John Glaser reviews Trump’s reckless Iran and North Korea policies, and makes the following observations:
It is deeply worrisome that both Congress and the executive branch feel the need to actively contain Trump’s aggressive inclinations on these fronts [Iran and North Korea]. Unfortunately, the president is as much a product as he is a driver of America’s political and media zeitgeist, which has inflated the threat from Iran and North Korea to pathological proportions [bold mine-DL]. In reality, neither regime poses a clear and present danger to the security of the United States, certainly not one requiring military action. The fever pitch surrounding each is more of our own making than anything else and Trump’s hawkish approach is by no means imposed on him by circumstances.
Threat inflation has a constant distorting effect on our foreign policy debates, and Trump is almost uniquely ill-suited to resist it. Countering threat inflation requires a reasonably good grasp of basic facts about other states’ capabilities, knowledge of past threats in order to keep current ones in perspective, and skepticism of sensationalist and alarmist reports about supposed “existential” dangers from abroad. Trump is famously ignorant and perhaps even more gullible, so it doesn’t take much to make him think that a manageable problem is an intolerable menace. That is why Trump is so poorly prepared to dismiss the proposals of preventive war advocates.
When Trump was a candidate, he encountered intense resistance from the foreign policy establishment in both parties because they feared that he would not continue the activist and meddlesome role for the U.S. that had become our government’s default mode since at least the end of the Cold War. There was not much reason to fear this, but they feared it all the same. Perversely, many of Trump’s “mainstream” critics feared that he would not support aggressive policies abroad, and they have become much more comfortable with his foreign policy as it has become clear that he is really a militarist and primacist in his inclinations. As Glaser has noted before, Trump has not presided over anything resembling a “retreat” from the world. On the contrary, he has given every indication that he means to go on the offensive. Further, he wants to distinguish himself from Obama by taking a harder line on those few issues where Obama had pursued a relatively less aggressive approach. Meanwhile, the foreign policy establishment’s preoccupation with opposing Trump’s non-existent “isolationism” has left them unready or unwilling to resist the real dangers of Trump’s foreign policy.