An Unfortunately Lasting Trump Legacy

I have heard some of our people who are troubled by President Trump’s actions in his first year in office console themselves by saying, “This too shall pass.”  In the domestic sphere, they may be right.  In the foreign sphere, I’d suggest that the President’s behavior in this single year has in the most important respect left an impression on foreign leaders that won’t be undone for generations, if at all:  a faith in the constancy of America.  Although specific Trump foreign policy approaches may (almost certainly will) be reversed – his laissez affaire approach toward Russian aggression, his economic disengagement in Asia, his withdrawal from the Climate Accord – it seems highly doubtful that any foreign leader with any sense will in the foreseeable future base his/her nation’s well-being on any long-term commitment from the United States (I know I wouldn’t).  Mr. Trump’s election and behavior have made clear that no matter how sincere a given President might be in providing assurances on a given policy, the American people are capable of electing a successor who completely undoes previously agreed-upon commitments.  This loss of confidence may have the silver lining of getting those nations generally aligned with us to become more self-reliant; with shrinking funds, our ability to cast a defense net over our allies would be unraveling over the next decade in any event.  That said, this loss of confidence could in the coming years and decades cause our Asian allies, out of a sense of self-preservation, to seek closer ties to China than we will like, and perhaps similarly cause our European allies to be less willing to assist us in confronting inappropriate Russian behavior (due to their need for its oil) than we would hope.     

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