US flexibility on display: A disturbing development
In this blog post I comment on an article with the title Beyond the bluster, Donald Trump’s foreign policy takes shape, published in the Financial Times, today.
The author – Roula Khalaf – is of the opinion that president Trump is ‘falling in line‘ with Obama’s foreign policy, and that there is now quite some ‘continuity‘ in foreign policy of the United States.
I do not agree with these observations. Although Trump recently retracted from some of his bold statements, his ambitions and style – the values he represents – differ fundamentally from his predecessor’s: Obama was inclusive, while Trump is ‘America First‘, just to name one such difference.
Until today – despite some pragmatic restraint from his advisors (including foreign secretary Tillerson , and Mattis, the US secretary of Defense) – the United States still lacks a coherent strategy (to achieve what, and how?), and its incoherent foreign policy initiatives only have in common that they are highly militarised and uncoordinated.
Although Trump now “has accepted that Nato is not obsolete as he once thought and the EU is not destined for break-up as he once hoped“, it is much too early to judge on Trump’s ‘performance‘: Until now, his words cannot be trusted, while his actions only caused chaos and discontent.
The author even observes progress: “What’s new is added flexibility: military advisers no longer clear every move at the White House level, therefore allowing for a more nimble pursuit of the battle in Iraq and Syria. What’s also changed is that there are fewer public pronouncements about how, when and where Isis will be fought. That’s a sound strategy when confronting an enemy. It would be useful if the president embraced it more often”.
The author should be aware that this so-called ‘flexibility‘ has resulted in a sharp rise in civilian casualties. These military actions did not contribute to anything, other than to satisfying Trump’s desire for self-aggrandizement. This so-called ‘flexibility‘ in fact contributes to a serious form of escalation of hostilities in the world, also referred to as “The Trump doctrine of forever war“.
The fact that “there are fewer public pronouncements about how, when and where Isis will be fought” is not “a sound strategy” as Khalaf puts it. It only is a tactic to hide the absence of coherent policy/strategy, and avoid public scrutiny.
It is disturbing how fast – and that seems to include Khalaf after her “trip to Washington”, – policy advisors, the military, and in this case journalists – fall in line with Trump’s and the United States’ irresponsible actions.
The current disturbing developments already become the ‘new normal’.