Trump has no real foreign policy strategy: American expert

June 7, 2017 - 17:14

TEHRAN - Prof. William O. Beeman, head of the anthropology department at the State University of Minnesota, is of the view that Donald Trump “has no real comprehensive foreign policy strategy”.

“He (Trump) views foreign policy as a series of ‘deals’ between him and foreign leaders,” Beeman tells the Tehran Times.

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: What are Trump’s priorities?

A: President Trump is currently under attack for his personal behavior and management style. This is currently preventing many things from getting done on the legislative side.

If the problems with his treatment of classified information (conveying[as1] strategic information to the Russians), his contradictions of his own pronouncements, and the chaos of his own White House organization were resolved he would still face many problems in getting his agenda passed. His chief agenda items are:

1. Reduction of taxes for the wealthiest Americans and for American corporations. This would be "paid for" by reductions in spending for social services, culture, scientific research and other public benefits, making ordinary Americans much poorer.

2. Elimination of the Affordable Care Act, the current Health Care legislation in the United States. The Republican proposals for change in the Health Care Act will result in poorer, more expensive health care for all Americans, but it will give a huge tax cut to the wealthiest Americans. This is why President Trump's critics claim that the health care reform is really a tax cut in disguise.

3. Restriction of immigration, and expulsion of immigrants who are undocumented (about 11 million people). This consists of restrictions on visas, building a "wall" on the Mexican border, and rigorous enforcement of immigration laws against those who are in the United States "illegally."

4. Increased employment--but there is no real strategy to accomplish this. Trump employs "supply-side" economic strategies, where by cutting taxes on the wealthy, he claims that economic activity will increase and the nation will have more tax income because of increased profits.

5. Increased enforcement of crimes, even very small crimes.

6. In foreign policy Trump is isolationist. Trump wants the United States to stop paying for military and foreign aid to other nations. He wants other nations to pay for their own defense, and take care of their own refugees. He wants to restrict immigration and erect trade barriers. He thinks this will make America great again. It is a stark retreat from the view of an interdependent world.

As you can see, most of these policies are designed to increase the wealth of the wealthiest Americans, and to reduce support for middle class, poor and immigrant Americans. Some people call this "Robin Hood in reverse" referring to the legendary English hero who stole from the rich to give to the poor. Trump and his Republican supporters are stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

Q: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller were considered the most influential persons affecting Trump’s decisions. However now the focus is on Jared Kushner. What is your opinion?

A: Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller have been much less prominent in recent weeks. Bannon seems to have been active during the early part of Trump's administration when he was issuing executive orders. Now Trump must work with legislators to pass new laws and regulations, and Bannon is ineffective in this phase of Trump's work. Miller has proven to be antagonistic and unhelpful and has disappeared from the public scene. He may still be influencing Trump on Israeli policy, but because of the continuing scandals in the White House, it is hard to know what this means. Kushner is Trump's son-in-law, and it is generally felt that he is inexperienced and naive. He may have "influence" but his knowledge is very shallow. He is an Orthodox Jew, and therefore it is assumed by the White House that he can handle the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This is, of course really absurd. This complex issue requires years of experience and knowledge, which Kushner does not have.

It is emerging that Trump does not really value expertise as much as he values "loyalty." Anyone in the White House who is not "loyal" is being eliminated. Being "loyal" means not telling Trump about his own mistakes or anything else that he doesn't like. Even Bannon, Miller and Kushner have had trouble in this regard. When they try to tell Trump that he is mistaken, he gets angry and refuses to listen to them. In fact, they may all be fired very soon.

Q: Who determines Trump’s foreign policy?

A: This is a puzzle in the United States. It seems that Trump has no real comprehensive foreign policy "strategy." He views foreign policy as a series of "deals" between him and foreign leaders. He is improvising as he goes. So he meets with them individually and tries to solve big problems with a short meeting. This is a business model, not a political model, and foreign policy specialists are worried. He says one thing to one leader, and then something to another leader that contradicts his first dealing without understanding the consequences.  Moreover, he reverses himself regularly. He has dropped bombs in Syria and Afghanistan that had essentially no effect, but got headlines in U.S. papers, and were popular. He liked that his popularity increased when he dropped these bombs, so he may try that again, as ridiculous as it may seem as a strategy. The Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has very little knowledge of foreign policy. Jared Kushner is young and naive and has even less knowledge, so these individuals are not modifying Trump's views on anything.

It is emerging that Trump does not really value expertise as much as he values "loyalty." Anyone in the White House who is not "loyal" is being eliminated. Being "loyal" means not telling Trump about his own mistakes or anything else that he doesn't like.

President Trump is about to leave on a foreign trip. We will undoubtedly see him meeting with foreign leaders, with smiling pictures, and individual "deals." However, this is certain to be disruptive, and it may take years to stabilize American foreign policy after this trip--which I believe will be disastrous.

Q: Which think tanks have effect on Trump’s foreign policy?

A: We see less activity from the right-wing think tanks, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Council), WINEP (Washington Institute for Near East Policy) and the AEI (American Enterprise Institute) or the Heritage Foundation. Their representatives are not appearing on television or in the press as they did during the Bush administration. In fact some persons associated with these think tanks have been critical of President Trump. But the basic problem is that Trump has no cohesive policy on anything.

Q: What about the role of lobbies by certain countries such as Saudi Arabia?

A: The Saudi Arabians have a strong supporter in Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who has extensive experience there because he was CEO at Exxon Mobil. Also, Trump's anti-Iran stance is supported by Saudi Arabia. Trump recently received the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, who is hostile toward Iran.

HJ/PA

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