At the end of 2017 there were signs that one of our biggest allies in the Pacific, Australia, was frustrated by a lack of coherency in Trump’s foreign policy.
When a staunch ally calls you the greatest source of instability in their part of the world, you know that there’s something wrong with your country’s policies.
A former Australian Prime Minister has blasted President Donald Trump for perceived policy missteps that have left allies alienated and befuddled. At a time when China has increased its investments across Asia, emplaced surface-to-air missiles in the South China Sea, and built military outposts in Tajikistan, Trump has repeatedly embarrassed his appointed secretary of state in public.
In a panel discussion that took place at the Asia Society Policy Institute in New York, former Australian PM Kevin Rudd said that U.S. allies don’t know which way Trump will jump when it comes to foreign policy.
Witness his & Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s contradictory statements on North Korea. Twice now, the president has contradicted his own Secretary of State.
In October, Trump said that Tillerson’s efforts to engage China, to bring about talks with North Korea, were “a waste of time”. This was also the same sentiment weeks earlier, after Tillerson said that the U.S. was ready to talk anytime with North Korea.
This kind of inconsistency would not be allowed even in a small business. Why would a secretary of state repeat a position he had stated two months ago, and then have the President refute him?
Is there no communication within the president’s team? Is there even a coherent policy in place? When a secretary of state gets humiliated by a boss who rants on Twitter, how does the rest of the world see America?
If that isn’t bad enough, there are also the policies that favor entrenched big business too much, such as rolling back trade agreements, gutting agencies that are charged with dealing with science, the environment, health and a healthy internet. Into this chaotic environment, China has moved to cement its influence among its neighbors using both carrot and stick.
The truth is, domestic policies and external events have conspired to steadily erode our country’s leadership role in Asia.
Afghanistan is one example. With a troop pullback under former President Obama that was replaced with drone strikes, which have killed as many innocents as valid targets. And now, a surge, where the Taliban has begun to claw back in influence and territory.
Add to that President Trump repeatedly contradicting his secretary of state, our Asian allies are getting jittery that war may be coming to their shores.
A climate of distrust has been generated, with the traditional U.S. military presence in the Pacific being seen as a concern with regard to peace and stability. It is a far cry from even just a few decades back, when America’s blue water navy was seen as a stabilizing factor by developing economies.
How did we go from being in that position to being seen as a warmongering meddler who doesn’t seem to have their allies’ backs?