Foreign policy: Why U.S. allies are worried
China is spearheading the fight against climate change. Russia has taken over the Syrian peace talks. NATO members now look to France and Germany for leadership. A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, said Tracy Wilkinson in the Los Angeles Times, America’s allies are deeply concerned about our country’s waning geopolitical influence. Under his isolationist “America First” strategy, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and the 11-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, destroying America’s credibility as an impartial mediator in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And he kneecapped his own State Department, leaving dozens of key diplomatic positions vacant and publicly undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “This is how empires crumble,” said Matt Bennett and Gabe Horwitz in USA Today. By withdrawing America from the world stage, Trump is leaving a gaping void that an aggressive China is “already stepping in to fill.” If he keeps alienating our closest allies, “America First” will become “America Alone.”
The “Trump doctrine” is not a retreat—it simply reflects the fact that we are entering “a new era,” said Arthur Herman in NationalReview.com. Playing international cop has sapped our resources. The president’s policy is essentially one of “transactional engagement”—the U.S. should intervene abroad only when it suits our interests, and work with China and Russia on common problems. Trump has in fact “scored some real foreign policy wins,” said Peter Bergen in CNN.com. He ordered airstrikes on a Syrian military airfield after government forces used nerve gas on the country’s civilians—a horror dictator Bashar al-Assad hasn’t repeated since. And he loosened Obama-era restrictions on U.S. commanders in Iraq and Syria, helping “hasten the defeat of ISIS.”
The damage Trump has done is far greater, said Susan Glasser in Politico.com. Foreign officials have come away from meetings with Trump shocked by his ignorance and boorish belligerence, calling him “bananas” and “dangerous.” His “military troika”—Chief of Staff John Kelly, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis—have steered a reluctant Trump toward mainstream positions on Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan, but the president isn’t happy about it. In year two, can “the adults in the room” continue to constrain Trump’s impulses? No one knows.