Point, Counterpoint: Is President Trump making the world a safer place?
Author: ColoradoPolitics.com - May 7, 2017 - Updated: May 7, 2017
The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been erratic, particularly in the domain of foreign policy.
Many of the decisions taken by the administration have been reactive, often made by players who are novices in the complex game of international politics. This volatility affects our allies as well. The incessant “tweeting” of the president’s every whim has the potential to drag us into unnecessary conflicts with other nations. There is nothing more destabilizing than a great power that is unpredictable and unreliable.
The world has become a far more dangerous place in recent years. The rising power of China, a resurgent and bellicose Russia, a nuclear North Korea and terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group and al-Qaida combine to foster a chaotic global environment. The Trump administration finds itself working in this turbulent world with a Cabinet that is burdened by inexperience and the peculiar psyches of several of its members.
President Donald Trump has limited experience in international politics and has underestimated the difficulty of dealing with other nations. During the first 100 days, the president has flip-flopped on numerous issues, undermined trust and generated discord.
During the campaign, Trump declared that the Russians were our allies and argued that the Syrian civil war had nothing to do with U.S. interests. That narrative held until Congress began its investigation of Russian influence over the election of 2016, which prompted the Trump administration to do an abrupt about-face and criticize Moscow and then bomb the Syrians in retaliation for Bashar Assad’s barbaric use of sarin gas on his people.
During the election, Trump argued that NATO was dated and ineffectual, and he belittled our allies in Europe. However, with the recent 180-degree turn on Russia, NATO is apparently useful again, and we are bolstering our military presence in Poland and the Baltics.
Trump demonized the Chinese throughout the campaign until he realized that the key to dealing with the mad hermit kingdom of North Korea lay in having allies in Beijing.
Thus, Trump’s penchant for instigating fights with allies in NATO and demonizing China only harms our national interests in the long run.
Further, despite the fact that the Department of Defense has warned that climate change is a “threat multiplier” and that it poses a long-term threat to the national security of the nation, the administration plans on abandoning the Paris agreement. This position is perplexing, particularly as Secretary of Defense James Mattis has gone on record that climate change poses a significant threat to national security. Nonetheless, the Trump administration continues to deny that climate change is real.
There are problems in the Cabinet as well. The mercurial Steve Bannon, who is known for his antipathy towards science, NATO, trade agreements (NAFTA), China and so forth, is a force for chaos. Rex Tillerson leads a woefully understaffed and underfunded State Department. Fortunately, there are pragmatic forces in the administration (Mattis, H.R. McMaster, Jared Kushner and perhaps Tillerson) who are gradually sidelining Bannon.
That said, if the pattern of erratic decision-making continues, it will only undermine America’s relations with our allies and embolden our enemies. This volatile behavior clearly threatens to drag the country into conflicts that are not in the national interest.
The world is safer when America leads, and America is leading again thanks to President Donald Trump.
For eight long years, we tried the notion of “leading from behind.” Tough talk never materialized into action. Red lines were drawn and then ignored. Whole nations or regions descended into death, destruction and chaos as our nation’s second-to-none military remained largely on the sidelines to fulfill politically motivated promises. The stature of the United States was allowed to weaken and wither as President Barack Obama attempted to remove America from her pedestal of pre-eminence and exceptionalism.
Thankfully, Trump saw the failure of this approach and successfully campaigned on a message of making America great again. I’m pleased to report that he is doing that.
By reasserting military strength in Afghanistan, Syria and the Korean theater, the president is signaling a return to robust leadership. He is placing the world on notice that America will take the fight to the Islamic State group in a serious way, will intervene to disrupt the inhumane slaughter of innocent civilians and that America will protect its allies and interests. In each of these instances, Trump has made the world a safer place for nations that support freedom and democracy.
On the diplomatic and soft power front, Trump is building productive working relationships with world leaders. Virtually every day, the president is working the phones to make personal connections with his peers. This sort of diligent relationship building not only opens and maintains lines of communication, it will likely lead to numerous benefits.
Defense Secretary James Mattis has raised expectations of NATO. By ensuring that the alliance will be funded in a broader way, the Trump administration is working to make sure that it will be better prepared to face the threats of the future. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and her team of diplomats have taken strong stands to turn the ossifying organization from a talking shop into an arena of action.
It comes down to action vs. inaction. Unlike their predecessors, this president and this Cabinet are working around the clock to reassert America’s position of greatest strength, that of leader of the free world. In a dangerous world filled with despotic dictators, radical Islamic terrorism and ex-superpowers grasping for former glory, American leadership is essential to the safety and stability of the world.
That’s why I am so pleased that we once again have a president who recognizes the essential nature of strong American leadership, a president who wants America to be second to none and who takes strong actions to protect our nation in the face of multiple geopolitical threats. The United States is fortunate to have Trump leading the way to a safer and more secure world.
Andrew Price-Smith is associate professor of political science at Colorado College and served as adviser to the National Intelligence Council from 2008 to 2017. His latest books are “Oil, Illiberalism and War” (MIT, 2015) and “Rising Threats, Enduring Challenges” (Oxford, 2014). Doug Lamborn represents Colorado’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives and serves on the House Armed Services Committee.