After the events of the last few weeks as well as the last more than two years anyone who claims the Trump administration does not have a foreign policy is dead wrong.
The Donald Trump administration has, indeed, a very well-defined foreign policy that relies heavily on our unparalleled military might.
Quite simply, it goes something like this. Trump threatens a nation with untold devastation if that country does not fall in line. He used it with the threat of “fire and fury the world has never seen” with North Korea and now, again, has used a very similar threat of “obliteration like you’ve never seen before” with Iran.
Such a foreign policy works well if the nation at which the threat is leveled falls into line and consents to the actions demanded. Those of you who attended junior high school or high school may remember this tactic used with varying degrees of success by high school bullies seeking confiscation of other students’ lunch money. Who knew Trump’s high school days would materialize as the basis for our nation’s foreign policy some 60 years later?
The problem, and it is a significant problem, with this approach serving as the key component of our nation’s foreign policy is the absence of a next step if the nation at which the threat is leveled responds similarly to the way Vinnie Barbarino would respond uttering the immortal words “Up your nose with a rubber hose?”
What, in other words, is the policy if the response to the threat of unmatched devastation are simply “love letters” from North Korea or, as in the case of both North Korea and Iran, renewed start-up of their nuclear programs?
The obvious problem with this aspect of the Trump foreign policy is that it places us, the United States, in a lose-lose situation if the nation at which we hurled the threat of devastation disregards the danger.
What, then, to do? We are we left with the choice of either doing nothing, as we did with North Korea, and looking foolish and weak or, even worse, following the John Bolton model and jumping into another war without an exit strategy causing untold loss of life and treasure for the sole purpose of demonstrating strength.
That is clearly a no-win situation created by the individual who prides himself on winning.
This, of course, is not to say that there is no method to his madness. Another critical element of both his foreign and domestic policies is to undo anything done by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, regardless of the implications.
Trump withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a. The Iran Nuclear Deal, simply because the Obama administration negotiated it.
Anyone who thinks otherwise has not been paying very close attention. The agreement, described by Trump as the worst deal in history even though he has already used that description for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) that was agreed to by the United States, Iran, France, Germany, the European Union, the United Kingdom, as well as both China and Russia.
The agreement provided that, in return for the phased lifting of international economic sanctions, Iran would reduce 98% of its stockpile of low enriched uranium which is the uranium that can be further processed into bomb-grade fuel.
The agreement also called for reducing the number of operating centrifuges that use that fuel by two-thirds to 5,060. It also called for the constant and technologically advanced monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
By the way, during the Bush-Cheney years, when “shunning” rather than dialog was the preferred method of diplomacy, the number of centrifuges in Iran skyrocketed in number from hundreds to tens of thousands. This agreement was a major step in reversing the damage caused by the Bush-Cheney mismanaged foreign policy only to be resurrected by Trump.
The agreement was specific to stemming Iran’s nuclear capability and, according to all observers tasked with the responsibility to monitor their compliance; Iran was adhering fully to the agreement. Withdrawing from it by the United States and the re-imposition of devastating sanctions single-handedly created the current backlash by Iran and the threatened resumption of its nuclear program.
So what is the Trump foreign policy?
Well, it is a multi-faceted approach that also includes setting fires and then seeking praise for putting those very fires out reminiscent of the arsonist firefighter. It includes undoing anything Obama did regardless of the consequences of the undoing.
It includes alienating our allies and embracing our adversaries, especially those run by strong-armed autocrats such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
It also includes renaming existing agreements even if the newer version is only slightly different than the previous deal. The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) as a replacement for NAFTA is a perfect example of this ego builder.
Most of all, it is primarily based on being manipulated by foreign leaders who have recognized how easily this president can be “played” if you just say nice things about him or, even better, send him “love letters.”