Master of the house?
Since taking power in 2017 Donald Trump has suggested that he has a new vision for U.S. foreign policy. But, alas, his “policy has been a set of disjointed pronouncements that seemingly contradict his stated purpose. Presumably he wants to reduce America’s footprint in the world, eschewing a policing role. But his actions defy these goals, actually becoming more interventional and not less.
Take his latest action regarding Syria. Trump correctly wanted to get out of a situation that is becoming riskier by the moment. But the moment he announced it, the usual suspects jumped in and tried to derail his plans. Mike Pompeo, the bull-necked secretary of state, and John Bolton, the war monger, reacted and expanded the time to withdraw American soldiers. And, of course, they allowed that the Kurds must be consulted even as they continue to wage war on Turkish soil.
Clearly Trump is not the master of his own house. He did force James Mattis to walk the plank, but that simply seems to be based more on spite than conviction. It explains why he got rid of the soberer H.R. McMaster in favor of the erratic and dangerous Mr. Bolton. No matter, Trump acts as if foreign policy is based on personal regard. He seems to really like Kim Jong Un, but is that any way to conduct American diplomacy? By swinging back and forth, Trump is himself becoming America’s number one foreign policy problem.
Trump has given no reason behind policies that, at first glance, appear correct. If it is just because these leaders did not praise him enough that he sacked them, then Trump’s actions are unfathomable. He is not a nationalist, but an aggressive lout — his words mean nothing. If his words have significance, Trump needs to articulate a new vision for American foreign policy.
Unfortunately, it appears that foreign policy by tantrum represents the real Donald Trump. As with Wilhelm II, he goes with his gut, with little consideration for how other government will interpret his latest spasm that masquerades as thought. The larger problem is that America might be tempted to use nuclear weapons. His present secretary of state and national security advisor would probably be overjoyed at the prospect.
Where could war be initiated? With Korea, the Ukraine, Syria and most possibly Iran. Trump’s withdrawal announcements and abrupt reversals serve only to confuse friend and foe alike. Of course the foreign policy establishment is little help, nurturing the hope they could impose a “new world order.” These wise men are sane; however, it is only their policies that place their sanity in question.
Fortunately, the new Democratic House of Representatives is not loaded with super-hawks. Nor are they anxious to reap the disasterous policies of Dick Cheney and his puppet George W. Bush. The aging leadership of the party might subscribe to the American exceptionalist myths, but the newer members do not.
But the prospects are not good. Trump is malleable and weak –a mere prisoner to his advisors, whoever they are at present. Trump’s indecisiveness has left the republic in peril.