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The Failing Trump Foreign Policy

On its own terms, the administration's Iran policy has predictably failed.
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There is a lot wrong with Mike Pompeo’s long article on the administration’s bankrupt Iran policy, but there was one passage that stands out for being completely divorced from reality:

President Trump inherited a world in some ways as dangerous as the one faced by the United States on the eve of World War I, the one right before World War II, or that during the height of the Cold War [bold mine-DL]. But his disruptive boldness, first on North Korea and now on Iran, has shown how much progress can be made by marrying clarity of conviction with an emphasis on nuclear nonproliferation and strong alliances [bold mine-DL].

If the Trump administration believes that the world is currently “as dangerous” as it was at any of these other times, their ability to assess threats is far worse than I thought. There are indeed dangers in the world, but none of them rises anywhere close to the level of these major conflagrations or the peril of nuclear annihilation that previous generations faced. Compared to those other periods, Trump came into office at a time of relative stability. Virtually every crisis that has involved the U.S. over the last year and a half has been of his own making. Trump has escalated U.S. involvement in every war he inherited, and last year he brought the U.S. far too close to a catastrophic war on the Korean Peninsula for no good reason. The open-ended military presence in Syria runs the risk of leading to a larger conflict with Iran. If the world is becoming more dangerous, it is at least partly because of the administration’s policies.

Pompeo has exaggerated the dangers in today’s world almost as much as he has exaggerated the Trump administration’s successes. Trump’s “disruptive boldness” has thus far yielded no discernible progress in achieving the administration’s goals on North Korea or Iran. The “emphasis” on nonproliferation doesn’t exist, since the most important decision Trump has made in this area was to renege on a successful nonproliferation agreement out of spite. The “emphasis” on strong alliances is also nowhere to be found, because the administration has made a point of threatening our allies with sanctions following the destructive decision to leave the JCPOA. Relations with major European allies are far worse now than they were when Trump took office, and that is due in large part to the irrational decision to renege on a nuclear deal that was working and still continues to work despite U.S. withdrawal. These alliances are weaker as a result, and the Trump administration is responsible for making them weaker by pursuing its Iran obsession at the expense of U.S. interests.

At the end of the article, Pompeo concludes with another bizarre statement:

Those who still bow to the same totemic conviction that candor impedes negotiations must recognize the effect that targeted rhetorical and practical pressure have had—and are having—on outlaw regimes.

To date, U.S. negotiations with North Korea have had virtually no effect on North Korean behavior, and U.S. sanctions have been similarly ineffective. The administration’s “targeted rhetorical and practical pressure” has caused the North Koreans to accuse Pompeo of making “gangster-like” demands that they will never accept. There has been no indication that they are going to agree to the administration’s terms. There are no negotiations with Iran, and there aren’t likely to be any, because the administration has shown itself to be untrustworthy and not worth talking to when the U.S. reneged on the JCPOA. Strangling Iran’s economy has not caused the Iranian government to cease any of the activities that the Trump administration wants them to stop, and the illegitimate reimposition of nuclear sanctions has caused the factions in the regime to band together in rejecting U.S. demands. We recognize that the effect of the administration’s Iran policy has been to strengthen hard-liners within the regime and impose greater hardship on the population. On its own terms, the administration’s Iran policy has predictably failed.