July 06, 2018

President Donald Trump

President Donald Trump

Source: The White House

The president’s approach already reflects some commendable and much needed changes, genuinely putting America first and making foes and friends alike take American positions more seriously.

America’s international conduct has become noticeably more muscular, relying on a significant increase in the military budget and a demonstrable willingness to use force. This is particularly true in Syria; Trump’s red lines are more credible than Obama’s, and when Trump threatens to use military force, few are ready to gamble that the American president is bluffing.

Indeed, when the president has decided that important U.S. interests are at stake, he has been prepared to go further than his predecessor Barack Obama. Limited but psychologically effective air strikes against Syria, as well as the decision to supply Ukraine with Javelin anti-tank missiles (which Obama avoided due to fears of escalating the conflict there), show that Trump is willing to use military force not only as a last resort, but as a legitimate and essential tool of American foreign policy. This offers the United States an important advantage in dealing with adversaries like Iran and North Korea. As a result, each is less certain that America will give up on its core objectives if it fails to get what it wants through economic and military pressure.

No doubt many people believe Barack Obama is a better man than Donald Trump in a moral sense. And perhaps he is. But who, in any case, has been better in foreign policy? With characteristic liberal naïveté, Obama thought that “better communication” would bring about more harmonious relations with our enemies and chief competitors, as if they were as weak-minded and weak-willed as the guilt-laden white liberals at Harvard. On the contrary, this only enabled them to become more insolent, defiant, and haughty.

Trump lacks Obama’s poise, polish, and amiability. Short-tempered, unpredictable, and sometimes nasty, Trump is at home on the street corner, not in the Ivy League. Yet it is the former that comprehends real life, while the latter is an insular world in which, having no skin in the game, people can not only believe in but pride themselves on their bad ideas. It is owing to the unseemly aspects of Trump’s character that men like Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong-un respect and, what is more, fear him. In contrast, Obama, though so slick and eloquent, struck them as the “snivelling opposition.”

Of course, Trump’s critics will go on moralizing about how awful he is. Nor will they consider—so deep is their naïveté—that in some cases it is Trump’s very moral defects that make him so well suited to politics.

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