Trump Making Foreign Policy

Trump Making Foreign Policy

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Much is being written now in the wake of Trump’s victory about the future of U.S. foreign policy and international affairs in general. Concerns are global in nature but there is a special apprehension being noted with respect to the highly unstable Middle East. From Syria and Iraq to Iran and Saudi Arabia as well Yemen, Afghanistan and Israel, there are so many unknown. How will Trump deal and respond to international terrorist incidents? What will be America’s future role in the Middle East in a Trump Administration in general and what will President Trump’s interest be toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? (It is seems clear that there are already two diametrically opposed views on Israel issues present within his own White House/family staff; between his daughter and son-in-law Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner versus Stephen Bannon, Trump’s third campaign CEO and now the President-elect’s chief strategist and senior counsel.)

As is the case in so many policy areas, few people have any true sense of what was bluster and noise from Trump during the campaign and what may well be his core attitudes, beliefs, and concerns in international politics. Does he believe in a two-state solution, will he charge Israel more money for military assistance, does he have any problems with increased Israeli West Bank settlements, and does he really intend to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem? All these and many more issues jump out at students of the region as they contemplate Trump’s totally blank record of policy positions; except for his campaign rhetoric.

Even if the foreign policy appointments being considered come to fruition—many are serious and veteran diplomats, scholars, politicians, and public statespersons with proven, some with controversial, records and statements–it is unclear to what he extent he will rely on their analyses and evaluations versus unknown positions which may be strictly his own whim? To what extent will they reflect his own rather mercurial and unpredictable style and to what extent will they be sober, thoughtful policy decisions?

The statements of many Israeli leaders and diplomats about the nature of U.S.-Israel relations during the next few years is totally speculation and wishful thinking. No serious leader has the faintest idea where Donald Trump will seek to lead the nation; to whom he will listen; and whether he will even listen to anyone. Israelis as well as the entire world, ought to be wary about him and they have little to gloat about after the Trump victory. There is truly a fear of the unknown which ought to be anxiety producing and not a time to relax. 

Will Trump expect his critical national security team to develop a creative innovative policy direction for the U.S. within Trump’s general values and beliefs, or will they merely be implementing Trump’s policies? Will the new foreign affairs team come in expecting to change or direct policy and/or will they leave when he pays little or no attention to them? 

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