Mr. Trump has engrossed himself in too many dramas. It will be interesting to know how his end game will shape up. Seems like he has stretched himself too thin. Trump has opened up too many dizzying foreign policy battlefronts including an array of trade wars around the globe. Mr. Trump has a wide range of enemies compared to friends.
He is involved in major economic deal with China, while threatening them with incremental tariffs. He’s having a war of nerves with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un to try to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula, an effort inextricably linked to China. He just wrapped up renegotiating NAFTA with Canada and Mexico, after threatening both countries with massive steel and aluminum tariffs. He’s threatening the rest of the world to create a fair playing field for equitable trade or else. He is threatening Iran to stop its nuclear ambition. He is trying to get a stronger deal with the Europeans and is striving for regime changes in Venezuela and Cuba. It seems that there are too many balls in the air for him to juggle all at once.
People are getting anxious specially fueled by media and leftist frenzy about uncertainties of the outcome of his maneuvers. One possibility may be that it is all work-in-process (WIP). Everything takes time to materialize. Wars are not won in a day. What matters most is the effectiveness of Trump’s policy over time and its consistency with U.S. national interests, not the personal qualities his demeanor.
People also doubt his competency in foreign policy matters because he tends to make important decisions against the advices of his cabinet advisors. He has had unprecedented turnover in senior foreign and defense policy positions and already has had three national security advisors. It seems that there is no steady decision-making process within the administration because the president apparently does not believe that he needs one.
At the same time, there is no doubt that Trump deserves more credit than his critics give him, but less than his most fervent fans – and the president himself. After all, the Europeans are paying more for NATO as their share of the budget. He stood up to Syria against using chemical weapons against its citizens; He has gotten rid of ISIS; North Korea has not tested any ICBMs in recent months and China is paying as Trump keeps increasing tariffs on their products. The American companies are choosing to shift manufacturing elsewhere from China including Apple, Nintendo and Dell. They are going to Vietnam, Malaysia and India instead. Among Chinese companies themselves, electronics giant TCL is moving its TV production to Vietnam and Sialon Tire is shifting its tire manufacturing line to Thailand. Others are relocating manufacturing operations to more established, lower cost countries including Mexico.Yes, the American manufacture
rs will suffer too to some extent in paying higher consumer prices and loss of crop exports to China. But those losses will be far less for the US and can be managed in a short run. People can live by paying a little more for their TVs and iPhones but they cannot sustain themselves in lack of food and fuel that the United States has in plenty.
Trump’s foreign policy is totally America centric. But this has been the case with the greatest foreign-policy presidents identified by the historians which include George Washington, John Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. All of the above presidents’ primary concerns have been the security of the nation, the prosperity of its people, and an understanding of the global situation at the time rather than pursuing idealistic fantasies all the time. America’s interests change in different times and places, so realism means different things to different presidents, and encompasses a broad range of policies.
As the great political philosopher of India, Kautilaya said, a King should use four different policies in four different circumstances. A king may have to make friends with certain enemies such as North Korea; he may have to bribe and favor certain countries as Trump is doing to the opposition in Venezuela; certain enemies may need punishment such as Iran and Syria and the king may have to divide-and rule in certain conditions as our policies in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Yemen signify.
So, it makes sense to give Trump’s WIP some more time to rip the benefit from his seemingly confusing foreign policy.