Two current news items illustrate the shift in U.S. foreign policy strategy from President Obama to Trump and why, contrary to the chicken-little prognostications of so-called foreign policy experts, Trump’s strategy stands on firmer ground.
On Monday, Dec. 18, President Trump unveiled his national security strategy, the embodiment of his “America first” strategy, emphasizing four principles: protecting the country through restricting immigration, making trade deals which are fair and reciprocal, building up the military, and generally expanding American influence globally.
About the same day, it was revealed former President Obama derailed an ambitious law enforcement campaign targeting the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah, even though it was funneling cocaine into the U.S. This was a decade-long effort to bring down a $1 billion drug ring which laundered money and smuggled cocaine into the U.S., according to a POLITICO investigation.
Former Treasury official Katherine Bauer admitted as much to a House committee, that the investigation dubbed Project Cassandra, was dismantled due to fear of rocking the boat with Iran and thus jeopardizing the nuclear deal. Evidently fighting the American drug epidemic and international terrorism were not as important to Obama as keeping the Iranian theocracy cooperative enough to sign his “legacy deal.”
Distancing his policies from Obama’s, Trump’s strategy eliminates the fluff of climate change as a national security problem and calls Islamic jihad what it is, refusing to dance around the issue for fear of propagating Islamophobia.
“America first” may sound like isolationism to some, but I see it differently. I assess Trump’s overall strategy is a return to realist American national interests pursuits. Trump the businessman is pragmatic, a problem solver, and just as important—has no preconceived ideological agenda. His will be a policy of the concrete, the tangible after the past two administrations’ lofty ideological pursuits.
Trump’s detractors decry his departure from the norm as vulgar and un-presidential, but it is important to note he was put in office especially because he isn’t the “normal” politician or foreign policy professional. Not being normal in Washington isn’t a curse but is refreshing.
Never forget the maxim: If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. It’s past time to try a different way.
Photo: President Donald J. Trump talks on the phone with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayid Al Nuhayyan of the United Arab Emirates during a call in the Oval Office on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2017. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)