Amy Zegart writes: Pity the professionals. In the past month, President Trump has sideswiped certification of the Iran nuclear deal, sandbagged his own secretary of state’s diplomatic efforts with North Korea, and even provoked the ever-careful Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Bob Corker, to uncork his deepest fears in a series of bombshell interviews. “The volatility, is you know, to anyone who has been around, is to a degree alarming,” Corker told the Times earlier this month, revealing that many in the administration were working overtime to keep the president from “the path to World War III.” He doubled down on those comments a few weeks later, declaring that Trump, among other things, was “taking us on a path to combat” with North Korea and should “leave it to the professionals for a while.”
The professionals sure have their hands full. So far, the Trump Doctrine in foreign policy appears to consist of three elements: baiting adversaries, rattling allies, and scaring the crap out of Congress. The administration has injected strategic instability into world politics, undermining alliances and institutions, hastening bad trends, and igniting festering crises across the globe. “America first” looks increasingly like “America alone.” The indispensable nation is becoming the unreliable one. Even without a nuclear disaster, the damage inflicted by the Trump presidency won’t be undone for years, if ever.
But it’s also important to understand that today’s foreign-policy challenges— whether it’s Iran’s hegemonic ambitions in the Middle East, North Korea’s breakneck nuclear breakout, China’s rise, Russia’s nihilism, Europe’s populism and fragmentation, Syria’s civil war, or transnational terrorism and cyber threats—did not start with Trump. This is the most challenging foreign-policy environment any White House has confronted in modern history. [Continue reading…]