TrumpPolitik: The Art of the Deal Comes to American Foreign Policy

TrumpPolitik: The Art of the Deal Comes to American Foreign Policy

Trump the businessman and dealmaker is the epitome of pragmatism—a very American tradition.

But perhaps the most significant change that could occur through the pursuit of TrumpPolitik would be a shift of focus from the concerns of the amorphous “international community” and the tenets of globalism, to concerns centered on advancing U.S. interests. Most important in this context would be an assessment of relationships with other governments based on whether they help or hurt the United States, irrespective of whether these countries’ conduct aligns with some liberal internationalist doctrine.

TrumpPolitik would certainly place more emphasis on strengthening U.S. relationship with the big powers of the world, notably China and Russia, a la the Congress of Vienna system, as well as with regional “influentials” like Turkey, Indonesia and Brazil. Instead of allowing the governments of Southeast Asia to play China and the United States against each other, Beijing and Washington could negotiate above their heads and reach agreements that those governments would have to accept.

Similarly, the United States has no interest to be drawn into the nationalist and ethnic rivalries of East and Central Europe. That was not why NATO was established in the first place, and there is a certain element of Chutzpah on the part of Germany and other European countries in trying to get the United States involved in their territorial disputes with Russia, while they continue to maintain their bloated welfare states and resist raising their defense budgets.

But it’s in the Middle East where TrumpPolitik could prove to be the most effective, if, instead of engaging in new crusades to spread democracy, Washington works together with the main regional powers to restore the status quo and maintain the territorial integrity of states like Iraq and Syria, even if that means cooperating with unsavory autocrats and denying independence to the Kurds while placing the Palestinian issue on the policy backburner.

These kinds of policies would probably be decried by the usual suspects in Washington as being “cynical” and contrary to American values, the same foreign policy elites that got the United States into the current mess in the Middle East and elsewhere. But with the collapse of the Houses of Bush and Clinton, and the intellectual bankruptcy of the mainstream media and the political pundits, President-elect Trump has a mandate from the American people to change the foreign policy course. Or at least try.

Leon Hadar is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, and author of Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).

Image: Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference. Flickr/Creative Commons/Gage Skidmore