I worry about Trump’s foreign policy. A lot. He is forever trying to make deals, whether we’re talking about Iran, Russia, China, the EU, the Middle East, Cuba or North Korea. He measures “success” by the deal. No deal, no success.
I don’t think that’s the way to succeed. It smacks of Chamberlain, not of Churchill. It invites aggression. I get the uncomfortable feeling that Trump is unwilling, or perhaps unable, to see the world plain, to accept the fact that some of those with whom he wants to deal not only aren’t interested, but are committed enemies who want to defeat us. Trump’s relentless quest for deals is likely to convince such enemies that we are not up to their challenge, that they have nothing meaningful to fear from this administration, and that they can attack us at will without fear of reprisal.
Some of the deals he seeks are not attainable, because his would-be deal counterparts are not the least bit interested in dealing with us. Iran, for example, wants us destroyed or dominated. The small group of fanatics around Ayatollah Ali Khamenei believes that Allah has decreed the triumph of radical Islam over Western godless secularism. They think time, and God, are on their side. Why should they make a deal when their triumph is divinely assured? They are undoubtedly thinking, if he can’t bring down Venezuela’s Maduro, how can he possibly topple us?
As we have just learned, President Trump invited Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif for talks in Washington. Zarif said no. Then we sanctioned him, as if we were determined to punish anyone who won’t deal.
Meanwhile, the fundamental question is never asked: what is our mission? Is it to make a deal, or to defeat our enemies? If it’s the latter, we need to define “defeat our enemies.” I worked for years to defeat the Soviet Union, which meant bringing freedom to the peoples of the satellites. In the end, we succeeded, thanks to the efforts of anti-Soviet dissidents throughout Russia and the captives in Eastern and Central Europe. Don’t we want the end of the hateful regimes in Tehran, Pyongyang, Havana, Caracas, and the others?
Trump and his top advisors, Pompeo and Bolton, don’t seem to want that. Or, perhaps to put it more accurately, they believe that tough words and harsh sanctions are enough to either break the enemy regimes or compel the enemies to make deals favorable to us.
I am not convinced. I believe that our enemies were quite afraid of Trump in 2017. They know that their peoples are restive, and that the methods that brought down the Soviet Empire could well bring down the tyrants in Beijing, Moscow, Caracas, Havana and Tehran. They feared Trump would adopt those methods, as was suggested by the selection of General Michael Flynn as national security adviser.
I do not believe the Iranians, Venezuelans, Russians and the others are afraid of Trump anymore. Sanctions will not be sufficient to bring down these enemy regimes; we need a more revolutionary strategy.
Alas, national security is not like New York business. Deals are not always possible. This is war, not competition for real estate, and we need a winning strategy.