Does America have a coherent foreign policy anymore?

Say what you like about Trump, he plows on, rejecting conservative tried and tested thinking, and is willing to explore uncharted waters.

October 23, 2017 20:36
3 minute read.

US PRESIDENT Donald Trump waves from Air Force One as he departs Morristown, New Jersey. . (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Watching the evening news these days on the subject of the current occupant of the White House is so confusing, so utterly riveting in its randomness, you literally have no idea what’s coming next. It’s exhilarating, terrifying and depressing all rolled into one.

But just as the financial markets need a certain amount of risk and volatility to shake things up but much prefer a “steady as she goes” approach, so do most political leaders. They are, in the main, riskaverse people.

At AIPAC two years ago, during her ill-fated run for the oval Office, Hillary Clinton said of Trump – and I paraphrase – how can you trust anything from someone who says something on Monday, something else on Tuesday and who knows what the day after that?

Hillary was alarmingly accurate. And that is the quandary US partners find themselves in at the moment. With the anchoring influence on world politics that was a steady US foreign policy now being blown in every which direction, other leaders are trying to push the US captain to the side, to try and steer the ship to calmer waters.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have both tried their hand at the tiller. This week, that self-appointed mantle fell on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s shoulders.

Speaking in the European Parliament in Brussels, the EU High Representative launched an attack against President Trump without directly naming him, claiming that isolation in foreign policy leads nowhere and that the EU is currently the “only credible and predictable” global power.

She also attacked realpolitik and pointed out that being tough for the sake of being tough is often a sign of weakness. Hemingway would have been proud. “Military force is needed sometimes but for us Europeans it’s never, never, never, the solution alone,” she said, reiterating the need for diplomacy and patience. There was precious little evidence of either in Europe this week.

Imagine for a minute the chutzpah you would need to take your local council or region to court and claim compensation for the extension they demolished that you built on your neighbor’s land, without planning permission and without consulting your neighbor. It would be the Burj Khalifa of chutzpah, right?

And yet this week eight EU countries rounded on Israel, demanding compensation for the demolition of illegal buildings in Area C.

Ernest Hemingway had a bluntness that President Trump would have appreciated. When discussing his most famous work – The Old Man and the Sea – and those who tried to find rich symbolism within it, he said that the sea is the sea, the fish is just a fish and anything else that anyone sees in it is just “shit” they want to see.

Say what you like about Trump, he plows on, rejecting conservative tried and tested thinking, and is willing to explore uncharted waters.

For Mogherini, “predictability” should not be something to brag about. She is stuck in a stale policy framework on Israel that has consistently failed to deliver. This means that President Trump, for all his manifold faults, remains the only captain worth sailing with on the far side of Mediterranean.

Maybe the earth isn’t flat after all and there is a brave new world over the horizon. Yes, it’s risky, yes it’s wild, yes it’s never been done before, but not finding out isn’t an option if we want to move forward.

The Danish have an expression that a smooth sea never made a good sailor. That’s why Israel is right to put more faith for a resolution to the peace process in the hands of the impetuous, unpredictable wild seas Trump chooses to sail in, rather than an interminable wait in the diplomatic doldrums offered by the EU.

The author is director of EIPA: Europe Israel Public Affairs, a multi-disciplined pro-Israel advocacy group based in Brussels, with offices in Paris and Berlin.

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