Donald Trump is defining his foreign policy, and Presidency, through confrontational initiatives. Just as civics experts are concerned about the impact of Trump’s controversial ways on civil engagement, foreign policy experts are concerned about the impact on America’s image and alliances. With Trump officials already unprepared and struggling to fight a global trade war as well as reunite migrant children, who were separated from their parents at the US-Mexican border after they were arrested for illegally entering the US, the last thing they need is a direct challenge to America’s most pivotal alliances via Trump’s demand for NATO countries to spend 4% of their GDP on the organization. Claiming Germany is controlled by Russia, even as the US President strengthens his own ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump’s obvious goals were to diffuse criticism against him and pressure European nations into accepting his demands while the obvious result was outrage.
Time and time again, Donald Trump has shown that he does not care about offending or angering others. He simply wants to have things his way and he is willing to do anything to get his way, until he gets his way. The problem with people like Donald Trump is that they do not understand there are costs to treating people badly, so he engages in unnecessary, costly, and often counterproductive provocations. Confronting issues is one thing. Attacking people is something entirely different. In the case of NATO, the strategic military alliance is struggling to redefine its mission and purpose in the post-Cold War world despite the threat the Ukraine Crisis exposed. The NATO allies do need to do more to provide for their own national and regional security, but Trump’s lightly veiled threat to hand Europe over to Russia only creates distrust and uncertainty. What NATO needs is leadership as it struggles to redefine itself, which is something it likely cannot get from the controversial, erratic Trump Administration.
With that said, Donald Trump behaves the way he does, because he wants to establish his power over others. If people take him seriously, which is hard not to do when he has the might of the United States at his fingertips, his overtures are rather unsettling. Donald Trump derives his power over others by either upsetting them or shaking their confidence. In other words, he gets others to loose control, so they cannot engage him with sound and logical arguments that he does not have the ability to refute. It is why people like Vladimir Putin, who expertly sows chaos wherever he seeks to dominate, are able to successfully engage Donald Trump. Parents, who react to their children’s antics with emotional outbursts, cannot take control over their own children, because they have a lack of control over their own behavior. The same is true with Trump. The key to successfully engaging someone like Donald Trump is to seize control of one’s own emotions, project confidence, and assert one’s views.
Examining the constant stream of Trump and Trump Administration stories blanketing the US and international news, there is an emerging theme: contention. The world is being primed to react to all news about Donald Trump with hysteria and anger. A large part of it is that a huge proportion of professional journalists and their associates simply hate Donald Trump. They hate him so much that they cannot hide it. Their vitriol for the President bleeds into every word of every news story they cover. Despite their aspirations for objectivity and professional ethics, journalists are allowing their contempt for the man to define their coverage of the President. What makes their reporting of Trump’s leadership so indignant is that their professionalism compels them to take him seriously as the US President, even though they do not take him seriously as a person. They are conflicted, which is what fuels their uncontrollable anger. What they need to do is learn how to compartmentalize their treatment of the President’s public policies and Trump’s outlandish behavior.
The world needs to confront the implications of the Trump Administration’s public policies as serious issues, but Trump critics, dissenters, and combatants also need to learn how not to take Donald Trump seriously. The simple truth is that most anti-Trump factions criticize everything he does, because they already do not take him seriously. They just need to stop disempowering their own selves by reacting instead of acting. In the case of America’s European allies, Trump’s tenure is limited. In all his dealings as the US President, Trump needs to either force concessions quickly or outlast the pain of the conflicts he initiates. By 2018 or 2020, the US political system will correct the Trump factor. Outside of his well-supported populous positions, including those on “fair trade,” Trump’s power to radically change US foreign policy is limited and temporary. The best course for America’s allies is to plan for future Presidents and seek bilateral relations with the US that better reflect the interests of the American People, not Donald Trump.
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