Donald Trump is not a rational actor.

Hawaii Intelligence Digest, 26 January 2017, 00:35 hrs, UTC. Post #93.


Author:  Stephen M. Walt, Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations, Harvard University.

Accessed on 26 January 2017, 00:35 hrs, UTC.

Please click link to read the full report and analysis.


Although many foreign policy experts have weighed in on the shortcomings of the new Donald Trump presidency, this analysis by Professor Stephen M. Walt, Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations at Harvard University, is one of the most critical and objective statements on the new administration.

For Professor Walt, the incoming Trump Administration will be a foreign policy and geopolitical intelligence disaster.  Walt adds that “whether by accident or design, Donald Trump is isolating himself and irratically unraveling The World Order.”

In this 10-page essay, Professor Walt outlines several areas where Mr. Trump will have difficulty:

Mr. Trump has made little effort to make peace with the media or with groups that opposed him. Rather, Mr. Trump “has played entirely to his base” and “enters office with the lowest approval rating of any new president in history.”

Mr. Trump appears “to be operating straight from the Erdogan-Berlusconi-Putin playbook” which makes the new president suspect from the standpoint of real motivation or intent on matters such as trade, defense, and social welfare.

Mr. Trump has a “delicate relationship with the national security establishment” because he has used a confrontational style with those who brief him on worldwide intelligence matters.

Mr. Trump’s overall approach to foreign policy may lead to a continuing disaster in the Middle East.  Mr. Trump has promised “to get rid of the Islamic State right away…but how do you do that, and how do you make sure the Islamic State doesn’t come back..?”  Professor Walt adds that “If you aren’t busy invading, occupying, and nation-building in the areas where it and other extremist movements live and recruit,” then what do you do to contain the threat?  The Harvard professor believes Mr. Trump hasn’t been very clear on that point.

Far more important, says Professor Walt, “Trump seems to be blithely unaware that the United States is engaged in a serious geopolitical competition with China, and this rivalry isn’t just about jobs, trade balances, currency values, or the other issues on which he’s fixated.”  The real elephant in the room is China’s military expansion into Southeast Asia and East Africa where China could establish an economic and military presence more powerful and persistent than that of the United States.   Professor Walt says Mr. Trump is remarkably short-sighted in this area.

Finally, Mr. Trump’s near silence on a unified strategy for dealing with Russia remains an unanswered question.  Ironically, Mr. Trump’s overall friendliness to the Russian Federation makes a lot of sense from a strategic forecasting point of view.  So far, Mr. Trump has not explained to the public what a more cooperative working relationship with Russia will do to help both of our countries.

For Professor Walt, the future of the international community with Mr. Trump at the helm of U.S. government is uncertain so long as Mr. Trump ignores the real status of our world and pursues a policy of isolationism and protectionism.  In Professor Walt’s view, Mr. Trump himself “lacks the discipline or strategic vision to manage this process and may not care to try…Even if you agree with his broad approach, his team is going to make a lot more rookie mistakes before they figure out what they are doing.”

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Until next time,

Russell Roberts

Hawaii Intelligence Digest

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