Tuesday, December 19, 2017

How Many Ways Can Trump Cause Havoc? How About Foreign Policy?

Our allies are confused, even revolted, by America under Trump "foreign policy," which for him is self-congratulation offered as "principled realism." What's that? Who knows. Trump sure doesn't.

Trump's national security speech didn't align with the National Security
Statement released earlier in the day. What, we expected it to?

Coherence is welcome when it comes to foreign policy. If a leader or a diplomat says something, it's helpful if actions resemble those words. Can't expect that from Trump.
The [National Security Statement] also goes on at great length about the need for expanded diplomacy. “Across the competitive landscape,” it reads, “America’s diplomats are our forward-deployed political capability, advancing and defending America’s interests abroad … Diplomacy is indispensable … We must upgrade our diplomatic capabilities.”
And yet, Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have gutted the diplomatic corps, offered buyouts to seasoned negotiators, left vacant nearly every second- and third-tier policy position in the State Department, and failed even to appoint new ambassadors in the most troubled regions (after firing all the existing ambassadors in the first week on the job).
So much for diplomacy. What about dealing with adversaries?
 The NSS named both China and Russia as countries that "are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence." But Trump, in his speech, was conspicuously silent on Russian interference in the U.S. election, and he praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for thanking him over the weekend after Russia successfully foiled a terrorist attack using intelligence provided by the CIA.
 The NSS harps on "American values" — a theme dear to Trump, who champions a much different vision of American identity and culture than his predecessors. "There can be no moral equivalency between nations that uphold the rule of law, empower women, and respect individual rights and those that brutalize and suppress their people," declared the NSS. "Through our words and deeds, America demonstrates a positive alternative to political and religious despotism."
Of course, much of Trump's politicking in 2017 has seen the White House cozy up to political despots and tone down the nation's traditional messaging on democracy and human rights.
Trump's foreign policy team attempts to offer a coherent message. In his speech, he then turns it upside down:
By contrast, Trump’s speech—like many of his other speeches—focuses almost entirely on “America First” and the need to treat other nations as sovereign entities in transactional arrangements. He has abandoned the TPP and the Paris climate agreement. Just this month, he repeated his long-standing disparagement of the NATO allies, suggesting that he would not come to their defense if they hadn’t paid what he regards as their fair share of expenses. During his speech on Monday, he displayed an odd misunderstanding of NATO’s very nature. “We have made clear,” he said, “that countries that are immensely wealthy should reimburse the United States for the cost of defending them.” He seems to think (and it’s worth noting that he was reading a teleprompter, not extemporaneously) that the NATO allies pay us for their defense—as if the alliance is a protection racket and Trump is the don—when, in fact, each member-state builds its own military force and arranges to coordinate its logistics with the other members.
Why does he flip the message?
 The confusion may be understandable in one sense: On Monday evening, a White House official admitted that it was unlikely Trump had read the entirety of the 70-page strategy document.
Good to know. Don't bother to scratch your head. Our allies are doing it for you. Our adversaries? Ordering more beer and popcorn.

(Note. For a complete view, read both the Slate and Washington Post commentary I used in this Post.)

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