The challenge of writing about U.S. foreign policy in the Trump era is twofold. First, the United States does not have a foreign policy per se in the Trump era. Rather, it has a disparate collection of poorly coordinated and at times contradictory channels of communication and engagement with the world, some run through the White House, others by Cabinet officials and still others by faceless bureaucrats who are either improvising around the margins or working the clean-up crew.
Looming over them all is the tragicomic figure of President Donald Trump himself, whose declarations, we are told, have little bearing on the conduct of policy, but nonetheless sow confusion and doubt among those working for him and their foreign interlocutors.
Second, there is hardly enough time to digest Trump’s most recent missteps before a new round of scandal engulfs him. He has been back in Washington just days now following his trip to Poland and the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, where he essentially redefined the purpose of the Atlantic alliance, faced 19 other heads of state and government united against the new U.S. positions on climate change and liberalized trade, and let Russian President Vladimir Putin off the hook for meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.