The knock on the average American is the clear lack of understanding of what takes place outside of our borders. Many of the most traveled Americans lack the economic literacy needed to comprehend the challenges of global economics and geo-politics that impact all nations. Moreover, few really understand the tenets of international agreements and how those rules and regulations restrict or grow our economy. As a result, many of our diplomats commonly operate with little public scrutiny. Able to present policy outcomes in any manner favorable to those in power.
Given our economic and military prowess since World War 2, the United States bears a larger burden than most of our allies, providing greater proportion of funds and accepting a larger share of burdens in international agreement. But, much has changed in the world, as Europe went from a troubled continent to a thriving economic partner and emerging economies grow throughout the globe. As such, there are many partners able to bear a greater burden in new agreements and to stay current on agreements already in place. The traditional picture of global politics is not based on reality as it is on prior situations.
In 2016, Americans grew tired of the trajectory of our foreign policy platform. Starting with the Bush Doctrine, many Americans grew tired of engagements overseas as financial and human costs increased. Under the Obama Doctrine, many Americans felt the United States did not live up to our potential and willingly burdened the American economy and taxpayers in agreements that did not achieve our national interest or objectives. These sentiments led to the desire for foreign policy approach focused on achieving our interest, protecting our economy from unfair trade practices, and enforcing the rule of law, as agreed upon.
President Trump came into office without any experience in politics or diplomacy. Much like his predecessor, President Trump came into office green in terms of global diplomacy. Experience in this area largely resided in terms of his international business deals, promoting hotels, golf courses, and products and services to his company’s global customer base. Despite a clear gap in experience, then candidate Trump had a unique ability in speaking to issues that directly impacted individuals and their futures, without the use of political speak. As most politicians use carefully crafted speeches and diplomatic visions, Trump effectively spoke to what harmed American companies and what his Administration would about it, which would come in the form of America First.
The America First policy approach changed the manner American negotiators would achieve international agreements and seek to renegotiate or withdraw from current international agreements deemed ineffective. Impetuses for such an approach largely were the Trans Pacific Pact, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the Paris Accord, which either placed great burden on the American economy or provided American taxpayer dollars without any defined achievement or goal. Although prior administrations viewed American strength through our economic prowess and cooperative efforts, the America First approach would demonstrate strength through assertively promoting our values and interests, aggressively dealing with global rabble-rousers, and directly addressing shortcomings of our allies in living up to their ends of agreements.
There are legitimate reasons to be hesitant over the America First approach. Many opponents worried about retaliatory efforts made by nations like China, which would not willingly accept punishment for alleged market manipulation and IP theft. Furthermore, some worried how our allies would respond to requests that changed terms of well established agreements. For the environmentalists, who believe the Paris Accord fought climate change, pulling out of the agreement questioned whether the United States would remain a leader in the green economy. Finally, Trump's background and demonstrated persona provided questions of whether his team could achieve such an aggressive agenda.
To this point, the America First approach proves effective in providing justice to violators of human rights and destabilizing terror organizations. Throughout the Obama Era, organizations like ISIS grew largely unchecked as Obama officials focused more on climate change than terrorism. But, now that growth is reversing, as these groups no longer find safe havens or face empty threats. Moreover, the aggressive approach forces dangerous regimes like North Korea to seek diplomatic solutions rather than stare down potential military conflicts. Since the United States withdrew from the Iran Deal, one reasonably can expect Iran to weigh renegotiations over facing conflicts with the United States and Israel.
The question for anti-Trumpers, some Trump faithful, and people in between is why has the more aggressive approach worked? Foreign policy pundits are far better prepared to address the intricacies, but people respect assertiveness. For instance, some fringed when Trump brazenly asked allies to pay outstanding balances for NATO, which many obliged. In many of the cases, Trump and his team make valid arguments that are hard to disagree with. In other cases, allies understand that compliance in one area may be beneficial in future negotiations. But, the words spoken by Trump may be tempered when actual face to face dialogue is taking place.
President Trump’s blunt style and lack of decorum creates legitimate doubts over potential success for his agenda. Fortunately for him, his performance provides actual results that meet the public’s expectation. Foreign policy is another area where his style clashes with his substance, as he delivers results in blunt and chaotic manner. Going forward, President Trump and his team need to clean up the messaging part of his agenda but retain the efficacy of it. Setting aside the controversies, real and fabricated, Trump really is providing Americans real results.