Cushman: Trump’s Foreign Policy Demolishes U.S. Credibility


Angela Merkel and Donald Trump (Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

By KC Ellen Cushman, Opinion Writer

Foreign policy is often a divisive issue no matter what political party someone is aligned with. The Trump Administration’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, for example, was leveled with criticism from people across the political spectrum and each for many different reasons. Some fear that the President has given Russian expansion a real foothold in the Middle East for the first time since the Cold War. Others are angry at what appears to be an abandonment of our Kurdish allies, who have been crucial in the fight against ISIS. There is another, larger issue here — that the Trump Administration’s foreign policy decisions damage the United States’ reputation around the world, and this is just the latest example.

In 2017, the Trump Administration pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement after signing it only a year earlier as part of an agreement with China. In early 2018, the U.S. announced that it would be withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran Deal, a plan negotiated under the Obama Administration to stop Iran’s path to nuclearization. And most recently, the United States made the decision to pull troops out of Northern Syria, leaving Kurdish allies vulnerable to attack from Turkey and enabling the escape of ISIS prisoners.

Individually, these decisions can be evaluated on their own merits. While I personally disagree with pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, I like that this administration has taken steps to pull back from the campaign in the Middle East. However, altogether these decisions are damaging to the United States’ reputation in the world. Other nations have no basis to trust the United States when its foreign policy not only shifts from presidency to presidency, but may dramatically change with deals negotiated under one president becoming null under the next. The Trump Administration is not just making one decision that shifts away from Obama era policy. They are establishing an erratic reputation that shows the United States is an untrustworthy ally and agreements made with our government are unstable and temporary at best. This administration has shown that within only one or two years, U.S. policy can shift dramatically, allies can be betrayed and deals that took years of negotiation can be abandoned. The value of a deal with our government is limited because of how easy it is for a new administration to come in and back out of all decisions made by the previous administration.

These relationships are worsened by Donald Trump’s complete lack of respect for foreign leaders and cultures. This pattern of behavior is well established, going back to Trump’s campaign when he talked about Mexico sending us their rapists and murderers. He infamously refused to shake Angela Merkel’s hand during a 2017 meeting, and in the same year, he went to the United Nations threatening to “totally destroy” North Korea. That was not only antagonistic to North Korea, a nation we have since tried to negotiate with, but also the United Nations and its core principles of diplomacy and peaceful negotiation. President Trump tweeted that Mexico would pay for his border wall, disrespecting their sovereignty. He mocked Paris after deadly terrorist attacks in France. He has called multiple countries “sh**-hole countries” and patronizes other nations as if they are children with tweets.

Talking down to other nations, refusing to engage with their leaders and directly threatening them in the media is bad foreign policy. It is undiplomatic and makes other nations less willing to come to the table with us. This, combined with the lack of trust that can be placed in our foreign policy decisions, is detrimental to the United States and our place on the world stage. While it has been well documented that other countries perceive the United States negatively because they think of Trump as a joke, there is a bigger picture. Trump’s negative impact on our reputation is not restricted to his time in office — this administration’s untrustworthiness will impact us for a long time, as they have demonstrated that each election is essentially a dice roll as far as relationships with other nations are concerned. To them, it’s a matter of luck whether or not the United States will be a trustworthy ally, something that will make them think twice about negotiating or allying with us in the future.


[email protected]