Looking Back at 2017 – How Bad was US Foreign Policy?

Courtesy of Congressman Ted Lieu.

Written by Srishti Ganesh

Looking back, 2017 wasn’t as bad as a year or revolutionary a year for US Foreign Policy compared to what it could have been.

A cursory glance at Donald Trump’s Twitter account very well cements the idea that he is turning American foreign policy on its head. His late-night diatribes against Iran and North Korea has political analysts flipping through 70 years of American tradition to find that Trump is completely and utterly out of sync with history. But it is this intense scrutiny on his Trumpian rhetoric and late-night rants that have his critics missing the surprising resilience and stability of American foreign policy.

Trump with his style of diplomacy and temperament, has complicated US diplomacy and lowered America’s perception by the world, at least temporarily. 2018 kicked off on a note of uncertainty with unclear directions on North Korea and Iran. However, based on actions that have been taken first year in office, it isn’t far fetched to say that 2017 didn’t see the dramatic departure from traditional policy as overwhelmingly alleged. Years when foreign policy were truly momentous were the war years of 1964-1965 or 2001-2003. This doesn’t imply that for policy to be truly momentous a country goes to war. And it certainly doesn’t imply that there weren’t upsets in 2017.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord – a nonbinding and voluntary climate change pact that included counted Turkey and North Korea as signatories – signalled the shift towards the doctrine of ‘America First.’ Trump cosying up to Putin hasn’t helped progress US-Russia relations either. The more controversial official recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel brought condemnation from the Arab world, inflamed tensions in the region and probably upset any scope for peace at least in the near term. Praising the behaviour of the likes of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi– whose opponents for the upcoming presidential election have either been “sidelined, threatened or jailed”– and President Duterte of Philippines have cast doubt on American values.

Still, in each of these cases, the damage is restricted. The Paris Accord will continue to function with or without the United States, and the private sector, along with several state departments will continue to invest in and promote clean energy. The Jerusalem issue, while recognises an official capital, does not call into question the idea of boundaries, the real point of contention to Israel and Palestine. Just as Trump makes endorsement of the idea of an undivided capital, he does not mention the idea of an East Jerusalem for Palestine in the future. By praising strongmen like President Duterte and Sisi, Trump faces the dilemma of finding even ground between interests and values. And this carries on with his interests and relationship with countries like Russia and China as well. While he professes his admiration for state leaders, he continues with NATO deployments in the Baltic states and Poland, and has greenlighted US military operations, recently giving freedom for navigation operation in the South China Sea.

Looking back, 2017 wasn’t as bad as a year or revolutionary a year for US Foreign Policy compared to what it could have been.

The author of this article makes no endorsement of the president.

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