Tuesday 20 March 2018

His shortcomings are glaring but Trump is by no means a buffoon

'Nor should Trump be dismissed too readily as a foreign policy buffoon.' (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
'Nor should Trump be dismissed too readily as a foreign policy buffoon.' (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Mary Dejevsky

Voice rasping, baseball cap askew, Donald Trump is criss-crossing America making his urgent last claims to the White House. The polls may be narrowing - they generally do as the day itself finally approaches - but there is still nothing in the Republican candidate's appearance or demeanour to suggest a president-in-waiting - at least not a president the United States has elected in recent times.

His shortcomings as a nominee appear particularly glaring on foreign policy, where - so it would seem - his priorities can be summed up on the back of an envelope: bring Putin in, keep the Mexicans out and make other countries pay a proper price for US protection. And it is in foreign affairs policy that the contrast with Hillary Clinton - former First Lady, former Senator, much-travelled former Secretary of State - is at its most stark. Trump can easily be dismissed as an ignoramus, and/or a danger to US power and standing in the world.

This, though, is to underestimate two realities: the first relates to Trump's view of the world, insofar as he has divulged it; the second to how the United States actually works. On Trump himself: it is quite simply wrong to argue that he has no coherent world view. Those of us who regard ourselves as liberal Europeans, or US Democrats, or even middle-of-the road Republicans may not like it - and may choose to highlight the apparent contradictions - but it fits into a strand of foreign policy that has existed in the United States for a very long time.

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