The President’s trip to the G-20 meeting in Japan produced some foreign policy blunders that will prove harmful to America’s national security. The problem is that he just wings it without bothering to develop an understanding of complex international issues.
Trump started off by suggesting that the U.S. defense treaty with Japan was unfair. He noted that we are obligated to defend Japan if it is attacked, but Japan would not have to defend the U.S. What he does not understand is that the treaty provides significant national security benefits to our country.
We can base substantial forces on Japanese territory, projecting American power and influence throughout the eastern hemisphere. That is a vital part of our defense posture against our Asian adversaries. An attack on Japan by China or North Korea would also be an attack on our forces. Plus, it was our intention in negotiating the treaty to limit Japan from having a large standing military force.
After gratuitously shaking our alliance with Japan and insulting the German chancellor, the president cuddled up with Vladimir Putin, our principal adversary. Trump joked with Putin about Russia’s attack on the 2016 election. They both got a good chuckle when our commander in chief gave a comic admonition to Putie to stay out of our next election.
Putin and any other adversary around the world got a loud and clear message that an election attack in support of the right presidential candidate would not be regarded as a hostile act against the United States of America.
From the very infancy of our nation, foreign meddling in our affairs has been regarded as unAmerican. When France was torqued off because President Washington signed a treaty with Great Britain, the French ambassador let it be known that we might be at war with France if electors voted for John Adams in 1796. It did not work because Adams won (and, there was no war).
Washington then warned in his Farewell Address that “history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government.” Americans have ever since been wary of and hostile to foreign interference in our affairs, or at least until 2016.
The president then buttered up Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as an exemplary leader, despite his murderous war in Yemen and the prince-approved slicing and dicing of a Washington Post journalist. Trump praised Prince Charming’s treatment of Saudi women, which must have provided great comfort to the Saudi women’s rights advocates rotting away in Saudi prisons.
The president then turned his affections to Kim Jong-un, the homicidal tyrant in charge of North Korea. In exchange for further elevating the world stature of this loathsome despot, we got nothing but a vague promise to go back to the bargaining table.
Even the president’s advisers admit that Kim will not give up his nuclear weapons and it seems to be dawning on Trump that this is the case. My prediction is that we may see a deal where Kim gets to keep the nukes he presently has if he solemnly promises not to build any more — move the goalposts, declare victory and move on.
Seat-of-the-pants foreign policy is certainly easier to do because you don’t have to have in-depth knowledge, perform detailed groundwork, and craft a binding agreement, like the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran.
That agreement took excruciating work by many nations but it was ironclad and verifiable. It successfully prevented Iran from working on nuclear weapons until Trump unilaterally withdrew from it. Now, we can’t seem to find a workable replacement short of a seat-of-the-pants war.
Jim Jones’ previous opinion work can be found at https://JJCommontater and in his new book, "Vietnam…Can’t get you out of my mind."
Jim Jones served as an Army artillery officer in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 and received an Army Commendation Medal for his work with an orphanage there. He served for eight years as Idaho Attorney General and was a justice on the Idaho Supreme Court for 12 years. He currently resides in Boise.