Under Donald Trump, trying to predict, dissect and understand the U.S.’s attitude to the world has become almost impossible–not that plenty of observers aren’t giving it a go. Tellingly, they’re all coming to different conclusions.
Some see a spiral into outright chaos, citing the strain on crucial alliances, Trump’s strange embrace of Vladimir Putin, and his reckless rhetoric, which sometimes gets to the point of implicitly threatening nuclear war.
Other analysts claim to identify some semblance of order, but they disagree profoundly on what that order is. To some, Trump’s “America First” theme is an isolationist rallying cry, with its implications of economic protectionism and rejection of international agreements; others see an administration even more committed to military intervention than its predecessors. And still others say that for all Trump’s sound and fury, not much has changed–that U.S. foreign policy, for better or worse, is hewing to the same methods and objectives pursued in the Obama era.
So how can we cut through all this noise and really make sense of it all? In the interests of clarity (and perhaps sanity) the first thing is to recognize that there isn’t just one Trump foreign policy. There are several. They frustrate each other with various irreconcilable differences. And collectively, they add up not to a coherent U.S. strategy, or even an incoherent one, but instead a gaping hole where a strategy should be.
The Family-And-Friends Foreign Policy
One key difference from his predecessors is Trump’s promotion in certain areas of a foreign policy set and…