U.S. President Donald Trump, acting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton hold a news conference after participating in the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 2018.
Yves Herman / REUTERS

It has become a commonplace to describe the foreign policy of U.S. President Donald Trump as unpredictable. But doing so mischaracterizes the man and the policy. In fact, although Trump’s actions may often be shocking, they are rarely surprising. His most controversial positions—questioning NATO, seeking to pull out of Syria, starting trade wars—are all consistent with the worldview he has publicly espoused since the 1980s.

The unpredictability of this administration originated not in Trump’s views but in the struggle between the president and his political advisers on the one hand and the national security establishment

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