The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Wishful Thinking
An article in The Los Angeles Times on the administration’s foreign policy setbacks touches on a recurring theme in almost all of the president’s failed policies:
“What we have seen in the Trump administration’s policy on Venezuela shows the limits of wishful thinking [bold mine-DL],” said Geoff Ramsey, a Venezuela expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, a nongovernmental research and advocacy group.
“They have been completely unwilling to revise Plan A and instead are doubling down [bold mine-DL]” on a policy that appears to be failing, Ramsey said. “They think that if they saber-rattle hard enough, something will shake loose.”
The Trump administration’s most prominent foreign policy initiatives are all plagued by these same flaws: the goals are extremely ambitious, the means to achieve those goals are always woefully inadequate, and the president and his advisers are completely inflexible in the face of continued failure. The administration wants to force the surrender of North Korea, Venezuela, and Iran, and they think that “maximum pressure” will achieve that. The rigidity of the administration’s demands and their all-or-nothing approach in each case guarantee that the economic wars yield nothing but increased hardship for the people in these countries. Instead of adjusting their plans in the face of repeated failures, the administration keeps adding more sanctions and threats on the misguided assumption that more of the same will eventually get them the capitulation they desire. Increasing pressure predictably leads to the hardening of the other governments’ resistance, and that in turn leads to more pressure.
The danger in all three cases is that sooner or later it will become obvious even to Trump that “maximum pressure” doesn’t work, and that will give Bolton and other hard-liners the opening for military action that they have been craving in one or more of these countries. That makes the administration’s preference for wishful thinking even more alarming, because it is almost certain that they would approach the “planning” for a war with one or more of these countries in the same slapdash, incompetent way that they do everything else.