Progress Amid the Chaos

The foreign policy of the Trump administration remains a mass of contradictions, with the White House evidently divided among nationalists, pragmatists, and certain advisors who prescribe an ever expanding hegemony.  These rivals have clashed in recent weeks over the question of sending a surge of U.S. troops into Afghanistan—some 5,000 more to supplement the 8,400 who are already there.  As proved by the administration’s air strikes against Syrian forces in April and the increasing tempo of small-scale military operations of all kinds, this White House is not allergic to the use of force.  Voters who cast their ballots for Trump as the America First candidate who would keep the country out of more unwinnable wars in the Middle East have to wonder whether the President has already been swept out to sea by Washington’s imperial undertow.

Yet the foreign-policy establishment is genuinely unhappy—it isn’t getting what it wants in any systematic way, as it would be if a Bush or a Clinton were in office.  There is a deep fear that, while Trump may be an ad hoc, tactical interventionist, his overall strategic disposition still favors reducing America’s long-term commitments.  Trump may no longer say NATO is obsolete, but he keeps the alliance unsettled by insisting that our affluent allies pay their share for Europe’s defense.  Trump sells arms to the Saudis...

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