Post #163: The Guesswork About Trump’s Foreign Policy

In the aftermath of Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to respond with force to use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s government, various sources have, in my view, thoroughly misinterpreted the meaning of his action (see, for example, www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/us/politics/trump-doctrine-foreign-policy.html). A solitary act, it seems, is enough to make people think Trump has undergone a complete conversion. Various observers have said:

  • Trump shows he is now an internationalist, not a nationalist.
  • Trump’s foreign policy has a “doctrine”: flexibility.
  • Trump is now prepared to use force in support of policy.
  • Trump’s foreign policy is guided by ideals, not just power politics.
  • Trump has cleverly warned adversaries to watch out for his unpredictability.

One analyst quoted in the above article has got it right: Trump remains “unpredictable, instinctual, and undisciplined.”  “Flexibility” is not the basis of foreign policy; with Trump, it suggests uncertainty and impulsiveness, which are hardly admirable qualities.  He reacts from the seat of his pants, not from a set of values or sense of national interests (other than his own financial well-being).  In a nutshell, Trump is Chauncey the gardener, but not nearly so nice.  His views on Syria today were not his views a few years ago and will probably not be his views next week.  He moves in a zigzag line, and while some observers (or even foreign leaders) may perceive that quality in a positive light, its risks far outweigh its possible rewards.

What so many pundits in and outside the media fail to see is that when it comes to international affairs, Donald Trump is not a worldly or smart man.  He is simply lost, flailing about for answers, speaking like a child about complex issues, and placing around him inexpert, inexperienced advisers who are only a little less lost than he.  His retaliatory strike in Syria is a momentary thing, hardly indicative of clarity, rethinking, or decisiveness in foreign policymaking.

What does that conclusion mean for Trump’s dealings with North Korea, Russia, and China?   Stay tuned for the following post.

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3 Comments

  1. I like the word from George W. Bush as he was overheard after Trump’s inaugural address: “That was some weird shit….”

    That fact is Trump has no idea what he is doing but, for better or worse, is now in the hands of the generals.

    ________________________________
    ROBERT WISE, Associate Principal
    503.278.3454 | http://www.coganowens.com

  2. Comment:

    Arguably, the main reason for Trump to send 59 Tomahawks to Syria (plus one that misfired) was to distract gathering

    attention on the very suspicious Trump-Russia connection during and after the presidential campaign—and, by officially angering

    Russia, to put some distance between him and Putin. As suggested by one MSNBC commentator, the scenario may have been worked

    out with Russia in advance. Plus Trump was desperate for some kind of “victory” with little risk of blowback, even if the actual damage to Assad was miniscule. I agree that his strike on Syria was “a momentary thing.” Any sort of strike on North Korea risks huge military and political blowback.

    True, Trump is not “worldly or smart” in the usual sense, but his military advisers (McMaster and Mattis) are not “inexpert” and they are widely respected, in contrast to his domestic advisors who portend disaster on multiple fronts.

    * Michael Marien

  3. ”Alleged use of chemical weapons”

    Fra: In the Human Interest – Mel Gurtov [mailto:comment-reply@wordpress.com]
    Sendt: 13. april 2017 16:14
    Til: Stephen Parsons
    Emne: [New post] Post #163: The Guesswork About Trump’s Foreign Policy

    Mel Gurtov posted: “In aftermath of Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to respond with force to use of chemical weapons by Bashar al-Assad’s government, various sources have, in my view, thoroughly misinterpreted the meaning of his action (see, for example, http://www.nytimes.com/2017/

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