The crisis in America’s foreign policy apparatus entered a stunning new phase this past week with President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, followed yesterday by his comments on Twitter essentially taking Saudi Arabia’s side against Qatar in an intra-Gulf dispute.
In between, reports emerged that during his visit to Brussels two weeks ago, Trump removed a passage from his speech explicitly confirming his commitment to NATO’s collective defense clause, Article 5, without notifying his national security adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, all of whom had argued for including it.
Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord was the least surprising but perhaps the most significant development. Similar to the NATO speech, it put Trump at odds with Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, collectively known as the Trump administration’s “adults in the room.” It also put the U.S. at odds with its closest allies—all of whom argued the case for remaining in the Paris deal at a G-7 meeting with Trump the week before—and the entire world, on an issue where American leadership had proved essential to reaching a final diplomatic agreement on reducing global emissions.