Trumpism is putting United States interests abroad in danger.
Given the prominent role that the US plays on the world stage, Trumpism’s damage to US foreign policy is not just harmful to Americans. It is also adding fuel to crises globally.
On his Asia trip so far, President Donald Trump has avoided some obvious perils. We have had no protocol or diplomatic slip-ups to cause chuckles.
What is more concerning are some of Trump’s pronouncements abroad. Some reflect a recent trend, while others are unfortunately pioneering.
Trumpism: Criticizing Previous Administrations
In the past, there was a tradition of “politics stopping at the water’s edge.” When US politicians went abroad, they would not speak against US presidents or policy.
With Trump, you know he is not going to ignore a chance to take a swipe at his predecessors. Still, it was a surprise when he blamed past administrations for the trade deficit with China.
Even more astonishing was an initial statement that accepted Russian President Putin’s denial of Russian interference in US elections. Instead, Trump blamed former US intelligence leaders who had come to a consensus on Russian meddling as “political hacks.”
Who in their right mind would think any political leader – let alone an ex-KGB agent like Putin – would say, “Yes, I meddled in your elections”?
Trumpism: Adding Fire to Global Hotspots
By the weekend, Trump has begun to respond to North Korean insults. He tweeted about the North Korean leader as “short and fat.”
Of far more long-term consequence may be Trump’s reactions to Middle East developments. Significant changes are taking place in the region.
Saudi Arabia and allies are already embroiled in a cold war with Iran and Qatar, and actual hostilities in Yemen. Moreover, this week the Saudi Crown Prince detained prominent Saudis, including some rivals. He also appears to be destabilizing Lebanon.
Trump has tweeted support for the actions by the Saudi Crown Prince. His senior aide, Jared Kushner, was in Saudi Arabia a few days before the latest developments.
Of course, the Kushner visit is likely to fuel conspiracy theories in the fertile atmosphere for such plots in the Middle East. Further, the Middle East hardly needs more crises.
Understandably, the State Department has been more cautious in reacting to the Middle East crises. However, Trumpism has undercut its clout.
Trumpism: Sabotaging the State Department
Trump does not hesitate to contradict Tillerson publicly. Under Trump and Tillerson, budget and consequent personnel cuts have decimated the department.
Consequently, expertise has fled. At a time when dangers are rife around the world, we have neophytes and ideologues influencing US foreign policy.
To promote US interests and check anti-Americanism abroad, we need the soft power of a strong State Department. That’s why a weak State Department is of such concern.
We may be lucky if Trumpism does not lead to long-term damage to US foreign policy interests.