Things are not going well for American foreign policy. At the geopolitical level, tectonic shifts in world power are leading to a relative decline in American dominance. China has risen to dominate East Asia and, with its infamous Nine-Dash Line, is projecting that power deep into Southeast Asia too.
Elsewhere, Brazil and India continue to expand as growing middle powers, with Nigeria not far behind. And while the Russian economy remains smaller than Canada’s, Russia is nonetheless able to push its sphere of influence into the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the American election.
Institutionally, the U.S. State Department is in utter disarray. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has managed to badly alienate foreign service staff and allies alike. He is deeply embroiled in more than one of President Donald Trump’s political scandals, and is often left sputtering and red-faced as he tries and fails to explain himself on TV.
And, of course, the captain is steering from one collision to another. Trump’s ambassadorial appointees are regularly derided for their lack of experience and complete lack of diplomatic skill. The president has managed to offend everyone in the G7, while simultaneously coddling all of its enemies. He has sowed confusion and doubt in NATO, even pushing one member (Turkey) into the arms of Russia. And on the Korean peninsula, the president’s on-again, off-again best friend Kim Jong-un continues to push his nuclear program forward. North Korean missiles can now reach Washington itself.
Perhaps the most poignant illustration of how Trump’s foreign policy has run aground came from the images in late October of America’s newly betrayed allies, the Kurds, throwing rotten potatoes at retreating U.S. troops.