The Trump foreign policy: year one
As the completion of the Trump administration’s first year comes into focus, it is difficult to sift through the loud drumbeat of Russian “collusion” and the endless noise that emanates from the mainstream media about the shortcoming and failures of the Trump administration. Despite all the noise, false statements, and reckless claims the world is ending, the inexperienced outsider that came to Washington on 20 January 2017 has produced some important surprises and clear, measurable gains overseas in his first year in office. In just under one year, the president has managed to slow and ultimately halt the slide of United States credibility and influence on the world stage. Respect him or fear him, across the world, every national leader that matters knows there is a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.
The Russia policy arena is a good place to start now that a bright light is shining on what the Obama administration actually did over the past eight years. Russia exploited the opportunities created by feckless Obama policy statements and decisions like “leading from behind”, the Russian “reset”, the Syrian “red line” on chemical weapons, and the Hezbollah drug trafficking decisions, to name just a few.
The reversal of course, the display of resolve, coupled to a willingness to risk has made Russia, and other major global players sit up and take notice of this man from Queens, N.Y. The actions and results of the Trump policy changes have become impossible to ignore. In 2013 Obama ended 69 years of stability on the European continent when he reduced Americans armored combat capacity to just two armored brigades. Putin answered that foolish decision with an invasion of Ukraine, and within a year, moving a significant Special Forces and air combat capability into Syria, while propping up the Assad regime and cementing his alliance with Iran in the Middle East theater.
President Trump quickly moved to address the shortsighted national security decisions that provided both opportunity and advantage to Russia. Trump initiated arms shipments to Ukraine, changed the rules of engagement and force structure in the Iraq-Syria theater to counter ISIS and tilt the Kurdish balance of power in Syria. The president crafted and initiated new sanctions efforts on Russia, Putin regional allies and business contacts, and Iran.
Along with these moves, the quiet change in the U.S. military rules of engagement in Iraq and Syria, coupled to a most lethal application of Special Forces operational capacity and increased operational tempo resulted in the near total destruction of ISIS capacity to make war. The strategic decision to arm our Syrian Kurdish allies resulted in the elimination of the ISIS capability in Syria. The defeat of ISIS in Syria, specifically in Raqqa, the declared capital of the Islamic Caliphate barely made the news cycle in the U.S. mainstream media.
The Trump administration’s first trip abroad displayed a bold, but risky step to travel to Saudi Arabia, Israel and to Rome to meet with the Pope, signaled the administration’s willingness to meet directly with the leadership of the three largest religions. The predictions of calamity, broadcast by the media, and the dismissal by the Washington elites of this bold approach, was countered by Trump with blunt discussions, new ideas and positive results at every stop.
The Saudi leadership made a public statement recently ending their official support for Wahabi Islam which has been practiced since the 1970’s inside the Kingdom and exported and funded across the region and the Islamic world. The Saudi Crown Prince declared the Saudi State would revert back to their historical roots of moderate Islam, welcoming the region’s historic religions back to the kingdom. This move was an earthquake in the Islamic world. The significance of which has been barely covered by the western media.
Coupled to this new opening and much closer working relationship with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Arab states on the problem of Islamic extremism from both Sunni and Shi’a sects, is a policy shift to roll back the Iranian quest for power, influence and land conquest across the Arabian peninsula and the Levant to the Mediterranean Sea. The recognition of the threat posed by the Shi’a Crescent, connecting Iran to the Mediterranean Sea, Lebanon and Syria addresses the central national security concern from our historical Arab allies.
The Trump administration has addressed the two-state solution head on, with new, bold thinking, and a creative approach. After decades of failure and stalemate in the “peace process”, he declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, and committing to move our embassy there, disrupting decades of entrenched, inflexible thinking. Trump made good on yet another campaign promise, and by contrast, put the focus on the hollow pledges of the past three U.S. presidents. These bold moves in the Middle East are not lost on North Korea and China for instance. The thinking and reactions of both nations are impacted by the moves President Trump is making in the Middle East. Trump is establishing a pattern of behavior that impacts the North Korean nuclear issue. All but forgotten is the fact that the North Korean dictator used a deadly nerve agent to assassinate a political enemy in the International Airport of Kuala Lumpur. This was a breathtakingly bold and dangerous action. North Korea, like Iran (Rafic Hariri’s killing in Beirut), has displayed a willingness to use assassination as a political tool on the international scene and get away with it.
The international diplomatic support that the administration has assembled on the North Korean issue, coupled to a firm and swift coalition military policy and deployment strategy, has changed the narrative on the North Korean nuclear issue. Despite the breathless claims that Trump was racing toward war on the Korean peninsula, quite the opposite is true. A clear policy has emerged, with international support, that has brought considerable military might to bare in order to strengthen the diplomatic and economic levers of the West and our regional allies. The policy is playing out now, in a firm, disciplined way.
All in all, not a bad start for the rookie from Queens, N.Y.
Williams is manager/sole owner of Howard Stirk Holdings I & II Broadcast Television Stations and the 2016 Multicultural Media Broadcast Owner of the year. Listen to Mr. Williams on Sirius XM126 Urban View nightly 6-8 p.m. EST.