Protesters from the Answer Coalition gather in front of the White House, Washington, April 14, 2018 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

As the tragic civil war in Syria grinds through its eighth year, it is impossible to make sense of the Trump administration’s strategy as it moves in one direction and then shifts in another, again and again. American policy is utterly incoherent, and there is no sign that will change. President Donald Trump’s position on Syria, expressed more often in tweets than in formal policy statements, vacillated wildly even before he was elected president. In June 2013, for instance, he contended that the United States should “stay the hell out of Syria.” But two months later, after Syrian President Bashar […]

In this courtroom sketch, Salah Abdeslam, center, sits between two police officers during his trial, Brussels, Feb. 5, 2018 (AP photo by Petra Urban).

In this week’s Trend Lines podcast, WPR’s editor-in-chief, Judah Grunstein, and managing editor, Frederick Deknatel, discuss President Donald Trump’s week at the United Nations, including his speech to the General Assembly and the Security Council session he chaired. For the Report, Cara Tabachnick talks with WPR’s senior editor, Robbie Corey-Boulet, about how Belgium and other European countries are dealing with citizens returning from fighting with ISIS in Syria. If you like what you hear on Trend Lines and what you’ve read on WPR, you can sign up for our free newsletter to get our uncompromising analysis delivered straight to your […]

President Donald Trump arrives with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., during the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, at U.N. headquarters, Sept. 25, 2018 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the United Nations General Assembly yesterday for the second time since taking office. Trump opened with what seemed more like a campaign stump speech than a foreign policy address, touting the domestic accomplishments of his administration in such hyperbolic terms that the audience chuckled. He went on to defend his actions in the global arena, with particular emphasis on his controversial decisions to withdraw the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal and move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The rest of his address revisited similar themes from his U.N. speech […]

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Sept. 21, 2018, Springfield, Missouri (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

I was hoping that Bob Woodward’s new book would help me understand the strategy behind President Donald Trump’s trade policy. But like much of the rest of Washington, I found the “revelations” in the book, in a sense, shocking but not surprising. On trade policy, it largely confirmed what we already knew—the president just doesn’t like trade and will not listen to anything that contradicts his long-held views. Beyond the broad distrust of trade and trade agreements, specific policy decisions were disturbingly random, often depending on nothing more than who had last managed to catch the president’s ear. So, the […]

A Palestinian girl peeks out of a car window after receiving UNRWA food aid in a refugee camp north of Jabalia, Gaza Strip, Sept. 4, 2018 (Photo by Wissam Nassar for DPA via AP Images).

RAMALLAH—“We lose Trump’s money, but we preserve our dignity,” Ahmed, 19, told me at Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah when I asked him how he felt about President Donald Trump’s recent decision to halt all U.S. funding to UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides food, education and health care to the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Created in 1949, UNRWA has been a lifeline for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel. Last year, the United States provided about […]

Syrian authorities distribute bread, vegetables and pasta near the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack, Douma, Syria, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Hassan Ammar).

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is close to military victory over the rebels that he has been fighting since 2011. The largest remaining area of opposition control is Idlib province, and the regime is gearing up to retake it. Turkey and Russia developed a cease-fire plan last week to try and prevent further large-scale fighting, but it may not work. The future looks grim for the people of Idlib. Like Assad’s other offensives, if this one takes place it will be brutal, with civilians suffering as much as rebel fighters. And if past patterns hold, Syrian government forces will use whatever […]

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shake hands at the conclusion of their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (AP photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais).

Is it already too late to save the liberal international order? That’s what Thomas Wright argues in a recent article in The Atlantic. It’s hard to argue with his reasoning. Clearly, the hoped-for convergence among the world’s great powers around universally accepted rules of the road for the international system has not materialized. In hindsight, it’s probably also true that the challenge—primarily from Russia and China—to the liberal elements of the liberal international order was inevitable. Rather than continue struggling to impose those ideals on a resistant world, Wright argues, the U.S. should seek to defend them at home and […]

A jockey truck passes a stack of 40-foot China Shipping containers at the Port of Savannah in Savannah, Georgia, July, 5, 2018 (AP photo by 	Stephen B. Morton).

President Donald Trump’s trade war with China escalated Tuesday, when he slapped tariffs on an additional $200 billion worth of Chinese imports. Beijing retaliated immediately with tariffs on an additional $60 billion worth of imports from the U.S. The move followed a similar round of tit-for-tat tariffs in July, when both sides targeted $50 billion worth of each other’s exports. Trump famously declared on Twitter in March that trade wars are “good, and easy to win.” His optimism in the standoff with Beijing stems in part from the current strength of the U.S. economy, the more-troubling recent economic indicators for […]

Marshall Miller, president of Miller and Company, speaks during a Commerce Department hearing on whether auto imports threaten national security, Washington, July 19, 2018 (AP photo by Jacquelyn Martin).

Despite hopes that the negotiations to salvage the North American Free Trade Agreement will conclude with some degree of success, the other fronts in U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade wars continue to escalate. The looming tariffs on another $200 billion in U.S. imports from China will carry high costs for American consumers and exporters, much higher than the first round of tit-for-tat tariffs on $50 billion in trade with China this summer. Yet it is the political and institutional implications of potential tariffs on $200 billion in automobile imports later this year that raise even bigger questions. For many consumers, […]

Two New York City firefighters look toward One World Trade Center through the open ceiling of the Oculus at the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, New York, Sept. 11, 2018 (AP photo by Craig Ruttle).

The anniversary of 9/11 has become an annual opportunity for soul-searching, for Americans to take stock of where they stand not only in the ongoing conflict with violent jihadism but more broadly as a nation. One thing stood out this year: Americans are more pessimistic about the struggle against al-Qaida and its offshoots than at any time since Sept. 11, 2001. In a sense, this is understandable. The United States is still mired in Afghanistan and Iraq with no sign of victory. Jihadism persists in many parts of the Islamic world and is even spreading to new regions. It continues […]

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif addresses a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sept. 26, 2017 (AP photo by B.K. Bangash).

Evidence of ethics violations by President Donald Trump and his inner circle continues to accumulate, with a rash of plea deals, indictments and guilty verdicts broadsiding the White House in recent weeks. But while Americans grapple with what some observers have called the most corrupt presidential administration in U.S. history, a remarkable wave of anti-corruption activism has swept the rest of the globe. In the past three years alone, corruption scandals have led to the ousting of prime ministers in Pakistan and Malaysia, impeachments of presidents in Brazil and South Korea, and resignations of presidents or prime ministers in Guatemala, […]

Election posters for Jimmie Akesson, right, leader of the far-right Sweden Democrats, and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, second from right, Flen, Sweden, Aug. 30, 2018 (AP photo by Michael Probst).

Yesterday’s anniversary of the 9/11 attacks passed by with relatively muted commemorations. This is understandable given the passage of time, and how we commemorate increasingly distant events. But if the immediate consequences of 9/11 have faded, the less visible aftereffects of that day’s trauma persist. At times, these aftereffects, no less pernicious for being hidden, spring into full view—most recently on Sunday, when Swedish voters made the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party the third-largest in parliament. It would be relatively easy to trace the rise of anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe, of which the Swedish electoral results are but the latest example, […]

The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Nov. 18, 2017 (AP photo by Alex Brandon).

The Trump administration on Monday announced that it would close the office of the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s delegation in Washington, D.C. In an announcement, the State Department said the closure was in response to what it called the PLO’s failure “to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel.” It also expressed concerns over the PLO’s efforts to have the International Criminal Court investigate Israel for war crimes. The closure of the office, which functioned as a de facto embassy, is the latest in a series of moves by the Trump administration that have strained ties with the […]

A U.S. and Niger flag are raised side by side at the base camp for air forces and other personnel supporting the construction of Niger Air Base 201 in Agadez, Niger, April 16, 2018 (AP photo by Carley Petesch).

It is often hard to figure out precisely what President Donald Trump’s security strategy is. He seldom talks about U.S. national interests and priorities other than trade. His broad regional policies are vague or missing altogether. This is particularly true for Africa. Nearly halfway through his term, Trump has made no speeches on Africa, has not visited the continent, and was slow to appoint an assistant secretary of state for African affairs, America’s key policy coordinator for that part of the world. All this suggests that after 50 years of modest involvement in African security, the United States may be […]

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Indian Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman head to a meeting, New Delhi, India, Sept. 6, 2018 (AP photo by Manish Swarup).

What a difference a year makes. Last October, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson delivered a major policy speech on U.S.-India ties and the critical role India would play in the Trump administration’s new Indo-Pacific strategy. A month later in Vietnam, at the annual summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, President Donald Trump championed India’s role in the region—even though it’s not a member of APEC—signaling that he was serious about accelerating strategic cooperation with India. But now, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis in New Delhi this week for high-level talks with their Indian […]

An MD 530F military helicopter targets a house where attackers were hiding, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 21, 2018 (AP photo by Rahmat Gul).

Aug. 11 was the beginning of a very difficult week in Afghanistan. After several weeks of growing pressure from the Taliban, over 1,000 of its fighters attacked Ghazni, a city of 270,000 that straddles the vitally important Highway 1 linking Kabul with the south of the country. The attack on Ghazni brought back haunting memories of the battle for Kunduz in the summer of 2015, when the Taliban seized control of a major Afghan city for the first time since 2001. A series of Taliban attacks across several neighboring provinces compounded an already bad situation. In the Ghormach district of […]

President Donald Trump talks on the phone with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto in the Oval Office of the White House, Washington, Aug. 27, 2018 (AP photo by Evan Vucci).

To ancient Greeks, the dog days of summer came when the star Sirius, known as the dog star, was positioned prominently above the horizon just before sunrise. The star was linked with disaster, even war, at the height of a hot summer. Its meaning evolved over the centuries as it was translated from ancient Greek to Latin and, eventually, English. In Washington this summer, U.S. trade policy has suffered through its own version of the dog days. There was the lethargy associated with trying to resolve the trade war with China. There was the sudden storm of President Donald Trump […]