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The Latest G-7 Summit Showcases Trump's Foreign Policy Failures

The just concluded G-7 summit featured a tour de force in diplomatic dexterity and leadership, as French President Emmanuel Macron strove desperately to bring President Donald Trump back into the real world. 

On all the key issues of the day—climate change, Iran, and the trade war with China—Macron used all the Parisian charm he could muster to nudge Trump from the arrogant and amateurish perch which has thus far characterized his diplomacy. Macron succeeded in raising the possibility of renewed negotiations with Iran and China, but whether anything comes of this after the unpredictable US President re-crosses the Atlantic is anyone’s guess.

Unless Macron or someone else can succeed in bringing to the surface a thus far deeply internalized sense of realism in Trump, he is well on his way to being nothing less than arguably the biggest foreign policy disaster ever to inhabit the white House. Here are the top three reasons why:

Reason No. 1: Withdrawal from the United States from the Paris Agreement (2015) on climate change.

President Trump’s empty chair at the G-7 summit meeting on climate change spoke volumes. When civil war-battered Syria signed on to the Paris Treaty in November 2017, Trump’s announcement of unilateral US withdrawal from the accord earlier that year made it official that the United States alone among all the nations of the world would not participate in combating the scientifically verified, potentially devastating, and daily snowballing effect of global warming. This is the single most reckless, damaging, and rudderless action taken by Trump. If he is reelected, the American people will be voting for nothing less than the destruction of life as we know it on the planet Earth.

Reason No. 2: Abandoning arms control treaties with Iran and Russia.

One of the great achievements of the right-wing Reagan presidency was the INF Treaty, signed with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in December 1987, which eliminated an entire class of intermediate range missiles in Europe and moreover established rigorous verification procedures on compliance. One of the great achievements of the centrist Obama presidency was the 2015 Iran nuclear treaty, more formally the JCPOA, or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in which Iran agreed to rigorously verifiable limitations on its ability to enrich uranium for bomb-making capacity in return for lifting of US-sponsored international economic sanctions.

The born-rich real estate tycoon President with zero foreign policy experience summarily terminated both treaties. 

Other members of the UN Security Council (China, Russia, Britain, France) as well as the European Union signed off on the treaty with Iran, which is why Macron is trying desperately to get it back on track. To its credit, Iran appears willing to reopen negotiations as well. Thanks to the French president and the Iranians, Trump has a chance to rethink his precipitous and reckless action.

Trump’s termination of the INF Treaty frees his pal Russian President Putin as well as the venerable US military-industrial complex to rev their engines and restart the nuclear arms race, which has been quiescent for decades. Another critical treaty with Russia, the New START Treaty, also denounced by Trump, expires in 2021.

Termination of these arms control treaties rank near the top of Trump’s foreign policy failures because, well, as the old bumper sticker read, “One nuclear bomb can ruin your whole day.”

Reason No. 3: Recognizing Jerusalem as the “eternal capital” of Israel and the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.

Because of the overweening influence over the US Congress and the American public of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—one of the top two or three lobbies in the country—all too many Americans may not find these actions, or the termination of the Iran treaty, objectionable, but anyone with broader knowledge of the Middle East conflict understands that Trump is playing with dynamite.

Jerusalem is a holy city for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews and cannot be dominated by any one if there is ever to be hope of peace. Under the moribund two-state solution, East Jerusalem was to be the capital of a Palestinian state.

As the UN and the international community have repeatedly affirmed, Israel has no legitimate claim to either the Golan Heights or the West Bank, both of which it nonetheless has been settling for decades in blatant violation of international law. Trump is not the first president to bow to AIPAC and Christian fundamentalists on Middle East policy, but he has taken it to a new level by signing off on Israel’s sole occupation of Jerusalem.

 Alas, There’s More . . . 

The top three above strike me as the most serious Trump foreign policy failures because their consequences can be catastrophic. But there is a litany of failure on the part of this president.

Trump has alienated all of Africa by calling it a continent full of “shithole” countries; he has done nothing to calm the India-Pakistan dispute playing out today in Kashmir, at the risk of escalation between two nuclear-armed powers; he has given little rhetorical support to the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong while launching a trade war with China; he has anointed a new ruler who can’t actually come to power in Venezuela; and he has inspired neo-fascist movements all over the globe, as men such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte praise his leadership.

There is still hope that Trump can make a breakthrough with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un but his diplomacy thus far--if that’s what you call the three highly publicized meetings with Kim--has done nothing but give visibility and legitimacy to a ruthless autocrat. A deal can be secured if the United States and its allies offer a trade along the lines of terminating off-shore military maneuvers, which make Kim feel threatened, in return for denuclearization, but for reasons known only to Trump he has chosen to strike up a pointless friendship legitimating a petty dictator while achieving no tangible results.

Where on this list, some may wonder, is Trump’s indifference to Russian meddling in American elections? While clearly it is true that Russia does meddle—the fact of the matter is, so do we--all over the world. So, while it is not “fake news,” Russian meddling is also not an existential threat to world peace as are the issues discussed above. Sorry, Democrats, Russia did not decide the election--the Electoral College and too many naïve American voters did that to themselves.

There is still time for Trump to reverse his legacy of diplomatic ineptitude. If he fails to do so he may well go down in history as the most feckless foreign policy president in American history.