As Trump's Foreign Policy Emerges, Watch His Temperament in Washington
In three weeks, Donald Trump will enter the White House with less experience and more foreign policy uncertainties and contradictions than any incoming commander-in-chief in modern history. U.S. national security policy will be a conundrum, characterized by stark discontinuity and some surprising continuity. Any prognostication must come with a healthy dose of humility.
Yet the contours of future Trump policy are coming into focus, looking across the three strategic arenas that matter the most to U.S. national security interests – the Middle East, Asia, and Europe. And as dramatic as the world promises to be, far more important for foreign policy will be what happens here at home, where the protracted political crisis has not reached its climax.
The Middle East has been the crucible for American foreign policy during the past 15 years: it is U.S. policy in the Middle East – specifically, Syria and Iraq, or “Syriaq” – that has been the defining foreign policy issue for the past two presidents. Although Trump (and most foreign policy experts) describes Obama’s Middle East policy as a failure, expect to see mostly more of the same.
For example, when it comes to the fight against ISIS, the U.S. will continue airstrikes — over 17,000 since September 2014 — and American forces will still train, equip, and coordinate with Iraqi troops and Syrian opposition. Although there could be some ratcheting up of U.S. military pressure on Assad, there’s a little indication that Trump is interested in getting the U.S. mired in war in Syria; so he, like Obama, will worry about escalation. Expect battlefield successes against ISIS strongholds to continue in the next few months: Iraqi forces, with significant American help, will liberate Mosul with the Syrian city of Raqqa soon to follow. While both efforts are well in train, they will be victories Trump certainly will tweet as his own.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore
The dramatic retreat of Iraqi forces from cities, towns, and provinces in Western and Northern Iraq and the threat of lasting territorial gains for the al Qaeda-inspired “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria” (ISIS) come as a sobering reminder of the dysfunction endemic to Iraqi politics, and of the heavy toll that the festering Syrian war is likely to exact from the region and the world.