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U.S. President Donald Trump along with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley at Trump National Golf Club, Bedminster, N.J., Aug. 11, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

U.S. Diplomacy Is on the Defensive, on Several Fronts at Home and Abroad

Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017

These are difficult days for U.S. diplomacy. In the two biggest global challenges, North Korea and Syria, the United States hasn’t had any easy successes lately. When President Donald Trump has decided to lead, as on the smaller, intra-Arab showdown in the Gulf, the parties paid only the briefest respect for his effort and then resumed their feud. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s attempts to reform the State Department—some of them credible and desirable—could reduce its capacity to represent American leadership around the world.

If there was any doubt about America’s reduced global standing, the North Korean crisis provides some troubling evidence. In the back and forth between Trump’s public threats and Tillerson’s more discreet efforts to cajole China, North Korea is happily defying the pressure and pursuing its strategic goals. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, has taken the Trump approach, accusing the North Koreans of “begging for war.” But she may find it hard to win consensus for new U.N. sanctions, since Russia and China have their own strategies for dealing with Pyongyang. ...

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