Trump goes it alone

It is now undeniable that President Trump’s combative, impetuous character and cluster of bedrock beliefs about a zero-sum world of ruthless, cutthroat competition among rivals have combined to produce a situation that may well shred the global trading and alliance system, as well as the rule-based international order, that the U.S. has built and nurtured over the past 70 years.

From his statements during the GOP primaries and general election, we knew this was one possible outcome of a Trump presidency. But we had reason to hope that in the unlikely event of a Trump victory, it would prove to have been mere rhetorical bluster.

The administration’s message and behavior throughout Trump’s first year in office was mixed enough to leave everyone uncertain. Yes, he still hurled insults at allies and friends via Twitter and sometimes before the press, and he did bow out of the Paris climate accord early on. But the Iran deal remained in force, he kept stabilizing troops in Afghanistan, and he even attempted (twice) to enforce the chemical weapons ban in Syria. (True, he did it by violating international law against the unauthorized use of military force, but these were hardly the first examples of an American president engaging in that kind of hypocrisy.)

By now, however, it’s clear that this relative stability was largely a product of a new president allowing himself to be hemmed in by advisers and staffers who sought to contain his most destructive impulses. That is no longer the dynamic inside the administration. A more confident Trump is imposing (or threatening to impose) tariffs around the world. He’s withdrawn from the Iran deal. And he and his top advisers are flagrantly insulting our closest allies while shamelessly taking Vladimir Putin’s side in his disputes with Western powers.

As one senior White House official put it to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Trump is pursuing a foreign policy doctrine that can be summarized as: “We’re America, bitch.” Translation: We will do whatever we want without regard for external or self-imposed constraints, we expect the rest of the world to defer to us when we do, and we’ll declare these intentions in the most vulgar, arrogant, and condescending language imaginable.

It’s important to recognize that, although such a doctrine is likely to produce an America that is profoundly isolated from the rest of the world, it’s not a doctrine of “isolationism,” as that term is typically deployed in political discussion and debate — as a way of denigrating those who favor a foreign policy of realism and restraint by portraying them as favoring the U.S. cutting ties with the outside world and turning inward. On the contrary, what the Trump administration is doing on the world stage doesn’t necessarily imply restraint or withdrawal. It implies a range of possibilities, including confrontation (with Iran), provocation (with North Korea six months ago), and conciliation (with North Korea now).

A more accurate term would therefore be full-spectrum unilateralism. That could be compatible with restraint, but it …read more

Source:: The Week – Politics


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