Donald Trump

Donald Trump's 'Wildcard' Foreign Policy Bearing Fruit?

Trump is "asking a lot of unfamiliar questions."

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Gage Skidmore

"Is Donald Trump a "freewheeling" "madman"? While Trump challenged foreign policy norms on the campaign trail, not holding back on attacking the George W. Bush legacy, he was hardly a non-interventionist—often complaining that the United States was not reimbursed for its security commitments and military actions around the world. Trump wants to make a deal. So far he's something of a wildcard.

Since becoming president-elect, Trump has made a number of moves that have rattled the foreign policy establishment, although his cabinet picks were not one of them. Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state nominee, was reportedly initially suggested by Bob Gates, the former Bush and Obama administration defense secretary, and backed by Condoleezza Rice, Bush's former national security advisor and secretary of state, both of whom run a consulting firm that represents ExxonMobil, where Tillerson is CEO. Former President Bush called Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where the nomination hearings will be heard, with "effusive" praise, and former Vice President Dick Cheney also backed Tillerson.

Henry Kissinger, former Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford secretary of state, meanwhile, was cautiously optimistic about Trump in a Face the Nation interview, telling John Dickerson Trump, "a phenomenon that foreign countries haven't seen," had the "possibility of going down in history as a very considerable president" because of the perception around the world that Obama "basically withdrew America from international politics" and because Trump was "asking a lot of unfamiliar questions."

The Washington Post's David Ignatius asks whether "Trump's freewheeling foreign policy could have its benefits," pointing to the "useful ambiguity and negotiating room" Trump created with the congratulatory phone call he took from the president of Taiwan. China captured an unmanned navy drone in the South China Sea, where China has been building military facilities on artificial structures, which was returned. Trump later tweeted the U.S. should "tell China that we don't want the drone they stole back.- let them keep it!" On Fox News Sunday last week, he asked why the U.S. ought to defer to China on relations with Taiwan and the One China policy, which Kissinger helped construct.

At the Washington Post, James Hohmann suggests Trump is following Nixon's "madman theory" on foreign policy, also pointing to Trump's approach to China as bearing some fruit, calling it "the first vindication of this approach." Since the election, Trump has re-affirmed U.S. security commitments to NATO and to countries like South Korea. The European Union invited Trump to a summit in Europe at his earliest convenience as soon as he was elected, and a NATO summit early next year in Brussels ought to be one of the first venues for Trump to demonstrate what's he meant by wanting to cut a deal, and whether he's ready to de-escalate American security commitments or whether he intends to continue a bipartisan foreign policy that sees America as an indispensable nation that must be involved everywhere.

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  1. Ambiguity is essential in foreign policy. All clarity accomplishes is to make every small crisis into a large one by putting US credibility at stake. You always want to give yourself a way to back down without losing credibility. You can’t do that without some ambiguity.

    1. You know who else’s foreign policy caused a large crisis?

      1. Shahanshah Khusrau II of the Sassanid Empire?

        1. Yeah, let’s see who can come up with the most obscure empire.

          1. Hey, if Sassanids are obscure…

            In case of Khusrau II, the war he started with Eastern Roman Empire and that dragged for quarter of a century is generally credit with setting the stage for Arab conquests of North Africa, Levant and Persia. The consequence of which, fairly huge.

            1. Yeah, I gotta say, the Sassanids aren’t obscure at all.

              Now throw out the Xiongnu or Xianbei, and you’ll get quizzical looks. FROM RETARDS *boom*.

              retards in this instance referring to people who don’t have an obsessive interest in central asian history

              1. +1 Sogdian confederacy

                1. What up my Hephthalites!

              2. +1 Great Game

          2. Are the Gokturks too obscure for you? The Songhai? Tu’i Tonga? Srivijaya? Tarasca? Great Bulgaria? The Khanate of Sibir?

            1. I can honestly say I have never heard of the Tu’i Tonga until just now.

              1. Half of those are new to me, but hey, more shit to learn!

        2. +1 Zoroastrian fundamentalist

          1. When you gotta bang your daughter-wife because she’s hotter than your sister-wife, you just gotta…

            1. If Ahura-Mazda didn’t want him to do that, He wouldn’t have made her so fine.

      2. The Dark Titan Sargeras?

    2. All clarity accomplishes is to make every small crisis into a large one by putting US credibility at stake

      I disagree. If you say “we will view any use of chemical weapons as a threat to world peace” then yes, that creates the circumstances where a small usage become a huge problem.

      On the other hand, if you intend to defend Estonia with your full might, including being willing to use nukes, then giving the russians an unambiguous clear understanding of that fact can prevent a little crisis from even happening.

      The problem you cite is, I suspect, more the result of a foreign policy that tries to tackle and control too many issues and conflicts rather than limiting itself only to things that matter.

      1. On the other hand, if you intend to defend Estonia with your full might, including being willing to use nukes, then giving the russians an unambiguous clear understanding of that fact can prevent a little crisis from even happening.

        No. that is not what you want. What you want is for the Russians to think you might use nukes to defend Estonia and thus think twice about doing it. If you make it clear, then if the Russians call your bluff, you have no way to walk away without completely losing US credibility. Unless you absolutely are committed to destroying the world over Estonia, you shouldn’t make that commitment that unambiguous.

        1. Additionally, with the varying cultural timespans and government lifespans you should do your best to avoid definitive statements anyway.

          Making a pledge to Angela Merkel or Barack Obama is a very different proposition than making a statement to the Peoples’ Republic of Whichever even though both are, effectively just a message to the peoples’ representatives.

        2. Well, no, that’s why you don’t bluff. Ambiguity is bad.

          Britain was ambiguous about whether it would honor its obligations to Belgium before WWI. This encouraged the German High Command to push for invasion through Belgium. They may have thought twice before doing it, or at least have been prepared to face the British (a huge chunk of German administration claimed to be surprised by British decision).
          Likewise, when Saddam was probing about invasion of Kuwait, saying “US doesn’t usually involve itself in border disputes between Arabs” was an ambiguous statement, when “Don’t invade Kuwait or we follow UN rules” is much clearer, and could have saved a lot of trouble.

          1. Well, no, that’s why you don’t bluff. Ambiguity is bad.

            Ambiguity can be bad. But clarity can also be bad. Even if you are not bluffing, it allows your enemies to manipulate into doing things that you might not want to do. Even if you are not bluffing, circumstances can change and make honoring a commitment a bad idea.

            1. Well yes, if circumstances are changing, change our goddamn policy or you’re just gonna end up with egg on your face. Because, yes, just because climbing down makes you look stupid, sometimes it is still a better choice and a nation will take it.

              1. If you are smart about what you say and don’t shoot your mouth off, climbing down doesn’t have to make you look stupid. That is why ambiguity is important.

    3. So foreign policy should be like gender?

      1. No. It should be like being in a very tough bar. You should avoid letting your mouth write checks your fists will have to cash.

    4. Having some ambiguity is a lot different than “What is this crazy motherfucker going to get us into?” Especially since he seems to take a lot of things personally and overreacts to them.

      Maybe he’ll surprise me?

      1. If you really think he is going to go to war over personal insults, you will be surprised. The “oh my God Trump is crazy and is going to start a war if someone insults him” is one of the dumber things people are saying about him.

        1. Well, there’s not a lot of data points to go off of. My only experience of Trump is how he conducted himself during the campaign, which frankly disgusted me. Even after he won the election, he backed off some extreme things he said during the campaign, but seems to be poring gasoline on a few other fires. So we’ll see if he’s able to respond in non-emotional ways once he’s in office.

          1. When did he ever threaten to go to war with anyone? Never that I can remember. And I loved his campaign.

            1. Haha I’m not surprised to find that his campaign was right up your alley. I wasn’t talking about threatening to go to war with anyone – though I think those threats were definitely implicit in some of his rhetoric.

              I just don’t think that there’s a whole lot of evidence available to be able to predict how he’s going to make decisions once he’s in office. He still has to answer the question of whether he’s an idiot savant or whether he actually has some strategic acumen.

              Using your “foreign policy is a tough bar” analogy, he hasn’t had to cash one of his checks yet.

        2. True, like him or not, it is clear that he has done deals with folks he did not like or who said things that pissed him off. Nicky Haley is now in his administration for example. Fences seem to have been mended with Cruz.

          The pop off comments seem to be more of a tactic that anything else. And, that tactic seems to work more than one might think.

      2. Having some ambiguity is a lot different than “What is this crazy motherfucker going to get us into?” Especially since he seems to take a lot of things personally and overreacts to them.

        This sort of comment reminds me that I’m glad Kennedy is dead.

    5. “Of course, ze whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you KEEP IT A SECRET! Vy didn’t you tell ze world?”

  2. Obama “basically withdrew America from international politics”

    Is Henry Kissinger on crack?

    How many undeclared and unauthorized wars did Obama launch? Obama’s mideast policy has destroyed the EU! What does Henry Kissinger not describe as withdrawal? Obama doing to Merkel in the chambers of the Security Council’s offices in Geneva what Kissinger did to Jill Saint John, while broadcasting it live to a admiring and repulsed world?

    1. Kissinger gonna Kissinger.

      1. Yeah, by Kissinger’s standards, Obama is a peacenik hippie isolationist.

    2. Breaking news, Kissinger is a douchebag.

      I had a foreign policy prof who liked to tell anecdotes about Kissinger’s personal behavior and how he treated subordinates. None of it was flattering.

  3. James Hohmann suggests Trump is following Nixon’s “madman theory” on foreign policy

    Why does anyone think Trump is following any sort of theory? I don’t necessarily mean this as an insult: he doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy who really has or follows theories.

    1. Trump is a maxim guy starting with, “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”

      1. Trump is a maxim guy starting with, “Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.

        At least his taste in women suggests as much,

  4. Remember that Black Church-burning in Mississippi where the perps wrote “Vote Trump” on their handiwork?

    I’m going to guess this news-update isn’t going to hit the front page of the NYT.


    JACKSON, Miss. (AP) ? Mississippi authorities have arrested a man in the burning of an African-American church that was also spray-painted with the words, “Vote Trump.”

    Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain says Andrew McClinton of Leland, Mississippi, who is African-American, is charged with first degree arson of a place of worship.

    1. If they didn’t have false flags, they wouldn’t have any flags at all.

      1. I think the person who dumped a truckload of shit on some DNC party office in…. NC? I think that was real. because it was funny.

    2. That sounds like fake news to me.

      On a completely unrelated topic, white supremacist painting KKK signs was finally arrested.

      1. But was he responsible for the poop swastikas?

    3. Wow, Trump is so racist that he’s even got black people to hate themselves!

    4. I was just on Twitter, and read that headline on a local DC new station’s feed, and they did not include a link to any details. I knew it had to be a non-right-wing-crazy-person.

      1. To be fair… it could be a ardent Trump-supporting black guy who also has a beef against the local church *(he lives right nearby).

        Or not. I just think the news media will decide to entirely ignore the story now. Especially the ones (like the WaPo and Atlantic) that ran extended hand-wringers about it.

        Noted = CBS reported that the FBI had identified a “person of interest” within days of the event.

        I doubt it will ever come out, but it would be interesting to learn if they knew that it was likely a “hoax” at the time, and stayed mum. It happened the week before the election.

        1. Clayton Bigsby

    5. So how many of these violent and destructive so-called Trump supporter acts have been committed by actual Trump supporters? I count zero (the example cited by Gilmore below looks more like “gesture politics” and does not seem race/gender/religious identity-oriented)

  5. No matter how many times I am reminded of it, I still can’t seem to remember that Henry Kissinger is still alive. I also can’t seem to remember why he’s still relevant.

  6. OT: have we talked about super-smart Senator Joe Manchin saying “we need to declare a war on drugs“?

    1. Finally, a man with a decisive, original and bold plan that can’t possibly fail! How do we contribute to his 2020 presidential bid?

    2. No, we need a war on slavers.

    3. Things the government can do to stop the “heroin” epidemic
      1) Legalize heroin so people don’t cut it with fetanyl
      2) Give away narcan misters

      That’s about it.

      1. That’s about it.

        No! Legalize the other quasi/non-dangerous shit too! Simple displacement suggests that after your third joint and/or 8th or 9th beer, getting a lethal dose of heroin in your system would be a fucking mountain to climb.

        1. Its a fair point.

        2. after your third joint and/or 8th or 9th beer, getting a lethal dose of heroin in your system would be a fucking mountain to climb

          8 or 9 beers? Don’t shoot the whole bag.

  7. If a sparrow falls in Tajikistan or Botswana, the US ambassador must opine on it.
    If two sparrows fall, the State Department’s spokesman must discuss it at length in his daily briefing.
    If three sparrows fall, the CIA must send a stringer to investigate.
    [excelating on and on to Marines landing to protect the sparrows]

    and it still just fucking sparrows.

  8. What else can President-elect Trump achieve in his first 100 seconds?

    1. An erection? A yuuge one, likes of which you haven’t seen since at least LBJ?

  9. Shaking things up – that’s why I supported him and that’s why I voted for him.

    1. Filling the swamp with a new swamp!

  10. Another OT: Mike Rowe is on the Facederps talking about “missionary position”.

    *fans self*

    1. You know he’s into dirty jobs, right?

      1. I don’t think that’s helping calm her down.

        1. She’s a nutmegger, isn’t she?

          Man – it takes a LOT to get those chicks hot and flustered.

          1. Fucking Connecticut? I lived there for 4 years in high school. That’s about the extent of my relationship with that shithole.

    2. Down, girl!

      1. Mike Rowe is my Lobster Girl

  11. “[Trump] was hardly a non-interventionist?often complaining that the United States was not reimbursed for its security commitments and military actions around the world.”

    I don’t see how the last half of that sentence is related to the first part of that sentence.

    There are 28 NATO countries.

    They are all committed to spending at least 2% of their GDP on defense. Only four of them are doing so: Estonia, Greece, Poland, and the United States.

    http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/0…..countries/

    The American taxpayer is effectively shouldering the burden for all the other NATO countries.

    Canada and Germany are only paying about half of their commitment. Hey Canada, before you complain about the quality of the service, how ’bout paying your fair share?

    I am complaining about other NATO countries not paying their fair share–and I am generally skeptical of foreign interventions. I do not see why those things should be related. Germany has the ability to take in a multitude of refugees and bail out Greece, but not enough money to pay their fair share for their own self-defense? Sounds like a great reason for America to dial back its security commitments–talk about moral hazard.

    1. Ed is saying that expecting other countries need to start paying for their own defense makes Trump interventionist. Even for reason and even for Ed, that is remarkably stupid.

      I read things like that and I just shake my head. How can someone be that careless or stupid to write that? It is just unfathomable to me.

      1. It’s the cosmo-establishmentarian party line and Reason editorial policy. These countries aren’t going to pay tribute or hire us as mercenaries. They’re going to arm up, re-align and take responsibility for their own defense.

    2. Paying is only half the battle. A lot of “defense” spending in EU was just welfare by other means.

      Take Canada vs Greece. Canada has more aircraft in its Air Force. Canada has less than 50% of Greece’s manpower in the Air Force (14K vs 30K). And if you are some poor fucker on the ground, which would you call in first?

      Business Insider has a good article on the topic of Greek spending.

      Poland and Estonia only started going back up to 2% this year, because they are apparently figuring it’s an actual problem on their borders. Other two Baltic states are making noise about following next year.
      However, as John Titor rightly pointed out, UK has been spending more than 2% consistently, and their army is actually competent. So add the Limeys into “plus” column.

      1. It is competent but too tiny to be of any use. The UK can’t project any kind of power. They don’t have the logistics for that anymore.

        1. After a rousing round of Knees Up Mother Brown, they’ll be just fine.

      2. No doubt, Poland and Estonia are our staunchest allies–because they’re the ones that have the most to fear if we don’t come to the rescue.

        It’s always like that. Back in the days of the Delian League, the closer the Greek city states were to Athens, the more they complained about Athenian hegemony–like Mexico and Canada calling us a bunch of Yankee imperialists. The closer the Greek city state was to the Persians, the more enthusiastic they were in their support for Athens–like Estonia and Poland are for the United States and NATO.

        Hegemony? We don’t care about no stinkin’ hegemony! You guys want to build a base here? We’ll make room!

        Regardless, complaining about other countries not paying their fair share is not the same as being in favor of foreign interventions. You can point to people not paying their fair share as an argument against foreign intervention. Complaining about unemployed welfare queens doesn’t make me pro-poverty either.

    3. I should add the correction that the U.K. is also, apparently, spending more than 2% of its GDP on defense in compliance with their NATO commitment.

      1. It’s compliant to the letter of the agreement, but it’s blown nearly all its budget on things like a new aircraft carrier.

        Problem is, they can’t afford the planes until 2020.

        1. That’s better than the other countries.

          Those other Europeans are effectively financing their welfare states on our dime.

          How well their money is spent is a legitimate question. At least they’re spending the money.

          1. Unlike US Carrier Groups, British doctrine is largely dictated by the fact their surface fleet is so much smaller than the US – so the carrier’s defenses are meant to be largely self-contained, so a combination of air assets for CAP, ECMs and missiles.

            So without being able to put up CAP, it should be renamed “HMS Sitting Target”.

        2. Also – unless something has changed, it’s a joint project with France.

          I can’t wait till the first time that thing gets underway.

          “Helm, turn 15 degrees to Port”

          “Starboard”

          “Port”

          “Starboard”

          ….it’s a bizarre sketch waiting to happen.

  12. Donald Trump’s ‘Wildcard‘ Foreign Policy

    Mr. Trump outlined his approach to foreign policy, saying he would “engage the use of military forces when it’s in the vital national security interests of the United States.” He promised to make the military stronger than it has ever been, but said that under his leadership, the country would “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about.”

    “This destructive cycle of intervention and chaos must finally come to an end,” he said.

    1. noted = in his actual speech, he said, “A COMMITMENT TO ONLY engage the use of military forces when it’s in the vital national security interests of the United States.”

      Why omit the beginning of the sentence? Because NYT.

  13. Wildcard or not, I just hope he doesn’t draw lines in the sand and then back away from them. I can’t think of how else to neuter US Foreign policy and influence worse than promising that there will be consequences for using things like chemical weapons and then not responding when the line was crossed. Not only does it make us look like paper tigers but it emboldens other fascists out there to consider pushing the envelope further to see what they can get away with.

    Between the Syrian red line, the Iran Nuke deal and the Benghazi disasters there are a lot of crossed lines to clean up after this administration.

  14. Somebody give me an excuse to not go back down into the crawlspace and fix the sump pumps I’ve gained access to. (There are still two that are inaccessible, sigh I’m going to be in the mud for the rest of the week)

    1. That’s where all the snakes are wintering?

      1. Thanks. I was getting all creeped out by all the spiders. I hadn’t even thought about snakes. Now I’ll be seeing snakes at the edge of my light.

    2. YOU CAN’T MISS THE SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL!!!

      8pm central!

      BYU Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys!

      1. Bring your own cougars?

        *calls Crusty for advice*

        1. If Crusty had his own version of the Bat Signal, what shape would the shadow be?

          1. This kinda assumes Crusty to be an ass-kicking, chaos-good style playboy.

            I always kinda pictured him more as the mischevious 5th dimensional imp who just shows up and you have to trick him into saying his name backwards or painting his own face blue in order to make him disappear.

          2. It would be the silhouette of a lollypop stick protruding from lips and a partly unwrapped sick of butter in a rump.

  15. Opening every diplomatic exchange as though you’re Martin Riggs from Lethal Weapon is always going to put the other guy at a initial disadvantage in negotiations. And Trump is more like Riggs than he is like Leonidas.

    The real skill lies in how, when, and how much you dial that kind of posturing back once the initial phase of negotiation is completed.

  16. Defense Department collaborating with Russian spies

    Microsoft Corp has been awarded a $927 million contract to provide technical support to the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Pentagon said in a statement on Tuesday.

  17. “My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.”

  18. Wait, I thought Tony and Shreek said that all of Obama’s speeches have made the world a better place and the US is now loved.

    *looks at sky…it’s green with orange * Oops, wrong world. Sorry

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