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A Year in Foreign Affairs: Trump as a Two-Year-Old

It is hard to image how so much damage to America’s long-term interests could be inflicted so quickly, so widely, so deeply, and by someone who claims to want to Make America Great Again. 

Baby Trump

Have you ever seen a four-year-old and a two-year-old playing together with blocks?

The four-year-old has the fine motor skills to be able to balance one block on top of another, slowly, meticulously building a small structure.

The two-year-old doesn’t have the skills to build.  Neither does it possess the patience to learn the skills.  The only power it has is the power to destroy.

So, the two-year-old gleefully kicks over the tower the four-year-old has so carefully constructed. “M…O…M….”

Anyone with children, or even anyone who has simply watched children, will recognize this story.

This little parable provides an insight into Trump’s first year in foreign policy. The four-year-old is the existing world order. Over seven decades, it has patiently, meticulously constructed an international order with institutions and relations that, though flawed, is tolerably stable and serves the interests of the U.S. and much of the rest of the world.

Trump is the two-year-old. He has neither the maturity, the intellect, the character, the patience, or even the desire to build on this order.  The only power he has is the power to destroy.  The record of his first year in office reflects this. Consider:

  • The JCPOA deal with Iran provides a verifiable, working check on Iran acquiring nuclear weapons. Trump’s effort to scuttle the deal would release Iran to pursue nuclear weapons. Because of that, the move is opposed by all of the co-signatories to the treaty.

  • Trump isolated the U.S. in the world by withdrawing from the Paris accords on global warming. That withdrawal makes the U.S. a pariah state in the world and cedes global leadership on the issue to China.

  • Trump lost the six-year-long war to depose Assad in Syria. But rather than admitting defeat and leaving quietly, Trump exposes the U.S. to opprobrium by keeping U.S. troops in Syria in violation of international law while succoring ISIS fighters, including arranging their safe passage out of Syria.

  • Trump alienated 1.5 billion Muslims and was rebuked by almost all of the nations of the world for claiming Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The move was made after Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, received $30 million from an Israeli investor. It gives Banana Republics a bad name, yet that is how the U.S. under Trump works. All the world can see it.

  • Trump wanted to show himself a bigshot by provoking what had been a quiescent North Korea. The result is that the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

  • Speaking of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Trump’s providing Ukraine, Poland, Romania and other Eastern European nations with offensive weapons dramatically increases tensions with Russia, a move Russia promises to counter. Anyone who remembers Cuba of 1961 when the Russians inflicted a similar terror on the U.S. must have pause about the wisdom of the U.S. now doing the same to Russia.

  • For centuries Turkey has been an adversary of Russia. But by supporting the Kurds in Syria, a move fought by Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey—those nations most affected—Trump has driven Turkey, a NATO member state for more than 60 years, into the arms of Russia.

  • Trump provides weapons, satellite intelligence, refueling, and other support for Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemen. One of the results is the greatest cholera outbreak in world history. More than one million Yemenis now have cholera. Again, all the world can see it.

  • Trump recently announced a cut-off of aid to Pakistan, humiliating and alienating the only Muslim nation in the world with nuclear weapons. China will step into the breach.

  • And Trump’s referring to African nations as “shithole countries,” shames himself, his office, and the entire country. It has done incalculable damage to the U.S.’s reputation in the world.

We could go on and on…lauding dictators in Saudi Arabia and Philippines while bashing allies in Europe…backing the recent palace coup in Saudi Arabia, one of the most repressive, literally medieval, states in the world…peremptorily pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership…publicly humiliating his own Secretary of State...

It is hard to image how so much damage to America’s long-term interests could be inflicted so quickly, so widely, so deeply, and by someone who claims to want to Make America Great Again. But building is hard. Destroying is easy. Just ask any two-year-old.

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Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman is the author of The Best One Hour History series, which includes World War I, The French Revolution, The Vietnam War, and other titles.  He is the founder of One Dollar For Life, a nonprofit that builds infrastructure projects in the developing world from donations as small as one dollar.

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