Herb London: Trump’s Foreign Policy
Writing on the pages of The Weekly Standard Michael Warren contends President Trump does not have a foreign policy. According to him, “Trump’s foreign policy has been incoherent and usually reflected the views of whoever was most influential with the president at any given moment. Advisers have had to race to keep up with the wavering lines.”
Admittedly the president’s stand on a given issue is subject to vacillation. The Iran deal swung from acceptable to unacceptable in the same day. A similar reaction can be found toward world leaders with Xi falling from top to bottom and back again on his hit parade list. While it is fair to say the president can be emotional and erratic and a global strategy has not emerged from the White House, the contours of foreign policy do exist.
The president’s Riyadh speech laid out a joint defense condominium in the Middle East to thwart Iranian ambitions. It was a speech that referred to logistics, intelligence and military hardware cooperation among participating Sunni states. Most notably, it carved out tactics to defeat terrorism in all its forms.
Second, the president reiterated his belief that nations must react to international belligerence through national sovereignty. The idea of a new world order promoted by presidents Obama and Bush did not result in international equilibrium.
On the contrary, a U.S. in retreat left a vacuum filled by bad actors such as ISIS. The defeat of ISIS by a U.S. led expeditionary force demonstrated the president’s commitment to an assertive stance and the revival of hardnosed realism.
Third, the president’s speech in Warsaw was an emotional defense of Western Civilization in which he noted that individual rights, freedom of conscience, the rule of law are features uniquely associated with this civilization. In articulating this defense, the president was implicitly denouncing the culturalism relativism that afflicts the provinces of political correctness, particularly western European states.
Fourth, President Trump has been clear that ignoring the North Korean ICBM tests is unacceptable. He has not kicked the can down the road as his predecessors did. Trump realizes he has inherited a problem that has neither can nor road. His tough rhetoric is designed to contain Kim Jong-un and develop a regional defense system that includes South Korea and Japan. While the jury is still out on this matter, Trump has seemingly faced down the threats and restored some stability to a very volatile situation.
What this adds up to is a foreign policy predicated on national interest and the assertion of American power. Since we are one year into this administration much can change. It is increasingly obvious that the State Department needs a strategic vision for coping with Chinese commercial ventures through the neo Silk Road. Similarly, Russian involvement in the Middle East with its Iranian alliance and ties to Hezbollah could usher in a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, something both nations would wish to ignore.
Clearly there is work to be done. Some critics contend Trump’s self-sabotage – his shooting from the hip – has dragged down his ability to formulate a coherent foreign policy. Alas, there is a point to be made in this regard. Reining in the egregious dimensions of Trump’s public persona, from tweets to vulgar commentary, could solidify his foreign policy positions. But to suggest he has been unable to formulate positions on international matters is, as I see it, quite inaccurate.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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