A satellite image shows damage to an oil facility in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.Planet Labs Inc. / via AFP – Getty Images
This dangerous downward spiral is what happens when the U.S. throws out the international relations primer. The central rule — if it’s not broken, don’t fix it — can be found in Chapter 1 of “Diplomacy for Dummies.” Chapter 2 covers how, if you choose to break it, you better have a darn good plan for how to put it back together. It would also be helpful to mention that Chapter 3 gets into why it’s not advisable to break all the china at once. In the case of Iran, the White House threw caution to the wind and chose to heed none of these wise warnings.
Some might say Trump derives his power from tossing out the rulebook. Maybe domestically that can be the case, but on the world stage he has almost nothing to show for his unorthodox tactics. And his worst offense isn’t ignoring common practice or just plain common sense. It comes from compromising our credibility. By abandoning the deal with Iran, Trump surrendered the precious potent power of America’s word. As he is discovering, it is now much more difficult to get Iran, North Korea, China or anyone, really, to believe we will honor our commitments.
For Trump, Iran initially seemed like it would be a pretty simple fix. Similar to NAFTA, he could add a few superficial touches and hail it as a great breakthrough. Unfortunately, just as on North Korea, Afghanistan and pretty much every other international issue, the president seems to have badly misjudged his foreign counterparts.