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Whatever you think of the United Nations, you’ve got to give them credit for honesty. When President Trump declared before the General Assembly Tuesday that “my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country,” the diplomats did what Trump’s MAGA crowds never do.
They burst out laughing.
No wonder comedian Alonzo Bodden says, from his professional perspective, that he ponders presidential pronouncements and thinks, “Wow, this guy’s good.” Trump’s foreign policy, the subject of his UN speech, is as big a joke as his scant domestic accomplishments.
It’s also a forgotten subject in the ruckus over his SCOTUS nominee's alleged sexual misdeeds, rampant corruption among his aides and the administration’s xenophobia. But Trump’s dropping the ball on matters of war, global climate change, and nuclear proliferation affects, already or potentially, the lives of countless ordinary Americans, and voters should keep in mind just a few major failures come November.
Our longest-ever war. War being a matter of life or death for Americans in uniform, the Afghanistan fiasco — marking the 17th anniversary of its start next month — was one area where Trump foolishly abandoned his initial instinct to wind down our presence. It didn’t take a PhD from West Point to realize that the coalition forces there now couldn’t win when five times as many under President Obama couldn’t. And that a war that’s dragged on longer than World War II, in a land that has defied other superpowers over the centuries, was pointless.
The current stalemate confirms what common sense predicted. The wretched Taliban regime runs much of Afghanistan as civilian casualties mount, partly due to the local ISIS franchise. We could get out and still ensure the country doesn’t revert to a pre-9/11 safe haven for terror attacks, but the administration seems uninterested.
North Korean nukes. If bluster could blow up the world, Trump and Kim Jong-un would have ensured you and I wouldn’t be here to have this conversation. That they didn’t is the good news. The bad: Trump’s vaunted outreach to North Korea has little to show so far.
Kim has suspended nukes tests and promised to shutter an important nuclear reactor — but he’s done these before, only to walk them back. That previous link also quotes experts who don’t believe Kim’s “denuclearization” offer means giving up all nuclear weapons. For now, South Korean president Moon Jae-in is having the most promising if insufficient negotiations with Kim.
And now, Iran’s nukes. Iran was abiding by the deal; Trump’s pullout in May clouded prospects for resolving the country’s support for terror and long-term denuclearization. He reimposed American sanctions that the administration says have crippled Iraq; actually, Iranian woes owe as much to homegrown mismanagement.
Trump’s fair-weather friend-making of the U.S., one expert warns, could lead the Iranian public to heed those of its leaders who are “calling for giving up on the West and turning inward and eastward instead.” Which is why our European allies in the deal are working with the Russians and Chinese to dodge our sanctions and keep the deal alive.
Climate change. Withdrawing from the Paris accord at least kept a campaign promise — a dumb one from a candidate who called warming temperatures a “Chinese hoax.” It isn’t, and addressing it isn’t as costly as climate change deniers pretend.
China. His misguided trade war with this crucial nation (and with our European friends), one Trump fan wrote, are “bargaining chips” to open foreign markets, but they’re not working. Rather than open up, China retaliated with tariffs on our farm exports that led this summer to collapsing prices for those goods. Trump as much admitted he’d goofed when he offered American farmers $12 billion — compensating them for a policy that was supposed to help them. European likewise hit us with tariffs.
This goes to the heart of Trump's foreign fumbling. In the 2016 campaign, his voters bought his boast that he was our dream dealmaker, gifted with a businessman’s talent for extracting better arrangements from foreigners than prior, supposedly feckless presidents.
Yet the few overseas successes Trump supporters can cite — ISIS’s collapse in Syria (if not Afghanistan), getting Kim to negotiate, pressuring wealthy NATO allies to pony up more for their own defense — either began under previous presidents or, as with Kim, remain works in progress.
Meanwhile, in the wake of self-inflicted trade wounds, Mexico’s vaya al infierno on paying for his wall, and nothing burgers so far from North Korea and Iran, Trump’s deal-making, in which narcissism subs for doing his policy homework, is revealed for the scam it is.
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