Donald Trump fancies himself a builder. At least that’s the insinuation from all the gold-clad, Trump-name-adorned buildings in New York and elsewhere.
But to really build something of substance is not simple work. Blowing things up, tearing things down, is a lot easier. As any parent will tell you, children know how to destroy long before they learn how to create.
It seems like that’s now the stage we’re at with our foreign policy under this administration. Tear up climate change agreements. Blow up the Iran deal. Light the powder keg that is the Middle East by opening up a U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Start trade wars. Perhaps sober and fair-minded people can argue good reasons for some of these policy decisions (even though it seems like for the President it’s mostly about attacking President Obama’s legacy).
Every administration has the prerogative to set its own agenda. There are times for bold strokes and big changes of course. But I do not think that is what’s happening today. We don’t have a shift in policy as much as an ending of policy. There is no sense that when Trump crashes through the status quo with certainty and bravado, he has any sense of a Plan B. Ok, that’s over, but what do we do NOW?
The President’s partisans will point to progress in negotiations with North Korea as evidence of the wisdom of his foreign policy approach (although there are new worrying signs on that front). I desperately hope that we make progress there. If we do, the President will deserve real credit – no matter what some of his critics may say. But right now all of that is hypothetical. And in an interconnected world,
The United States achieved its position as a global power not only through the might if our military or the robustness of our economy. We were, in the best of times, a steadying voice for democracy and freedom. We were a partner to our friends and a bulwark against our enemies. That world is now upside down. Who will be there to pick up the pieces?