. Moreover, he has tightened his ties with Xi Jinping’s China. Turkey is considered valuable to China’s belt and road initiative.

The United States has power and Trump in conventionally using it. But Turkey has allies and they are eager to wean him off NATO. Moreover, the United States has a $21 trillion debt and an overpriced dollar. This is where China could help to ease Turkey’s pain, because they own billions of American securities. Much of American prosperity has been built around Chinese investments in money which has lessened the prospect of inflation.

Moreover, two phenomena threaten the U.S. financial structure built at Bretton Woods in 1944. BRICS and bitcoin, although not robust at present, threatened the supremacy of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The tariff regime, which is also aimed at China, also will have repercussions on the Export-Import Bank that supports quite a few American millionaires. Also Iran, which is also being squeezed, is getting closer to Turkey and Russia. The treaty essentially partitioning the Caspian Sea was dominated by Tehran and Moscow.

So Trump might stumble into his first real crisis as president because he did the usual and expected. Bolton, given his stale views concerning the world, is potentially dangerous and Pompeo has morphed into H.R. McMaster. The blow-hards on the National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department, who never liked Trump, might damage him more by having him follow their shop worn advice.

To revert to Wilsonian-style meddling has marked Trump as shallow. But remember he got copious tears when North Korea returned the body of an American missionary. This did not stop him from going to Singapore to meet Kim Jung Un. Perhaps he will stop this use of tariffs as a weapon before it precipitates a financial crisis.