TEHRAN (Basirat):Donald Trump was the first American president to enter the White House with no political or military experience. He is temperamentally unfit for the office, is not intellectually curious about the world, and is not concerned about the intricacies of policy and policy-making
POLITICAL CENTER- James L.
James L. Gelvin is a professor of History at the University
of California, Los Angeles.
Trump was the first American president to enter the White House with no
political or military experience. He is
temperamentally unfit for the office, is not intellectually curious about the
world, and is not concerned about the intricacies of policy and policy-making
"I loved my previous life,” he recently told
Reuters. "I had so many things going.” "This is more work than in my previous
life. I thought it would be easier.” It
is difficult to predict what he will do next because he is impulsive and
visionless. He has already backed away
from a number of core policies articulated during the campaign—policies that
made him attractive to voters in the first place.
While it would be an exaggeration to
state that Trump has a strategic vision—or, for that matter, a coherent foreign
policy—he does seem to have a roadmap for his policies. Although it seems unbelievably shallow, when
it comes to foreign policy Trump thinks back to how Obama handled an issue when
he was in office and then do the opposite.
During their first meeting, Obama
warned Trump that retired general Michael Flynn, who had supported Trump during
the campaign, had been compromised by Russia and was thus a security
threat who should not be appointed to high office. Trump nevertheless appointed him to head his
National Security Council, one of the most sensitive positions in
Obama had warned the Syrian government
that the United States
would retaliate if it used chemical weapons against its own people. When American intelligence reported that he
had, Obama took no action. When a
similar report came to Trump, he launched 59 cruise missiles at Syria, violating his campaign pledge, "America
And while Obama’s policies alienated
the leadership of Israel and
Saudi Arabia and his personal
relationship with heads of state there was testy, Trump announced that his
first trip would take him to Jerusalem and Riyadh.
So what, then, might we expect from
this un Obama?
- Although he denounced the Iran
nuclear deal during the campaign and pledged to "rip it up” on the first
day in office, he did not. And the
very complexity of the deal, and the support lifting sanctions has in the
American business community and among America’s European allies,
means he probably won’t. But since
there is no domestic risk for maintaining a rhetorical hard line against Iran,
Trump will probably do so.
- Trump has pledged to make the
greatest deal of his career by settling the Israel-Palestine conflict. This was something Obama had tried and
failed to accomplish so, of course, this is something Trump aspires to. Israeli intransigence will prevent that deal
from being made, of course.
Nevertheless, it is probable that Trump will continue to tilt
further toward Israel
than any president in American history.
After all, his foundation (and the foundation of his son-in-law’s
family and his ambassador to Israel)
have donated to the Beit El settlement in the occupied West
Bank. In other words,
there will be no peace treaty and more Israeli settlements built on his
- Considering the fact that his
secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is an oil man, Trump’s administration
will undoubtedly be compliant to Saudi Arabia’s wishes. It is probable that the United States
will take a more direct approach to assuring Saudi security and increase
its presence in the Gulf—repeating the mistake made by every
administration since George H.W. Bush’s except Obama’s. The United
States will also remain complicit in Saudi war
crimes in Yemen,
and may even increase its assistance to Saudi military actions there.
- Trump has pledged to expand the
battle against ISIS, but given the fact that
Obama has done as much as militarily possible without putting "boots on
the ground,” it is hard to see how.
- Trump seems to be on the verge of
handing over America’s
policy toward Afghanistan—another
"complex situation”—to the Pentagon.
- Trump has already embraced many of
the despots Obama kept at a distance, including Recep Erdogan of Turkey and Abdel Fatah el-Sisi of Egypt. Because Egypt’s economy is so ailing,
that embrace will do nothing to benefit ordinary Egyptians.
- Trump’s cruise missile attack on Syria does
not point toward greater American involvement there. It was, to use an American idiom, a "one
off.” By the time Trump took
office, the United States
had already been effectively sidelined as a player in Syria. American diplomats are barely present at
the ceasefire talks in Astana (which will probably fail to secure a
ceasefire anyway, for all the same reasons ceasefires have broken down in
the past). Besides, the Syrian
regime, with foreign help, has driven back the opposition to such an
extent that the only thing it will be willing to negotiate is the
opposition’s terms of surrender.
Overall, barring some unforeseen
crisis, Trump’s policy in the Middle East
promises to be an erratic series of ad hoc encounters without sustained
engagement. The one bright side for
Americans is that the damage he might do will be limited by the fact that his
presidency promises to be as inept and ineffective in the future as it has been
for the past four months.