The emerging Trump foreign policy doctrine might be summed up this way: escalate to de-escalate.
During his visit to Tokyo last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made news by promising a new approach to North Korea following what he called decades of failed diplomacy. Increased pressure on the North Korean regime and its Chinese enablers is coming, he said, and a preemptive military strike on Pyongyang is not off the table.
Less noticed in his first-ever news conference was Tillerson’s prediction about the longer-term future of American intervention overseas. Explaining why he and President Trump are comfortable proposing historic cuts in funding for the State Department and foreign aid, Tillerson said the administration expects that, “as time goes by, there will be fewer military conflicts that the U.S. will be directly engaged in.”
That might seem like a contradiction, especially since Trump has been aggressively increasing U.S. military activity in several conflict zones in his first weeks. But there’s an emerging theory about Trump’s foreign policy doctrine that squares both statements. The administration may be ramping up U.S. involvement in the short term in crisis zones as a means of finding an exit strategy.
“The apparent approach could reveal a doctrine of ‘escalate to de-escalate,’ ’’ said Alex Gallo, senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Trump may want to escalate in certain areas to force a negotiation where actors might not be interested or willing to negotiate otherwise.”
It’s a strategy Trump used in business for decades — confront an adversary brashly and publicly to get the upper hand before striking a deal.
Trump is increasing U.S. military commitments and activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and perhaps soon Afghanistan. He has stepped up sanctions on Iran with a promise to renegotiate the nuclear deal somewhere down the line. With China, Trump escalated by engaging with Taiwan’s presidentand calling the one-China policy into question, then backed down weeks later.
Read more fron The Washington Post here:
The Post’s View: Rex Tillerson is becoming Secretary Silent
Josh Rogin: Selling Trump a new Afghanistan commitment
Charles Krauthammer: Trump and the ‘madman theory’
David Ignatius: Trump is his administration’s own worst enemy on foreign policy
Jackson Diehl: How the rest of the world could shape Trump’s foreign policy