“Trump makes people uncomfortable. It’s what he does best, in fact. But how this quality applies to foreign policy is a question that merits deeper exploration than knee-jerk displays of stricken disbelief.” These words come from Stratfor’s Reva Goujon, in the Dec. 18, 2016, journal article entitled, “The Trump Doctrine: A Work in Progress.”
Donald Trump does have a core set of beliefs that will govern his actions in foreign affairs, as Henry Kissinger noted in a Dec. 18 interview with “Meet the Nation.”
Both the current president and the president-elect have a common shared core belief and at the same time, they have worldviews with strongly differing time perspectives and concerns. Both have the benefit of our geography to choose between globalism and nationalism.
Both the incoming and outgoing presidents are realists.
President Obama, according to Goujon, “considered it his mission to rebalance the United States after the country had overextended itself fighting wars in the Islamic world.”
Obama has wanted to pivot from the Middle East to deal with the growth of China, a superpower in the making. He has been hindered in this shift by constantly having to deal with the Middle East and Russia.
At the same time, Obama “built a foreign policy based on extreme restraint while addressing his own set of geopolitical anachronisms: the United States’ relationships with Iran and Cuba,” according to Goujon.
Simultaneously, Obama thought in long-time horizons, often receiving criticism for caring more about climate change over the “short-term impact posed by the Islamic State.”
America, in Obama’s view, must develop new technologies, such as green power, and devalue fossil fuels of coal and petroleum. New American jobs would come through technological innovation and through offering free college educations for disadvantaged youth.
Trump, too, is a realist, but his realism is nationalistic and more myopic.
Trump’s way to solve the loss of jobs in this country is to punish our trade partners rather than deal with demographic and technological change. He will spend a lot more time working to deregulate businesses than he will dealing with climate change.
According to Trump, the market will create incentives enough without U.S. subsidies to green technology or to free college educations. Oil and coal will be around for a long time and facing that reality is part of Trump’s economic worldview.
Trump has challenged the 40-year-old Cold War relationship with China over Taiwan, and with a few tweets has forced China and the U.S. to deal with reality on this issue. Trump believes, and rightly so, that China needs us more than we need China. This gives the U.S. the negotiating edge over that country. The incoming president plans to use that advantage to America’s benefit.
Trump will also give our allies the “opportunity” to defend themselves, rather than to continue with long-held alliances, even if it upsets long-term security agreements and puts some allies at risk.
Obama’s greatest strength has also been his greatest weakness: his policies are consistent and therefore predictable to our adversaries. Trump’s greatest strength is his unpredictability. He gives the impression, according to Goujon, that “he is willing to throw caution to the wind and rely on instinct in shaping foreign policy.”
Both friend and foe alike must keep on their toes when developing their long-term strategies, to avoid unnecessarily angering and antagonizing the world’s only superpower. The whole world feels unnerved trying to figure out what Trump will do next.
Because America has two major oceans buffering it from most of the rest of the world, America has the luxury of deciding whether it will be a globalist power, or a nationalist nation focused on its own issues. Most of the rest of world does not have that option.
The future president, Donald Trump, is the person in the center of “crack-the-whip.” When he turns a little, those on the end of the line will have to move faster to keep up. Some may fall by the wayside. The rest of the world will constantly have to cope, as Trump exercises his changes.
We American citizens, as part of the world, will find our lives deeply affected by our president-elect’s decisions, but making people uncomfortable is what he does best.