Date: 2016-11-12 08:15 pm (UTC)
I wrote a huge post about my attempts to suss out Trump's foreign thinking. Aaaaand then LJ ate it. But to summarise a few of my views in bullet points,

1) On the campaign trail Trump most often described the world in terms of what looks a little like an amateur version of Layneian off-shore balancing. However, he was prone to contradiction and would often jump from that position to very different ones. (For instance, his whole "take the oil" thing, which arguably constitutes precisely the sort of morally disastrous, financially expensive military adventure that off-shore balancing advocates would normally strive to avoid.) I believe this is a reflection of Trump's fundamental inexperience.

2) If Trump wishes for a grand bargain with Russia, he should be prepared for a lengthy and difficult process. Russia is likely to test the waters soon after Trump's inauguration, so he needs to have his ducks in a row rather quickly. Relatedly, to avoid miscalculation on both sides, Trump should temper his readiness to negotiate with a strong affirmation of US support for its European allies.

3) Some of his key foreign policy ideas would actually be workable if they were handled appropriately and adroitly. Unfortunately Trump has repeatedly undermined these ideas through incoherence, heavy-handedness or irresponsibility. This again seems to reflect Trump's fundamental unfamiliarity with foreign policy, and underscores the need for a competent foreign policy team.

4) Many of Trump's campaign pronouncements described a fantabulous alternate reality in which the United States can do major things, and then nobody actually reacts to those things in any real way. This is painfully manifest in pretty much everything Trump has said about China. This general lack of dynamism and nuance could have been a mere campaign posture, but might just as well be another thing that reflects Trump's basic inexperience with how the world works.

5) Trump generally undervalues American alliances, which is arguably compatible with off-shore balancing ideas, but also a dramatically different conception of US national interest than that shared by most of the US foreign policy establishment at large. I think this will mean not only foreign troubles -- US allies generally do not conceive of their relationships to the US in the reductionist way Trump has publicly described those relationships -- but it also means that Trump will have a certain level of resistance from the State Department.
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