Trump and US Foreign Policy

I woke up in the middle of the night gasping for air, in near suffocation with my trusted German Shepherd perched over me, licking my face to wake me.

It was a nightmare; one of epic proportions and one that I ultimately have no control over. What was it? It was the nightmare of global Armageddon; of biblical proportions. I made the mistake of catching up on some light reading on realclearworld.com as I am generally curious what Trump and US foreign policy will be for the next four years. The subjects included:

Global Conflict

Global Conflicts To Watch in 2017

 

The Middle East, Russia and China feature prominently, but the biggest part was the absence of American strategy.

I am not a fan of the 43rd or 44th US President’s foreign policies. Rather than contain, or eliminate terrorism after 9/11 in Afghanistan, President Bush 43 embarked on a march of folly. Not finishing the war in Afghanistan, toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, not reigning in Saudi Arabia’s or Pakistan’s jihadist resulted in many of the problems Barack Obama faced.

President Obama lacked sufficient leadership and American strategy in foreign affairs. I am not in favor of America policing the world. But America does need to stand up for the post-World War II global order she created. As David Perreault suggests, America always needs to stand tall. President Obama’s lack of engagement in steadfastly tackling the Arab Spring – Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Egypt – resulted in the catastrophe that is the Middle East of 2017. His lack of direction resulted in Iran’s expanded power throughout its sphere of influence. His lack of leadership not only resulted in Russia annexing Crimea and parts of Ukraine, but also emboldened Vladimir Putin to challenge western hegemony in Eastern Europe. His lack of strength in the South China Sea has enabled China to create dangerous offensive outposts that threaten our allies, international trade, and US interests.

American foreign policy needs leadership, determination, and strength. This is not to assume America needs to confront every problem with bombs and missiles. America needs to influence and win friends through trade and diplomacy projecting its soft power, while maintaining the military edge we have had for decades to project our hard power.

President Bush 43 emphasized America’s use of hard power and unleashed a hornet’s nest of extremism and chaos in the Middle East. President Obama unsuccessfully maintained our soft power – minus a few great achievements -, while passively using our hard power with the use of drone strikes and special ops.

My fear is the Trump presidency will disable America’s soft power strengths in trade and diplomacy – early examples point to protectionist trade and a convoluted approach to diplomacy and foreign affairs -, while miscalculating how best to use our military strengths. The two previous administrations have given President Trump very little room for mistake in the realm of foreign policy, and inevitable mistakes will be made. Nevertheless, America needs to stand tall to maintain the global order we fought so hard to create.

Any more mistakes and that order will be hard to protect. Unfortunately for President Trump, he must have a fast learning curve to stave off disaster.