Failures in N. Korea, Iran, Cuba, Iraq & Afghanistan Highlight Trump's Dismal Foreign Policy Record
About the only thing President Trump has to crow about involving his foreign policy agenda is that he received a get well card from Kim Jong Un of North Korea and the Taliban endorsed his reelection last week. A group of 50 international relations experts put it like this in a public letter published last week:
Medium: "We the undersigned scholars of international relations and foreign policy view the Trump foreign policy record largely as a failure. This administration has emboldened US rivals and alienated many vital US allies. Crises at every level have been mishandled, from the global Covid19 pandemic and climate change to slowing or containing national nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. The United States, once a world leader, is seen as weak and disengaged by many leaders and in many populations across the world. The result is greater instability, insecurity, and human suffering. We need new leadership."
We highlighted many of Trump's foreign policy failures last year and things have just deteriorated from there. We noted last July:
Illuminate: "There are no overarching principals driving foreign policy in the Trump administration except, perhaps, that America should relinquish its leadership role on issues such as human rights, the rule of law and the environment. The rest is a hodgepodge of America first, neo-isolationist blather that has made the President a laughingstock, weakened ties with our closest allies, and undermined the nation's standing in the world."
In revisiting the piece we wrote back in July, 2019, the most startling revelation is that, quite literally, nothing has improved in Trump's handling of any foreign policy challenge. Iran is at work, slowly rebuilding its nuclear weapons program, Midwestern farmers and US consumers are still suffering because of Trump's ill-conceived China tariffs, North Korea is building bigger and more advanced missile systems for its nukes, the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate and our continued presence there is little more than an afterthought, and Cuba's small entrepreneur class seems to be the primary target of Trump's enhanced tourism sanctions, making the island's capitalists wonder exactly what they did to anger America.
Meanwhile, a whole new list of foreign policy challenges has swamped the administration and Trump's "America first" policies look ever more like isolationism, weakness, and capitulation. Three examples:
1. The President's negotiated settlement in Afghanistan has unraveled because the Taliban view Trump as desperate and weak. The President wants to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan to show some progress on a 2016 campaign promise, so he continues to undermine peace talks by promising an early withdrawal of US forces despite escalating Taliban provocations.
Financial Times: "Afghanistan’s top peace negotiator says Washington has given the Taliban the upper hand in talks after Donald Trump pledged to withdraw all US troops by Christmas. Abdullah Abdullah, who is leading the Afghan government’s peace negotiations with the militants, told the Financial Times in an interview that there was still uncertainty over the drawdown of troops. He blamed the confusion on the looming US presidential election."
The Taliban don't fear Donald Trump and they demonstrated that last week by launching a large-scale offensive in southern Helmand province to capture the provincial capital, Lashkargah. The United Nations says the fighting has displaced thousands and caused hundreds of casualties.
It's true that Afghan democracy may be doomed in any case once American forces leave, but that's not a forgone conclusion. We have to convince the Taliban that they are best served by a power-sharing arrangement with the elected government. We can only do that by supporting the peace process and maintaining a credible threat to return if they violate the agreement. Trump's recent statements have convinced Taliban leadership that they will have a free hand to retake the country by force upon our withdrawal with little fear of American interference. That is why they endorsed the President last week.
2. Iran's influence in Iraq continues to increase and Trump has no plan to counter it. This summer Trump announced further troop withdrawals from Iraq, and in September, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to evacuate the US Embassy in Baghdad if attacks on US interests by Iranian militias, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, continued. That, of course, is precisely the outcome that Tehran wants. Iran wants "to “Lebanonize” Iraq: to allow a pro-Western government to rule in theory while real power is wielded by Iran-backed militias. In Lebanon, that force is Hezbollah. In Iraq, it is militias such as Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq."
No one wants to keep US forces in Iraq forever, but handing over the keys to Iran is not what thousands of Americans died for and will further weaken America's influence and prestige in the region. Moreover, it makes no strategic sense if our aim is to blunt Iran's growing clout in the Middle East.
3. Vladimir Putin continues to run roughshod over Trump. The Russian leader poisons his rivals, continues to interfere in our elections, pays bounties for dead American soldiers, harasses our troops in Syria. and the Trump administration's response is to press our allies to have Russia reinstated to the G-7. How in the world did Vladimir Putin ever get so lucky?
It will take years for the next president to rebuild the nation's alliances and global influence. But, If Joe Biden is elected on November 3rd he can make a good start by explaining that a truly "America first" foreign policy involves strong partnerships and global leadership. The United States can't simply abandon our alliances, spurn international institutions, and withdraw behind our borders hoping for the best. That may have worked in the 19th century, but it won't in the 21st.
Medium: "President Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy has already caused major harm. The United States can rebuild in positive ways, but a second Trump term would do even deeper damage to US institutions, diplomacy, leadership, and international norms. Countries such as China would continue to fill the vacuum. Instead, to increase US security and reduce human suffering, we need new leadership now."
Here is a good piece on how a Biden administration would approach foreign policy.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content