‘Never More Adrift’: William J. Burns on Repairing the Damage Trump Has Done

‘Never More Adrift’: William J. Burns on Repairing the Damage Trump Has Done
Then-Deputy Secretary of State William Burns meets with South Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Jan. 21, 2014 (pool photo by Kim Hong-Ji via AP).

“We are living through a moment in which diplomacy as a tool of promoting American interests … is even more important than ever,” says William J. Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former deputy secretary of state. “And yet, over the three and a half decades that I served as a professional diplomat, I’ve never seen a moment when it’s been more adrift.”

Ambassador Burns joined WPR’s Trend Lines podcast this week to discuss the damage President Donald Trump has done to U.S. diplomacy and how to repair it. Over the course of a 45-minute interview, he shared his alarm at the state of America’s diplomatic institutions, but also Trump’s conception of America’s role in the world, which has turned the “notion of enlightened self-interest on its head, so that it’s all about the ‘self’ part and very little about the ‘enlightened’ part.”

That has undermined America’s position in an international landscape that has become all the more challenging with the rise of China and the proliferation of “problems without passports.” Ambassador Burns says that in the event Trump wins reelection in November, “There’s a big difference between four years, and the damage we’ve seen so far, and eight years. I think if you had a second term of President Trump … that’s going to do permanent damage to American interests in the world.”

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