"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.... For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon.... "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
"From this moment on, it's going to be America First....
"Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.
"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
"We have two different foreign policies in this country right now, which is catastrophic for us," Connecticut Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy said on CNN's "State of the Union" on 08 October 2017. "We have one foreign policy that comes from the State Department and the Department of Defense. And then we have another foreign policy that comes from the President's Twitter feed." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson declined to deny that after a recent meeting he’d called the president a “fucking moron.")
After a year in office, the essense of the Trump Doctrine emerged - embrace your enemies, particularly brutal dictators, and alienate your friends, almost all of which are democracies. Trump thrashed out and got into fights with everything and everyone. This president has his hands in all the hot spots of the world — whether in the Middle Eastern countries Syria and Iran or in North Korea. To even think about taking on these trouble spots, he would need allies. But he kept alienating them one by one.
Internationally, gathering storm clouds set nerves on edge, with some questioning Trump's leadership on the world stage. Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, said 31 December 2017 that Trump's unpredictability and the disruptive nature of his presidency has created "an incredibly dangerous climate." "We're actually closer, in my view, to a nuclear war with North Korea and in that region than we have ever been," he said on ABC's "This Week." "I don't see the opportunities to solve this diplomatically at this particular point," he said.
US President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump announced on Twitter on 13 March 2018 that Tillerson would be replaced by Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo. Trump and Tillerson had reportedly been at odds over how to deal with North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and a nuclear deal with Iran. In July 2017, Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "fucking moron" following the president's suggestion that the U.S. should increase its nuclear arsenal 10-fold. Pompeo had regularly briefed Trump on intelligence matters and was said to have earned the president's trust.
Trump also released a statement through a White House spokesperson that he is confident Pompeo is "the right person for the job at this critical juncture." He also said Pompeo "will continue our program of restoring America's standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Pompeo said in a statement that he looks "forward to guiding the world's finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the president's foreign policy."
Tillerson joined a long list of senior officials who have either resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017. Others include strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, health secretary Tom Price, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.
Donald Trump and other top national officials, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, had increasingly favored use of the term "Indo-Pacific" over the more conventional "Asia-Pacific." Scholars, politicians and strategists in Australia, Japan and India have also been pushing to popularize the idea of the "Indo-Pacific" and make it the basis for regional policy. As key drivers of a new Indo-Pacific concept, the US, Australia, Japan and India share common geopolitical concerns regarding China's rising influence as a major power. Despite joint concerns toward managing China's rise in the Indo-Pacific region, the four Quad countries may diverge on specific strategic considerations and priorities. Importantly, the geographic region where their concerns come from has expanded to not only the established Asia-Pacific region, but also the areas surrounding the Indian Ocean.
India's engagement and Act East policy overlaps with Japan's "Broader Asia" vision, which is vividly manifested in the joint "confluence of the two seas" concept. Yet, while Japan's Indo-Pacific idea carries with it a strong overtone of balancing and even containing China along with "the arc of freedom and prosperity," India places a high premium on developing its own regional security, political and economic interests.
The Trump administration strongly prefers a policy of withdrawal and retrenchment rather than engagement, prompting Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, to describe Trump’s foreign policy as “the Withdrawal Doctrine." While there was a legitimate debate over whether the United States overplayed its hand after the unipolar moment following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Washington was damaging its core interests through neglect.
Trump’s stand on any number of issues has been subject to vacillation. His view of the Iran nuclear deal swung from acceptable to unacceptable in the same day. He’s shown similar swings in his views of foreign leaders. Trump’s foreign policy has been incoherent and usually reflected the views of whoever was most influential with the president at any given moment. Trump has shown no sign of reversing his attitude toward the members of the diplomatic service and the intelligence community in the country, hinting at the possibility that the divide between the United States and the rest of the world can only get wider. It goes without saying that the void in international politics is always filled in with contenders, such as great powers Russia, China, the European Union as well as mid-size powers, in various parts of the world, such as India, Brazil and Turkey.
Fox's Laura Ingraham asked Trump on 03 November 2017 "Are you worried that the State Department doesn't have enough Donald Trump nominees in there to push your vision through?" Trump said: "I'm the only one that matters" in setting U.S. foreign policy, thus downplaying the importance of high-level jobs such as the assistant secretary of state, which is currently vacant. "Let me tell you, the one that matters is me," Trump said in an interview that aired on Fox News on Thursday night. "I'm the only one that matters, because when it comes to it, that's what the policy is going to be. You've seen that, you've seen it strongly."
The most obvious element of the Trump Doctrine is strategic ambiguity, or incoherence. There are no dispositive sources of policy, which may constradict itself from day to day. Officials like Kellyanne Conway and Sebastian Gorka tried to downplay Trump’s internet habits and dismiss news outlets that report on his tweets. But Trump remains president, and his opinions (no matter if they’re mis-spelled) carry a lot of political weight. Given Trump's unique rhetorical style and apparent willingness to quickly change positions, some caution against reading too much into any one of the president's statements, especially those he publishes on Twitter.
On NBC's Today, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway lamented the "obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little of what he does as president," and on CNN's New Day, Trump's Deputy Assistant Sebastian Gorka called Chris Cuomo's focus on Trump's tweets "irresponsible" and told him he was "obsessing," concluding that, "if you want to keep talking about a tweet, then you're not serving your audience well or the American public." Both Conway and Gorka referred to the media's coverage of Trump's tweets an "obsession." White House press secretary Sean Spicer regularly dodges questions from reporters by claiming the president's tweets speak for themselves. Trump himself has attacked the media for repeating quotes from anyone but him, saying "Don't believe the biased and phony media quoting people who work for my campaign. The only quote that matters is a quote from me!"
“Increasingly I think the equilibrium we’re all headed towards is everyone inside the US gov and outside just ignoring what POTUS says," MSNBC’s Chris Hayes wrote 11 August 2017.
Appearing on CNN 11 August 2017, Leon Panetta said “I understand that this is a President who comes out of the development industry in New York City, comes out of reality TV. I think he kind of prides himself that talking is kind of his business, and talking is the way he appeals to his base, and he’s been able to win election to President because of his ability to talk... But when you are President of the United States, and when you are Commander-in-Chief, this is not reality TV. This is a situation where you can’t just talk down to everybody in the world and expect that somehow you can bully them to do what you think is right. These are leaders in these countries. They worry about their countries, they worry about what is going to happen. And they take the President of the United States literally."
Another evident element of the Trump Doctrine is that America is simply the most powerful state among some 200 other state actors, none of which share common interests, but rather engage in one-off transactional relations. Like a real estate deal, there is always one side that gets the best of the deal, and each deal is seperate from all the others. H.R. McMaster and Gary D. Cohn wrote May 30, 2017 in an oped in the Wall Street Journal "America First does not mean America alone. It is a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests while also fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships with our allies and partners. A determination to stand up for our people and our way of life deepens our friends’ respect for America…. The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community" but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it."
A third element of the Trump Doctrine is a preference for authoritarian figures, and a disdain for the human rights record of other countries. In the early months in office, Trump embraced Dueterte in the Phillippines, Erdogan in Turkey, and Xi in China, without a peep about their treatment of their own people. In contrast, he was scathing in his criticism of European leaders such as Angela Merkel.
And fourth, the election of the New York-born reality star set off what Wilson Dizard termed "a retreat into monarchism" in the capital city of the republic, where the president has delegated crucial duties to his family members while neglecting to staff civil service. Nowhere was this more clear than in the US Department of State. Dozens of diplomatic positions went unfilled by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Trump tasked his son-in-law Jared Kushner with the momentous task of building peace in the Middle East. So far, Kushner’s intervention perhaps helped yield the Qatar diplomatic crisis. It’s almost medieval, the government under the Trump administration. You have the king and the royal family around him and you have all these princes and court jesters all trying to influence the king. There is no system. There is no control. It’s all whoever talked to him last.
After a few months in office, Donald Trump began to repudiate many of the the positions he had articulated during the 2016 electoral campaign. There were quick reversals on a "One China" policy in a renewed pledge to Xi Jinping; on the Iran nuclear agreement in a pledge to Federica Mogherini; and on the U.S. mutual defense pact with Japan in a pledge to Shinzo Abe.
At the G7 summit on 10 April 2017, Rex Tillerson declared the US would punish "all who commit crimes against the innocents anywhere in the world." This far-reaching statement in Italy, basically vowed that the US would attack anyone and make anyone accountable who has harmed innocent people. Washington would thus be acting as world police - even without permission, if need be. Tillerson had changed his tone on Syria several times in the previous week. Despite expressing opposition to intervention during his election campaign, Donald Trump ended up attacking Syria anyway. There was no adequate explanation for why Trump shifted his stance from "America first" to "America everywhere." Some suggested this was a domestic diversionary tactic, as Trump wanted to prove that Russia did not hand him the US election, and that his campaign team's connections to Moscow were innocent. The Russians will wait to see whether US foreign policy will stabilize, or whether yet even more sudden changes are in store.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left no doubt that Russia would have to change its Syria policy and sever its ties to Iran and Hezbollah. Such defiance of Moscow would not have been expected a few days ago. Since the alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria, Tillerson has reflected the Trump administration's dramatically changed stance on the war. Intentions of rapprochement with Russia have been replaced with a course of confrontation.
- There was a seismic shift in the US administration's position on Syria. The statement by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 11 April 2017 that the reign of President Bashar Assad's family "is coming to an end" suggested the US was taking a much more aggressive approach about the Syrian leader. The remark came after a U.S. airstrike in Syria and threats of more punitive action. Only weeks earlier, U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, were signaling a willingness to work with Russia and saying that Assad's status was not a priority for the time being.
- Donald Trump on 12 April 2017 declared the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “no longer obsolete," three months after he said the alliance had outlived its usefulness because it had not defended against terrorist attacks. “The secretary general and I had a productive discussion about what more NATO can do in the fight against terrorism," Trump said at a joint news conference with NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg. “I complained about that a long time ago and they made a change, and now they do fight terrorism. I said it was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete."
- As tensions rose over Syria, Trump seemed to walk away from campaign promise to improve ties with Moscow. President Donald Trump has declared that US relations with Russia "may be at an all-time low". His top diplomat offered a similarly grim assessment after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow earlier on 12 April 2017. "Right now we're not getting along with Russia at all," Trump said flatly during a White House news conference. Only weeks ago, it appeared that Trump, who praised Putin throughout the US election campaign, was poised for a potentially historic rapprochement with Russia.
- On 13 April 2017 Trump said he won't label Beijing a currency manipulator. In one of the sharpest reverses of his presidency, Trump backed off from a campaign pledge by saying he would not declare China to be a currency manipulator, an action that could have led to higher tariffs on Chinese goods. The accusation had formed a basis of Trump's argument for lost American jobs, on the grounds that an undervalued currency was boosting Chinese exports and leading to artificially low prices, all at US manufacturers' expense.
The hard-line, populist tenor that dominated Trump’s insurgent candidacy gave way to a centrist governing philosophy and within three months after taking office, he edged away from some of the nationalist themes that endeared him to his base. Steve Bannon's influence had waned and his days in the Trump White House seemed numbered. On 05 April 2017 Trump removed chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon from his role on the National Security Council (NSC). On 11 April 2017 Trump said “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late," Trump said. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary." Trump ended by saying, “Steve is a good guy, but I told them to straighten it out or I will."
Jared Kushner was, until his father-in-law ran for president, a lifelong liberal and a Democratic donor. Bannon had called Jared a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’ - “cuckservative," a portmanteau of “cuckold" and “conservative". Cuck is a favorite slur on the right, used to condemn moderates as emasculated girly men. Cuck a sexually and racially charged version of “RINO," a Republican In Name Only. “Globalist" is a term typically used by nationalist, pro-Trump right-wingers, a code word for Jew [Kushner is Jewish].
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised a radically different approach to foreign intervention than that of his predecessors. At campaign events, Trump railed against U.S. military intervention so frequently that it eventually became a part of his stump speech. “We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East," Trump repeatedly lamented. “We could have rebuilt our country twice." In his first year as president, Pentagon data suggests Trump has struggled to carry out his “America First" approach to the world, at least when it comes to the use of force.
Instead, Trump has sent more U.S. troops to conflict zones in the Middle East and South Asia. He’s dropped more bombs on Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. And he’s expanded a global campaign of targeted drone killings. Add it all up, and it’s hard to see how Trump’s foreign policy is any less interventionist than his predecessors. If anything, Trump’s policies are a little more hawkish than those of Barack Obama.
No conflict exemplifies Trump’s approach more than Afghanistan, where the US had been fighting Taliban insurgents for 16 years. Before becoming president, Trump was a regular critic of the war, calling it a waste of lives and money and demanding an immediate withdrawal. "Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense! Rebuild the USA." And "It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests."
But six months into his presidency, Trump reversed his position, instead deciding to indefinitely extend the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. Under Trump’s plan, 3,000 more U.S. troops will be sent to Afghanistan, backed by an expanded U.S.-led bombing campaign. According to U.S. military figures, the NATO coalition is on pace to triple the number of bombs dropped on Afghanistan in 2017 compared to the previous year. The bombing could continue to expand in 2018, in part because of the relaxed rules of engagement that allow the U.S. military to go after insurgent targets.
Since Trump took office, there has been a 31 percent increase in the number of U.S. troops and civilians working for the Pentagon in the Middle East and North Africa, according to Pentagon data. That includes increases not only in well-known conflict areas, such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, but also in Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. The U.S. military also acknowledged it has about 2,000 troops in Syria - four times as many as Pentagon officials previously said. The U.S. forces will stay in Syria indefinitely.
Drone strikes have also continued in non-battlefield settings, including Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Libya - a continuation of President Barack Obama’s global campaign of targeted killings. If Obama expanded the U.S. drone program, Trump has expanded it even more, both in terms of geography and frequency. In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes have tripled, and in Somalia they have doubled this year compared to last.
Rules of Engagement (ROE)
In the fight against ISIS in Mosul, the United States adjusted its rules of engagement (ROE). Under the December 2016 Obama directive there had been some “relatively minor adjustments" that decentralized part of the process of approving fire missions as the campaign moved from a largely defensive campaign to an offensive one. Under an additional directive issued by Trump in February 2017, US advisers embedded at the brigade level were able to directly deliver support such as airstrikes and artillery fire to the units they're partnered with. Previously, such support would have gone through a whole a strike cell bureaucracy and through Baghdad.
Trump hadn’t eliminated Obama’s troop number limits. Thus, the caps of 503 for Syria and 5,262 for Iraq remained. But the military is ignoring them with White House approval by using an existing loophole to categorize deployments as temporary. On 31 March 2017 the Pentagon said that officially there are 5,262 U.S. troops in Iraq, though officials privately acknowledged a couple thousand more there.
On the campaign trail in late 2015, Donald Trump pledged to “bomb the shit" out of ISIS if he became president. "The other thing with terrorists," then-candidate Donald Trump said on “Fox and Friends" in December 2015, "is that you have to take out their families."
In December 2016, when the Army issued its latest Rules of War Manual, military leaders planning operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria may authorize strikes where up to 10 civilians may be killed, if it is deemed necessary in order to get a critical military target.
The collateral damage estimation (CDE) included a threshold of predicted civilian deaths called the Non-Combatant cutoff value or NCV. his number is the threshold of predicted deaths where, in order to get permission for the strike, the targeteer has to prove that the military utility is so significant as to make those predicted deaths acceptable.
The procedure for every military action involves a precise evaluation of the number of civilian deaths likely to result from a given military action. According to the LA Times: “The U.S. military predicts how many people will die in its airstrikes by surveilling and estimating the population within a proposed blast radius. It also sets a limit on the number of innocent people each command is authorized to kill incidentally. This limit, called the Non-Combatant Cutoff Value, or NCV, is perhaps our starkest rule of engagement, and it varies region-by-region for political reasons."
Obama-era rules required "near-certainty" that no civilians will be killed in airstrikes. Under Trump, there was a transfer of risk from military forces onto civilians. Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan had been designated “areas of active hostility," but drone strikes in other areas such as Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan required high-level approval under Obama-era doctrine.
In March 2017 Trump lowered the threshold on acceptable civilian casualties from a “near certainty" of no such deaths to “reasonable certainty". In March 2017 Trump gave the US military more authority to conduct offensive airstrikes on al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia.
On 31 March 2017 Sarah Sewall, undersecretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights during the Obama administration, said that Trump had "moved the Somalia engagement of U.S. forces from the category of more targeted uses of force to that of general hostilities.... The former category required that only those who were a direct threat to Americans could be targeted. Now they can be targeted if they’re members of an organization that’s an associated force with the perpetrators of 9/11.... the former standard of using the use of targeting according to a near certainty of not killing civilians has now been relaxed.... the laws of war still apply, so uses of force still have to be proportional and they still have to be discriminate."