Let’s take a bird’s eye view at the foreign policy accomplishments of Donald Trump in the past 500+ days:
Trump has insulted our allies and made nice with long-time adversaries, showing a decided preference for autocrats such as the Philippine’s Duarte and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un over democratically elected leaders, especially those who happen to be women.
He has walked away from multilateral agreements that were working such as the Paris Accord and the Iran Nuclear agreement. He has also threatened to blow up other trade agreements and kept the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has given the Chinese an opening to dominate Pacific trade.
Trumpty-Dumpty has inflicted trade tariffs on our allies, who have always played by the international rules of treaties, while helping out a Chinese company ZTE, which was found to have broken trade sanctions multiple times.
He pissed off most of the world by making an unnecessary and totally symbolic move of the U.S. embassy in Israel and he took sides in a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar that we had no business poking our noses into.
Trump has weakened the U.S. foreign policy capability by shrinking the State Department, forcing out career diplomats and not filling open positions. Meanwhile, with the help of Congressional Republicans, he has increased the military budget and approved further development of robot weapons that operate without human intervention and the next generation of nuclear weapons. He has also jacked up American use of military power in a number of global hotspots. The net effect of these policies is to tell the world that America is turning its back on the idea of multilateral diplomacy in favor of pushing its military might around.
Even the one move that might work out in favor of the United States could end up backfiring, an instance of losing by winning. That’s the Korean peninsula. While the world would be safer from nuclear attack if the North Koreans dismantled their nuclear capability, de-escalation of tensions between the two Koreas would curtail the need for so many U.S. troops and weaponry in South Korea, military assets which are directed at China and Russia as much as at North Korea. A peace treaty could also enable China to build a pipeline through North Korea to provide South Korea with natural gas, something that will help both China and Russia. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to broker a peace and thereby denuclearize the Korean position. I’m merely pointing out that to truly contribute to world peace, the United States must in a sense “thread the needle,” i.e., construct a nuanced deal that seems beyond the capabilities of the broad-brushed, bad-with-details Trump to engineer. The result then could be a lopsided deal that while stabilizing the Korean peninsula also destabilizes representational democracy throughout the globe.
Many of Trump’s foreign policy moves, such as the help to ZTE and the bullying of Qatar have seemed to be connected to his private business matters. The move against Qatar followed Qatar denying the Trump organization some loans, whereas the help for ZTE came after the Chinese delivered a massive loan to a Trump partner. If it’s true that the Trump Administration has made deals with countries based on how well those countries treat Trump’s business interests, it will be unconstitutional (the “emoluments clause”), unethical and unheard of. Throughout American history, politicians such as Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Averill Harriman, John Foster Dulles, George W. H. Bush and others have conducted foreign policy to help American businesses, but it’s never been their own business!
Of course, virtually all of the foreign policy actions Trump has taken have help Russia in one way or another, providing at least circumstantial evidence that Trump is the “Siberian candidate,” bought and paid for long before the 2016 elections.
What kind of person sells out his or her own country for money? Some would say a self-centered narcissist. Or perhaps a ruthless power seeker, much like David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem, who used the troops of his country’s enemy to take control. Or perhaps like several British communist spies, Trump thinks his country is unjust or wrong, and has thrown in with a country pursuing a superior way of life. Based on the body of evidence made in his public statements, for Trump a superior way of life would be an ethnically cleansed white country whose autocratic government tries to control the mores and beliefs of its citizens. It doesn’t, however, matter much why Trump would have sold his soul to Putin. It still makes him the same thing: a traitor.
We should also consider the possibility that there is a basic miswiring in Trump’s brain, something that compels him almost always to make the wrong decision. I once tried to teach someone chess who, when presented with overwhelming evidence that one move was strong and another weak, would repeat with a great deal of cognizance the facts and then always make the wrong move. Always. You could see this disconnect in the person’s approach to math, too, so it was a basic miswiring in the brain, a kind of defect that made this person make the wrong choice. Perhaps Trump has a similar disability. That he also tends to take the side against evidence in immigration, environmental, healthcare and gun control issues provides additional support to the idea that his brain doesn’t work quite right, as does his past failure in every business except branding and entertainment.
Of course, Trump’s problem could be in his head, not mental, but emotional. In his extreme narcissism, perhaps Trump believes that the power of his will can overcome the reality of facts. As the superior man, he can bend the actions not just of other humans, but of nature itself. He wouldn’t be the first to mistake Schopenhauer’s “will to power” for an advantage the superior man has over others. Hitler and his crew beat Trump to the punch in trying to will the world into their own base and debased image. In saying that he dominated the most recent G-7 summit, in not seeing that he embarrassed himself and the United States, we see signs of the narcissism that makes some people believe they can shape, change or twist reality to their own liking.
So yes, it’s quite possible that the Trump foreign policy derives from a small brain malfunction, his emotional illness or even just his unfortunate but almost laughable combination of ignorance and low intellectual abilities.
But I’ll bet on the money. He has sold out his country for a bag of gold coins, like Benedict Arnold or Judas Iscariot.