Four months into his administration, U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign and national security policy is still a work in progress, a shifting, improvisational blend of diverse, sometimes conflicting themes and attitudes. It has elements of the traditional American approach to the world but also much that is unorthodox. When it comes to the Trump strategy, the traditional and the nontraditional seem locked in a daily struggle for dominance.
Now Trump is leaving on his first major international trip. In a best-case scenario, the results may indicate the direction he will take during the rest of his administration and demonstrate Trump’s ability to play the international leadership role as American presidents have done since the 1940s. For the time being, however, Trump has not been known for best-case scenarios.
The trip is an ambitious one. It will begin in Saudi Arabia, where Trump will stress the importance of combating the so-called Islamic State; seek to explain and strengthen the coalition opposed to violent extremism; and, according to the White House, give a speech on Islam. He then travels to Israel to reinforce America’s support and attempt to jump start the Arab-Israeli peace process. Next up is Rome, where Trump will meet Pope Francis. He will then attend a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels and wrap things up back in Italy for a meeting of the Group of Seven advanced democracies in Sicily.