The Case for Trump’s Foreign Policy

The Right People, the Right Positions

At your service: H. R. McMaster with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Florida, February 2017. KEVIN LAMARQUE / REUTERS

Media coverage of U.S. President Donald Trump’s foreign policy has been overwhelmingly negative. Analysts have seized on early policy missteps, a supposed slowness in staffing the national security bureaucracy, and controversial statements and actions as evidence that Trump’s foreign policy is already failing. 

But the critics have gotten a lot wrong and failed to give credit where credit is due. The Trump administration has left behind the rhetoric of the campaign trail and has begun to adopt foreign policies that are, for the most part, well suited to the challenges ahead. Trump inherited a crumbling international order from President Barack Obama, but he has assembled a highly capable national security team to help him update and revitalize it. Many of the controversial foreign policy statements that Trump has made as president have, in fact, been consistent with established U.S. policy. Where he has broken with tradition, it has often been to embrace much-needed change. 

In Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Obama left behind a far more dangerous world than the one he inherited in 2009.

It is too early to pass definitive judgment on the Trump administration. But its rapid improvement, combined with Trump’s own willingness to take bold action, suggests that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger may have been right when he told CBS News last December that Trump’s presidency could present “an extraordinary opportunity” for U.S. foreign policy.  


To gauge the success of a president’s foreign policy, it helps to examine the record of his immediate predecessor. Here, the Trump administration has a low bar to clear. In Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, Obama left behind a far more dangerous world than the one he inherited in 2009. 

For the first time since World War II, Russia is redrawing the map of Europe at gunpoint. Meeting only a weak response from the West, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to threaten and undermine the United States and its NATO

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