US President Donald Trump's foreign policy is not chaotic but rather based on a clear set of ideas that can be called the “Trump Doctrine,” said Kiron Skinner, former head of policy planning at the State Department.
Speaking Thursday at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference, Skinner said that the perception of chaos is because “so many in Washington don’t support or believe” that the president has a set of ideas about the direction and purpose of US foreign policy.
Skinner, who served in the senior State Department position from 2018 to 2019, said that this doctrine has a number of pillars, the first being the return of the importance of national sovereignty, and the idea that the nation-state is the place “where economic growth and prosperity comes from, and where people are protected.” International organizations and law matter, but are secondary to this core unit, she said.
A second pillar, said Skinner, is that “burden-sharing has to take place among nations of common purpose,” as well as new regional partnerships. One such partnership that Trump has discussed, she said, is between the US, Israel and India to counter China in Asia.
Another pillar in the Trump Doctrine is “reciprocity in trade agreements.”
Skinner said that if everyone around Trump would take his ideas “a lot more seriously, I think we would have less chaos in US foreign policy.”
According to Skinner, Israel is “a central part” of the Trump Doctrine as it pertains to burden sharing and regional partnerships: Israel is the democracy in the Middle East, as well as the strongest military and economic power, and the “US can’t move without a close alliance with Israel in the Middle East.”
Another part of the Trump Doctrine, she said, is “clarity of language, and that clarity of language and purpose got us to move our embassy to Jerusalem, and led to unprecedented official visits to the Western Wall. So Israel is a key pillar. If the goal of all this is to buy all of us a generation or two more of freedom in the world with the US a dominant actor, I don’t see how that happens without Israel.”
Skinner said that “what we are seeing with the [Trump administration’s] more aggressive Israel policy is just a fulfillment of the president’s views and what he said he would do in the election campaign.”
She said that Trump was trying to address some of the issues around Israel’s security, but not at the expense of anyone else’s, and she maintained that the Palestinians do not “lack a lobbying force in Washington, both inside the government and outside. There is strong support for them, not just in the State Department, but in the national security community.”
Skinner said that while there was some institutionalized bias against Israel in the State Department and throughout the US government, there has been more of a lack of direction regarding Israel that would allow those who are “part of the government on a more permanent basis” to go in a direction that would support Israel.
Trump, she said, has been strong and declarative on Israel, and the “part of government that is responsible for foreign policy” needs that direction.