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Trump’s ‘Principled Realism’ Is Neither Principled Nor Realist (II)

Screengrab: Trump speaks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Trump invoked so-called “principled realism” during his U.N. speech:

We are guided by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests and values.

Trump has shown before that his administration’s “principled realism” is neither principled nor realist, and he did so again earlier this week. Leading realists have been quite vocal in their rejection of the foreign policy he has conducted to date, and they have done so in large part because Trump has been in thrall to the goals of ideologues. Take his antagonism to the nuclear deal with Iran as a prime example.

An administration “guided by outcomes, not ideology” would have no problem with a deal that successfully restricted Iran’s nuclear program. They would have to acknowledge that the deal was working as intended regardless of any reservations they might have about it. It is the ideologue who insists on adding new demands and finding fault with an agreement that everyone else believes to be the best deal available. Trump is inclined to yield to the ideologues in his party because rejecting the deal lines up with his rejection of everything connected with Obama. The consequences of reneging on the deal don’t concern him, just as the benefits of remaining in the deal don’t interest him. He wants to vindicate the idea that Obama made a bad deal and that he can do better. It has nothing to do with outcomes and everything to do with proving his predecessor wrong. There is no principle at work here except contempt for compromise and diplomacy. There is no realism anywhere to be found.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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