Trump’s foreign policy is a reckless, unfolding disaster. It’s isolating the United States and hurting our economy. Long-time allies are remaking their alliances without us.
Trump killed his Korea summit with rushed negotiations, lack of message discipline, conflict among his senior aides, and the general absence of the meticulous planning that typically leads to diplomatic breakthroughs. In cancelling the summit while our ally South Korea’s president was flying home from a White House meeting, Trump undercut the Korean president and undermined his trust in our country’s reliability. Now, lower-level officials are scambling to get the summit back on for June 12 — but that’s such a short time away that any meeting on that date could only be a show without substance.
Trump launched a “trade war” against China, which he said would be easy to win. Then he blinked, with no meaningful concessions from Beijing. As we write this, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is set to be in China this week to further negotiate trade, but the Administration is so at war with itself as to what to do and Ross lost so much face with the Chinese last summer after a steel tariff fiasco that it’s not even certain he will make the trip. Trump is inexplicably trying save Chinese phone company ZTE from bankruptcy in spite of urgings from the CIA that the ZTE equipment poses national security risks — but China has made ZTE a roadblock to trade negotiations and Trump caved to their demands.
Trump said last May that securing peace in the Middle East would be “frankly maybe not as difficult as people have thought.” Then he poisoned the well by moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, giving up a possible bargaining chip that could lubricate a bigger deal. In Qatar, where the U.S. military put it’s largest base for the region in 2003, Trump has see-sawed alliances in a terrifing manner, opposing Qatar in favor of Saudia Arabia last summer, and supporting Qatar more recently. Worst of all, he’s blow apart the multi-nation Iran nuclear treaty, alienating Europe allies who are parties to the deal and likely driving Iran into the arms of the Russia.
Trump has pulled out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, the Paris climate accord and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In all three cases, the president promised he would negotiate a better deal for the United States. He hasn’t yet. In the case of TPP, Trump decided himself that pulling out had been a bad idea and floated the notion of returning to it, but the other nations had meanwhile moved on and signed a treaty including China — the very rival that TPP was designed to check.
According to the State Department’s latest report, 63 of 188 U.S. ambassadorships are vacant, including to countries with histories of close ties with the U.S., such as Australian, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.
Trump’s “America First” policy is becoming “America Alone” — and China and Russia are the big winners.
Further reading: James Fallows, America Is Fumbling Its Most Important Relationship