Trump’s foreign policy: What’s the plan?
“Bluster-based foreign policy is backfiring,” said Eric Lutz in VanityFair.com. President Trump entered office thinking he could “bully” foreign leaders into succumbing to his demands. How’s that working out? North Korea’s Kim Jong Un launched two short-range ballistic missiles this month—another indication that Trump’s fawning summits with Kim will never lead to an actual denuclearization deal. Trump is reportedly “fuming” that his hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, pushed him into supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó. Trump hates backing a loser, and President Nicolás Maduro remains firmly in power. Now the Trump administration has moved its “saber rattling” to Iran, with the U.S. Navy deploying a carrier strike group to the Persian Gulf. But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has ruled out negotiating with Trump’s “poisonous” administration. Khamenei knows he’ll “likely still be in power once Trump is gone.”
Actually, Trump’s policy of “maximum pressure” is producing results in Iran, said Henry Olsen in WashingtonPost.com. The U.S. continues to toughen sanctions against Tehran, last week extending them to Iran’s metal sectors after recently ending exemptions for oil. As a result, Iran’s economy should shrink by 6 percent this year, making it harder for the ruling mullahs to bankroll terrorism. Hard as it is to step back from the day-to-day “chaos” of the Trump presidency, said Robert Blackwill in ForeignPolicy.com, his hardball tactics are mostly effective, especially considering the “deteriorating world order that he inherited.” He’s “calmed” situations where escalation would be disastrous—North Korea, Syria, Saudi Arabia—and adopted a more “clear-eyed” approach to adversaries—China and Iran—who’ve walked over the U.S. for decades.
What world are you looking at? asked Tom Nichols in USA Today. With his toothless bluster, Trump has created needless conflict with China and Iran, “insulted our allies, and generally made the U.S. into a laughingstock.” Bolton is a reckless hawk eager to provoke a war somewhere, but he’s not in charge of foreign policy. The reality is that “no one is charge.” Trump lurches from crisis to crisis, motivated by his warped perception of his own political self-interest. The only reason he hasn’t stumbled into a major conflict is that the Russians, Chinese, Iranians, and other adversaries are content to watch Trump flail away. “There is no need, after all, to destroy American power and prestige if the White House is willing to do all the damage by itself.” ■