In word and deed, Donald Trump personifies the American ignoramus abroad.
By Richard North Patterson
The HuffPost (1/23/18)
One year into the Trump administration, as our president prepares for his trip to address the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, here is the dynamic abroad: no foreign enemy could have degraded America’s global standing so completely in so short a time.
In word and deed, Donald Trump personifies the American ignoramus abroad. He insults foreign leaders in tweets, then melts in their presence. He switches positions based on personal flattery. He parades his ignorance of geopolitics. His erratic behavior and bellicose boasts provoke alarm in a nuclear age.
No longer does America advocate for an inclusive international order which promotes democracy and stability. In Politico, Susan Glasser catalogs the verdict of foreign governments: our president is uninformed, unstable and erratic, a volatile and self-obsessed fool with a dystopian worldview.
Particularly incendiary is his racism. His Muslim ban, race -baiting and disdain for immigrants of color sullies America’s global reputation. And his recent disparagement of non-white countries as “shitholes” alienates governments we need to help combat terrorism and narco-trafficking.
What makes Trump’s amorality unique is that it serves no strategy.
Nor can Trump’s advisors stem the damage. He tramples on policy formulations and rejects advice. His fractious foreign policy team includes the sophomoric Jared Kushner. Disdainful of diplomacy, Trump has gutted the State Department and left critical posts vacant, eroding America’s capacity to advance its global objectives. In foreign policy, he asserts, “I’m the only one who matters.”
What matters to the world is Trump’s wholesale abdication of leadership. He scorns alliances, international institutions, trade agreements and multilateral efforts to stem global threats like climate change. His atavistic mindset is that of a real estate developer bent on “winning” one-on-one negotiations with the competitor at hand – leaving others to organize the landscape which surrounds him.
In this strategic vacuum, “America First” becomes America in retreat. Nothing is predictable save the brevity of Trump’s attention span for all but self. As he fixates on the mirror, our adversaries look to reorder the world by exploiting his proliferating derelictions.
One is his penchant for alienating America’s friends. Giving voice to his ingrained bigotry, he ridiculed the Muslim Mayor of London, and offended Britain’s Prime Minister by retweeting inflammatory materials from British Islamophobes – spurring the withdrawal of his invitation to visit London. His scorn for NATO and the EU has alienated the redoubtable Angela Merkel. Amidst the nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula, he criticized South Korea’s supposed “appeasement” of the North, and complained about the terms of our bilateral trade agreement.
“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.”
Indeed, Trump reserves his admiration for autocrats – the more murderous and corrupt the better, it seems – squandering our capacity for moral leadership. To its astonishment, the world sees America’s president as a reflexive authoritarian who seethes with loathing for our free press, independent judiciary, and rule of law ― and whose disdain for democratic institutions is truly global.
In his geopolitical illiteracy, Trump ignores that our most reliable strategic partners are stable democracies. Thus he cuts our resources for promoting democracy abroad, and jettisons human rights as a concern of our foreign policy. With Trump as their enabler, the authoritarians of countries like Turkey, Egypt, and the Philippines feel even less constraint in how they treat their citizens. …
(Cartoon by Tatiana Katara.)