After a year in office, the essence of the Donald Trump Doctrine emerged – embrace your enemies, particularly brutal dictators, and alienate your friends, almost all of which are democracies. Donald Trump thrashed out and got into fights with everything and everyone. This president has his hands in all the hot spots of the world — whether in the Middle Eastern countries Syria and Iran or in North Korea. To even think about taking on these trouble spots, he would need allies. But he kept alienating them one by one.
The stable security order established after World War II has been replaced with a time of insecurity, where nobody knows what will happen next and this mainly depends on the unpredictable actions of the United States.
Internationally, gathering storm clouds set nerves on edge, with some questioning Trump’s leadership on the world stage. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, said 31 December 2017 that Trump’s unpredictability and the disruptive nature of his presidency has created “an incredibly dangerous climate.” “We’re actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” “I don’t see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point,” he said.
A central point in Trump’s actions and decisions seemed to be the confrontation of the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic world. America left the Iran nuclear deal, moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, used military force in Syria. The aim first is at the most belligerent, most ideological, and least cooperative Islamic state, and one that’s also big enough – Iran. Trump can’t understand Europe’s tolerance of Islam.
After trashing foreign policy experts who pushed for further involvement in Syria, Trump said, “I am committed to pursuing a different course, one that leads to victory for America.”
“As a candidate for president, I made clear that we needed a new approach to American foreign policy, one guided not by ideology but by experience, history, and a realistic understanding of the world,” he continued. “When we commit American troops to battle, we must do so only when a vital national interest is at stake and when we have a clear objective, a plan for victory, and a path out of conflict.”
What is the Donald Trump Doctrine? How can we take the constellation of his administration’s policy decisions – stricter border enforcement, tariffs on Chinese imports, loud and successful renegotiation of trade agreements with Canada and Mexico, harsh words for NATO members regarding their paltry contributions, enhanced military cooperation with Poland, challenges to China in Southeast Asia, the move of the US Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem – and extract a set of principles? And how are Trump’s troubling personality and quixotic outbursts to be factored into the equation?
To answer these questions, one must consider whether an analysis can even be conducted against the backdrop of unprecedented opprobrium and insults leveled at Trump by the US and global media – “fascist,” “Nazi,” “racist” – without becoming the target of similar accusations. And above all, one must ask: Is there in fact a “doctrine” as opposed to a style based on personality and instinct? If so, is that really any different from other administrations?
As many have pointed out, Trump’s approach to foreign policy, like the man himself, is almost purely transactional, driven by a philosophy that life is a zero-sum game. But in contrast to the elites who planned and executed the last 70 years of American domestic and foreign policy, Trump appears to have no clear vision about the ideal shape or operation of the world.
Most importantly, nothing Donald Trump does is based on intellectual abstractions like international relations theory or any other theory. There are no assumptions about the expected behavior of states, or whether they are following interests or ideologies – only that the US has been misled by “globalization,” which other parties have used to mask their own zero-sum thinking.
To his supporters, and a handful of contrarians, Donald Trump’s approach to challenges is refreshing. But at the very least, it is clear that Trump has spread uncertainty around the world in ways that a traditional conservative would find unsettling. Analysts at JP Morgan Chase released a report on Sept. 8 that tracked stock market volatility after Trump’s tweets. Called the “Volfefe Index,” after the unexplained typo “covfefe” Trump tweeted in May 2017, the bank found that Trump’s tweets on trade and monetary policy have increasingly moved U.S. interest rate markets, once a cornerstone of international economic stability.
To his critics, Trump’s actions on the world stage are foolhardy and damaging to the interests of Americans and their allies. “As a result of Trump’s actions, there’s very little trust out in the world for the credibility and reliability of the United States of America as a government,” said Wendy Sherman, a former U.S. ambassador who served as North Korea policy coordinator in the Clinton Administration and lead negotiator on the Iran deal for the Obama Administration.