Trump’s Foreign Policy Has Courted Disaster. Why Hasn’t It Caused One?

Trump’s Foreign Policy Has Courted Disaster. Why Hasn’t It Caused One?
President Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Washington, Feb. 4, 2020 (Pool photo by Leah Millis via AP).

These are heady days for U.S. President Donald Trump. Secure in the knowledge he will survive impeachment, Trump is also coming off a string of what he can and does depict as foreign policy successes.

Closer inspection reveals these “successes” to be mixed bags at best and little more than hot air at worst. His trade war with China produced a “phase one” deal that leaves most of the underlying tensions unresolved, with any potential gains remaining hypothetical. And so far, his so-called maximum pressure campaigns against North Korea, Iran and Venezuela are 0-for-3 when it comes to concrete strategic gains.

Much to his critics’ chagrin, however, these and Trump’s other pseudo-accomplishments, such as the updated NAFTA trade deal, now rebranded the USMCA, will make for useful soundbites on the campaign trail this year. In all likelihood, Trump will weave them into a broader narrative, one that paints him as an iconoclast outsider who was unafraid to grab hold of the various third rails of the U.S. foreign policy consensus—and who lived to tell the tale.

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