In his first address to Congress last night, U.S. President Donald Trump promised to deliver a budget to Congress with “one of the largest increases in national defense spending in American history.” A day earlier, an administration official outlined plans to raise defense spending by $54 billion, or roughly 10 percent, in next year’s federal budget, while slashing outlays for the State Development and foreign aid. Though any final budget numbers will take months of negotiations with congressional leadership, the proposals are emblematic of Trump’s approach to foreign policy and international affairs.
His is a world where the strong impose their will on the weak, whether by economic or military means. That’s not to say there is no room for cooperation where interests converge. But there is none for compromise where they don’t.
This worldview projects contempt for soft power, or a state’s ability to gain allegiance and influence through attraction and persuasion rather than compulsion. Indeed, Trump is surrounded by advisers who deride soft power as being simply a slightly longer way of saying soft or powerless.