President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Feb. 24, 2017, Oxon Hill, Md. (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

U.S. President Donald Trump, in words and action, favors bilateral relations as the cornerstone of his foreign policy. Special ties to some key countries and leaders will always be important, but his approach is downplaying the value of regional systems and multilateralism, and of their institutions. As a result, it will fall short in protecting American interests in an age of redistributed power and transnational threats. In his first month in office, Trump has held bilateral meetings with the leaders of the U.K., Canada, Japan and Israel, while having one with Mexico’s president canceled. Watching his strangely aggressive handshakes and […]

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Feb. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

The composition of a U.S. president’s national security team is always important, but it is particularly so for Donald Trump. Most recent U.S. presidents took office with some experience at policymaking and international affairs, and with ties to their party’s foreign and national security policy experts. Trump did not. This is one reason that getting his people in place is taking so long. Of the 549 senior government positions that require Senate confirmation, 14 of Trump’s nominees have been confirmed, and 20 are awaiting confirmation. No one has yet been named for the remaining 515 slots. That said, Trump did […]

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley speaks to reporters after a Security Council meeting, New York, Feb. 16, 2017 (AP photo by Mary Altaffer).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and senior editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss European alarm over Donald Trump’s criticisms of NATO. For the Report, Sarah Hearn talks with Peter Dörrie about the prospects for global development in an era of populist retrenchment in the West. If you’d like to support our free podcast through patron pledges, Patreon is an online service that will allow you to do so. To find out about the benefits you can get through pledging as little as $1 per month, click through to WPR’s Trend Lines Patreon page. Listen: Download: MP3Subscribe: iTunes […]

U.S. President Donald Trump, flanked by Vice President Mike Pence and Defense Secretary James Mattis, speaks during an event at the Pentagon, Washington D.C., Jan. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Susan Walsh).

One month into Donald Trump’s presidency, it’s much too early to expect a fully coherent “Trump doctrine” on foreign policy. But the clear outlines of the Trump administration’s modus operandi are emerging, and it looks unlike anything we have seen before. The new administration has put in place a two-track foreign policy approach to the principal issues on the global agenda. The two tracks are not parallel; if anything, they are perpendicular and contradictory. On one track, Trump makes vague policy pronouncements over Twitter, in speeches and at press conferences. The president often reverses course and contradicts himself. On the […]

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, Feb. 20, 2017 (AP photo by Virginia Mayo).

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Europe over the weekend in an effort to reassure nervous allies about America’s commitment to NATO and the trans-Atlantic relationship. First in Munich, at the annual security conference there, and then in Brussels, Pence delivered a message more in line with what Europeans are used to hearing about the American approach to the alliance. Like U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, who preceded him last week in Brussels, Pence added a pinch of tough love to the healthy dose of soothing affection. Europeans will need to contribute more to their defense if they expect […]

Heads of state at the V Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Bavaro, Dominican Republic, Jan. 25, 2017 (AP photo by Tatiana Fernandez).

In the past four years, Latin America’s so-called pink tide—the much-reported electoral shift to the left—has receded, after populist governments came under siege amid corruption scandals and economic disasters wrought by extravagant spending. The result has been a new wave of either more conservative governments hewing to an agenda of free trade, as in Argentina or Brazil, or the possibly imminent rejection of governments carrying on the legacy of their forebears, as in Bolivia, Ecuador and—should elections and other democratic conditions ever return—Venezuela. But just when Latin America’s populists had exhausted themselves, Donald Trump came along, appearing to embrace many […]

U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Washington D.C., Jan. 27, 2017 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

In November, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus warned that a growing gap between the super rich and the rest of the world’s population is a “ticking time bomb” that will lead to exploitation of the poor, immigrants and minorities. There is good evidence that time is running out to keep that bomb from going off. Economic fragility in the eurozone has fueled the rise of populist and nationalist parties in European elections since 2008. The refugee crisis confronting Europe compounded the swing. A wave of populist wins in 2016, from Brexit and Italy’s rejection of constitutional reform to the election of […]

New Afghan air force pilots attend class at the air force university, Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

A recent United Nations report found that civilian casualties in Afghanistan resulting from Afghan-initiated airstrikes doubled between 2015 and 2016, to 252. The American military says those figures are inflated, but has begun training a new cadre of Afghan air controllers who can warn Afghan pilots of the risks of collateral damage. In an email interview, Marc Schanz, the director of publications for the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, discusses Afghanistan’s air force. His opinions are not in any way reflective of the policies of the Mitchell Institute. WPR: What is the make-up of Afghanistan’s air force, in terms of […]

Army Gen. John W. Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, attends a change of command ceremony, Kabul, Afghanistan, March 2, 2016 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

The conflict in Afghanistan played a surprisingly small role in the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, possibly because none of the candidates had any new ideas on what to do about this long-festering problem. But there is an old aphorism sometimes attributed to Leon Trotsky, the Russian revolutionary and communist theorist, that goes, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” While Trotsky probably never uttered the phrase, there is something to it. It certainly applies to the conflict in Afghanistan: While the war was not a major topic in Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid, he […]

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a joint news conference, Washington D.C., Feb. 15, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

U.S. President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took their budding “bromance” to the next level in a chummy press conference Wednesday, reaffirming not just U.S.-Israel ties but their own personal friendship as well. For those concerned that U.S. policy toward Israel under the Trump administration will shift rightward, the meeting offered a lot of confirmation. But one moment in particular stood out: Trump’s perceived abandonment of the two-state solution, a cornerstone of Washington’s stance on the Palestinian-Israeli peace process since the Clinton administration. “I’m looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties […]

A worker loads rolls of sheet metal at LMS International, a distribution company in Laredo, Texas, Nov. 21, 2016 (AP photo by Eric Gay).

When then-President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement in a White House ceremony in December 1993, he called it “a defining moment” for the United States and praised Mexico and Canada as “our partners in the future that we are trying to make together.” All three countries had made what then seemed like an irreversible decision to marry their economic futures. Yet today, less than a quarter-century later, those bonds are badly fraying. The new U.S. president, Donald Trump, wants to renegotiate NAFTA, which he has called “the worst trade deal in history.” Mexican President Enrique Pena […]

President Donald Trump at a meeting in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Washington, Feb. 14, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Is the United States a rogue state? Is it a failed or failing state? The answer, of course, is no, or at least not yet. But the hyperbole is intentional, meant to underscore how each day of Donald Trump’s presidency brings us deeper into the realm of the unimaginable. As I filed this column, the latest scandal to engulf the administration is the resignation of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn less than a month after inauguration day. According to the White House’s own account, Flynn’s misdeed was not to have discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Moscow’s ambassador to the […]

Thousands of protesters participate in the Women's March, Philadelphia, Jan. 21, 2017 (AP photo by Jacqueline Larma).

When Donald Trump shocked the world by winning the presidency of the United States, just a few months after British voters opted to leave the European Union, the rise of rightist, anti-establishment populists started to look like an inexorable trend across the West and elsewhere. To be sure, the twin successes of right-wing, anti-immigrant insurgencies did energize like-minded movements in other countries. And yet, they also triggered another reaction—a paradoxical, if not altogether unpredictable response. Trump’s win, and to a lesser extent Brexit, made tangible the threat of what had until recently been dismissed as a curious fringe phenomenon. By […]

Central American migrants attend a Mass at the Basilica de Guadalupe, Mexico City, April 18, 2015 (AP photo by Marco Ugarte).

TAPACHULA, Mexico—David Gramajo was working as a bricklayer in Atlanta in 2012 when he was stopped by police for driving without a license, turned over to immigration authorities, and deported to his native Guatemala. But once he returned to Guatemala City, he and his wife Alejandra struggled to maintain their business and protect their three children. They received constant threats from gang members who extorted and threatened their family for the little money they had. Eventually, they were forced to leave behind their business and again head north, but this time with a different aim: Mexico. I met David and […]

Trucks laden with troops and ammunition await helicopter transportation in Long Tieng, a staging area for the CIA-backed clandestine army of Hmong tribesmen, Laos, Oct. 3, 1972 (AP photo).

The U.S. war in Laos began in early 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower, on one of his last days in office, approved a paramilitary CIA mission known as Operation Momentum to arm the ethnic Hmong population against communist forces. Under Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the proxy war grew to become the largest CIA paramilitary operation in U.S. history. In his new book, “A Great Place to Have a War: America in Laos and the Birth of a Military CIA,” drawing on declassified CIA files and interviews with key players, Joshua Kurlantzick reframes the Laos war […]

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the World Government Summit, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Feb. 13, 2017 (AP photo).

Antonio Guterres has a personnel problem. Last week, the U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, nixed the U.N. secretary-general’s nomination of a new envoy to Libya. Guterres had proposed the respected former Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad, for the job. On Friday, Haley released a terse statement saying that she was “disappointed” by the choice, and citing it as a symptom of the U.N.’s bias against Israel. The U.S. maneuver is simultaneously tokenistic, destructive and liable to backfire. The Bush and Obama administrations invested a great deal in Fayyad as one of the few Palestinian politicians they […]

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the Major County Sheriffs' Association and Major Cities Chiefs Association, Washington D.C., Feb. 8, 2017 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

Upon moving into the White House, U.S. President Donald Trump could have opted for a cautious approach, carefully learning the ropes while building political alliances and public support. Instead he has taken the opposite tack, rapidly staking out ambitious, even revolutionary positions. Among these were draft executive orders to drastically reduce American involvement in the United Nations and other international organizations, and withdraw from some multinational treaties. If implemented, these policies will signal a fundamental shift in the world role the United States has played for the past 75 years. They would be revolutionary indeed. While Trump did not often […]

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