Donald Trump would be a foreign policy disaster

Published: November 18, 2016 - 17:47 Updated: August 8, 2017 - 15:50

What is scarier than the effect that Trump would have on USA is the effect he will have on foreign policy. The future does not bode well


An ad ran by the Hillary Clinton campaign in September featured various quotes from Trump’s campaign rallies and interviews, in which he says, among other things: “I would bomb the shit out of ’em,” “I wanna be unpredictable,” and “I love war.” Whether that was election season machismo or just the bluster of a thin skinned man remains to be seen. One thing is for sure. Donald Trump would be soon facing a foreign policy test which may need all the restraint he can muster. When Donald Trump takes the oath on January 20 2017, there will be no shortage of tense combustible situations across the globe. To begin with US led NATO forces and the Russian military are already shadow boxing with increasing intensity. Trump’s threat to make NATO pay has not helped the standoff either. In the past few months Russia has increasingly shown a brazen willingness to intervene in the affairs of Baltic states. With Trump in power and their mutual admiration, Putin could feel emboldened to go even further.

Then there is China or as Trump calls it ‘Jina’. China’s ambitions in the South China sea are well known. As China lays claim to all of this sea in part to create safe havens for its arsenal of nuclear submarines, the US has intensified its air and sea operations in the region. A skirmish in the region could potentially strain ties with China. Not that Trump’s rhetoric has had Beijing warming up to him. During his campaign Trump had called climate change a Chinese manufactured hoax and had threatened to start a trade war with China.

Perhaps the biggest mystery in this tangle is how Trump will tackle North Korea. How will a Trump presidency help in defanging a tin pot dictator who threatens to launch nuclear weapons at South Korea and Japan? The signs are not encouraging.  He has proved himself over and over again to be quick-tempered, defensive, prone to lash out, adamant in dividing the world into winners and losers, and quick to invoke either the use of force or the backing away from U.S. defence commitments. He is ill-informed about nuclear weapons and the policies that govern their role and use. He offhandedly entertains their use, raising doubts whether he can be trusted with the nuclear codes.

Then there is the deal with Iran. Throughout his incendiary campaign Trump was a fervent critic of the deal with Iran. He told The American Israel Public Affairs Committee: “My No. 1 priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” If he wanted to, he could use his first day in office to issue executive orders to restore sanctions on Tehran and announce that the U.S. will no longer participate in panels that oversee the agreement.

Perhaps the worst foreign policy assertion that Trump has made has been on how to fight ISIS. In his own words, “I’ve had an opposite view of many people regarding Syria.… My attitude was you’re fighting Syria; Syria is fighting ISIS; and you have to get rid of ISIS. Russia is now totally aligned with Syria, and now you have Iran, which is becoming powerful, because of us, is aligned with Syria.… Now we’re backing rebels against Syria, and we have no idea who these people are.” Trump says that he wants to focus on destroying ISIS but if his stated foreign policy manoeuvre is carried out it will destroy the moderate opposition to Assad and further empower extremists who will take advantage of the disarray.

All in all, a Trump presidency is going to be an excruciating time for American diplomats across the world. Saddled with a commander-in-chief who does not understand basic geopolitics and who is extremely thin-skinned they will forever be fire fighting to repair any damage that Trump inflicts. Its a scary time for the world.