Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Trump Realigns America's Foreign Relations

Foreign policy involves relationships, between nations and between national leaders. And it involves alliances favoring and disfavoring certain nations and their leaders.

The Wall Street Journal provides us with a clear overview of the way that Trump has shifted America’s alliances, in large part in an effort to undo the damage inflicted by the Obama administration. Trump’s vision and his reformulation of relationships also distances him from other presidents.

The Journal offers this analysis:

In a bid to correct what he views as the faults of his predecessor Barack Obama’s foreign policy, Mr. Trump has reshuffled the deck of American relationships, elevating Gulf Arab leaders, alienating Europeans and eschewing some of the tough talk typically reserved for the heads of China and Russia, diplomats, former officials and analysts said.

A White House official, however, noted that Mr. Trump has formed improbable friendships with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron. “They don’t look like Trump types,” the official said.

So, Trump has alienated the open-arms Chancellor of Germany and many of the European countries that have been appeasing Islamist terrorism. He is defying the conventional wisdom of political elites, but that does not make him wrong.

While American liberals are wringing their crying towels over the horrors that Trump has visited on the world—about which they have no real examples to offer—French President Emmanuel Macron has forged a good friendship with our president. We recall that Trump received the very high honor of sitting with Macron at last July’s Bastille Day celebrations. No one in the American press really cares, but surely it matters.

For the record, under Macron’s leadership, France’s economy has been enjoying excellent growth. We note that Macron used to work for the socialist president Hollande, but has been running as a moderate, centrist. But he has succeeded in loosening the hold that labor unions have on the French labor market. A difficult undertaking, attempted by his predecessors, accomplished only by him.

Again, the Journal reports, Trump is working to undo the Obama legacy… and the Obama mistakes. As you know, these involve the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and bad relations with the governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates:

Mr. Trump has invoked what he says are Mr. Obama’s mistakes in nearly every major foreign policy roll out—from pulling out of the Paris climate accord, recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and, most recently, threatening to walk away from the Iran nuclear agreement unless European officials agree by May to address concerns not covered by the original accord.

“He viewed President Obama as having embraced the wrong policies, the wrong allies, and he’s picking the ones that are going to make America great,” said Andrew Bowen, a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute with ties to the Trump administration. “There is a certain personal obsession in his foreign policy to roll back President Obama.”

One notes that if Trump’s policies have been coherent, it is difficult to call them a “personal obsession.” More importantly, Trump has restored good relations with the Israeli prime minister, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, the president of Egypt and even the president of the Philippines:

Since taking office last year, Mr. Trump has forged close bonds with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia’s Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, all of whom had particularly frosty relationships with Mr. Obama. He also withdrew from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership accord that Mr. Obama championed and pared back the former president’s opening to Cuba.

As it happens, these nations and their leaders were always closely allied with the United States. Obama had done his best to undermine the relationships… because he sided with the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran… but Trump is restoring them. One imagines that most right thinking people will consider this a good thing. They will consider it good for America... though not necessarily for the cosmopolitan no-borders elites.

Trump will advance his relationship with President Macron when the latter becomes the first foreign leader to be honored at Trump White House state dinner, relations with British prime minister Theresa May have frayed:

Mr. Trump last week scrapped a planned visit to London, capital of America’s historically closest ally, after U.K. leaders criticized him for retweeting videos posted by a far-right British group and as activists prepared protests against his visit.

Strangely enough, Trump’s visit to Paris did not provoke any demonstrations. A planned visit to Great Britain seems likely to do so. After all, London’s mayor is the cowardly and weak Sadiq Khan… a man who would rather live with terrorism than to fight it. And Britain’s Tory prime minister May has failed conspicuously at negotiating an exit from the European Union. One notes that Trump is associating himself with the most successful European political leader, Macron, and has been avoiding the embrace of failing leaders like May and Merkel. An interesting concept, to say the least.

We also know that the Trump administration released large swaths of Syria and Iraq from ISIS control. ISIS did not exist when George W. Bush left the White House but that enjoyed great success when Obama was running Middle East policy. In order to dislodge ISIS from places like Mosul and Raqqa, the Trump administration successfully maintained alliances with other players in the region. 

The Journal explains:

Still, officials and experts say Mr. Trump has successfully been able to keep intact an international coalition against Islamic State, with Iraq recently declaring victory over the extremists.

“That’s the kind of thing only the United States can do,” said James Jeffrey, a former ambassador to Baghdad and Ankara and a senior official in the George W. Bush administration. “He didn’t screw it up.”

Obviously, other significant challenges remain. The report says nothing about the situation on the Korean peninsula and on Trump’s efforts to establish an alliance with China… one based more on respect and less on American fawning. 

Trump and Chinese president Xi Jinping have exchanged gracious and cordial visits. The Chinese treated Trump with far more respect than they did Barack Obama. The situation in North Korea is unclear, but it seems to have calmed down. Those who imagined that we were facing nuclear Armageddon did not expect that the North and South Koreans would be negotiating anything… no less Olympic cooperation.

Perhaps the new rounds of sanctions, successfully negotiated by U. N. Ambassador Nikki Haley are finally biting. Here we do not know what is going on behind the scenes. If the Chinese are pressuring North Korea they are not going to announce it. Were they to announce it they would look like they are doing Trump’s bidding. If the North Koreans were to announce that they were acting at China’s behest, they would lose face… and probably also lose their authority and their lives.

About the situation on the Korean peninsula, Trump has discarded Obama’s policy of strategic patience for more direct confrontation. We will see how it all works out.


trigger warning said...

Put simply, Trump believes America is great, Obama believes America is a racist shithole.

Sam L. said...

I say it's looking good so far. And, I agree with tw.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Don’t forget the GOPe, who believed themselves kingmakers and powerbrokers. There’s a realignment for ya!

Anonymous said...

Stuart, it's "patience," not "patients."

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thank you... correction made.