Trump vs. his advisors

Donald Trump’s clumsy performance at the United Nations underscores the disjointed nature of his foreign policy. There is no over-arching theme; indeed the “axis of evil” has one less member. North Korea and its leader chairman Kim Jong Un have now been ushered into the family of nations. From “little rocket man” to a man whom Trump genuinely likes is such an absurd reversal, it is understandable that the rest of the world reacts with derisive laughter.

This is the product of cynical manipulation by the foreign policy establishment. The neo-conservatives gush over Defense Secretary James Mattis, John Bolton and the ever-pugnacious Mike Pompeo. They advocate a return to George W. Bush’s in-your-face unilateralism. Trump tried to reach out to Russia and China, but to the neo-cons, that is a no-no. So, every now and then the president tries to insert changes and that produces disastrous results, witness the U.N. speech.

Sidling up to Kim Jong Un does not fit the bellicosity of Trump’s advisor. Indeed, it makes the president seem fickle in his taste. Certainly, you cannot tout Kim’s human rights record while accusing the Iranians of every possible sin. To use sanctions in such an ineffective way reflects the last administration. Thus, Trump’s bombastic statements appear like sound and fury signifying nothing.

What Trump had in mind originally was a return to spheres of influence, not untrammeled globalism. Pompeo and his curious crew simply want the United States to dictate, not negotiate with, the world. As well, these Pompeo types see no inconsistency in sanctioning China for buying Russian weaponry while peddling arms to Taiwan — a regime we do not recognize. And they accuse Trump of being arbitrary.

Diplomacy usually is regarded as a way of back and forth, but U.S. approaches from Carter through Trump have the appearance of negotiating by ultimatum. President Xi Jinping, of China, in an address to a congress of African nations, pledged no internal interference. Nikki Haley is the queen of laminated instructions to foreign diplomats. Our officials continued pushing the idea that the United States was so special and generous that it needed not pay heed to anyone else’s interest.

Trump questioned this approach during the campaign but found that it was harder to alter the messianic approach favored by America’s foreign policy elites. He suggests, he meddles and then when nothing comes of his grand designs, Trump concedes and becomes predictable. His approach to Vladimir Putin had some virtue, but once he became president he ran squarely into the guardians of the status quo.

Instead of readjusting the cabinet to reflect his views, Trump, not unlike his handlers, tries to go around these experienced bureaucrats. Good luck with that –the Mattis’, Pompeo’s and Bolton’s know their way around the park. Trump must learn that his so-called advisors wish him no good.

The United Nations fiasco was an avoidable disaster if Trump would have stayed true to his more realistic approach.