This week the generals persuaded Donald Trump to keep up the fight in Afghanistan. A frustrated US president agreed reluctantly. Time will tell whether his personality and politics can sustain a long-term commitment.
Half a year into his presidency, Mr Trump’s foreign policy has five distinctive features. The Trumpian approach differs from that of his predecessors in type, not just degree, and other countries around the world need to be aware of the dissonance with past conduct.
First, Mr Trump is transactional, not institutional. He views foreign policy like a dealmaker and does not care whether the outcomes fit America’s traditional practice of building systems that advance its interests and values. As a negotiator, Mr Trump will be periodically confrontational. He can be impulsive. He welcomes creating uncertainty, which he believes builds leverage. Mr Trump’s ego plays an exceptionally large role and so do personal — and even family — relations. He is the first president in my experience who does not believe the office is larger than himself.
Second, Mr Trump’s domestic political interests will dominate his foreign policy. One wise American statesman suggested to me this spring that Mr Trump, like other presidents, wants to be successful, and therefore would move closer to mainstream policies. This assessment depends on how one defines success: I believe Mr Trump’s aim is a political realignment, which he thinks he can achieve by embracing and voicing the grievances of his voters.
Accordingly, he welcomes battles over trade, immigration and his wall with Mexico. Note as well that the president’s directive in the Middle East is to destroy the terrorists of Isis — obvious enemies that his backers can recognise. He has no plans to complement military action by creating forces or safe zones that can establish a rough power balance on the ground and resist Iranian expansion.
After being compelled to remain in Afghanistan when he wanted to withdraw, Mr Trump will redefine the battle as smashing terrorism in line with his supporters, even though he really will need to strengthen the Kabul government’s capacity to succeed.
Third, trade policy will reflect most explicitly Mr Trump’s dissonant outlook. He proudly embraced protectionism in his inaugural address, the first president since Herbert Hoover to make such a public stand. Take Mr Trump at his word. In order to signal a belligerent break with the past, he abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership, whose new rules and market openings would have benefited the US. Mr Trump and Wilbur Ross, commerce secretary, view bilateral trade deficits in the way businesspeople view negative net income: as losing. Therefore, countries that have large bilateral surpluses with the US — such as Mexico, South Korea and Germany — will draw presidential ire.
第三，贸易政策将最明显地反映出特朗普的另类视界。他曾在就职演说中自豪地拥抱保护主义，成为继赫伯特•胡佛(Herbert Hoover)之后首位公开表述此类立场的总统。特朗普也是说到做到。为了表示与过去彻底决裂，他抛弃了《跨太平洋伙伴关系协定》（Trans-Pacific Partnership，简称TPP），该协定的新规则和市场开放本能够让美国受益。特朗普与商务部长威尔伯•罗斯(Wilbur Ross)用商界人士看待负净利润的方式看待双边贸易逆差：亏本。因而，对美国存在巨额双边贸易顺差的国家（如墨西哥、韩国和德国）都将引发特朗普的愤怒。
Adroit early visits by the leaders of China and Japan led them to hope they could avoid Mr Trump’s aim, but they are mistaken. The president’s problem will be that bilateral trade deficits are hard to modify through trade policies; to address them, the administration will most likely turn from rules for fair competition and openness toward managed outcomes, dictated market shares and requirements for national content. Watch the renegotiation of Nafta to learn how Mr Trump will try to translate political rhetoric into policy.
Fourth, Mr Trump is ambivalent about alliances. He believes that the US has been too generous and can no longer afford the 70-year old security system that America led in creating after the second world war. But the US alliance network has forged a resiliency through professional ties, planning, institutions and even the careers, customs and habits of the US military.
James Mattis, secretary of defence, embodies that heritage. Therefore, while Trump is not likely to invest much effort in alliance management, he may comply with past practice, albeit with periodic blasts of complaint, as he is doing in Afghanistan.
Finally, Mr Trump’s tenure is underscoring a vital point about America: it is far bigger than the president. Unlike China, Americans chose a constitutional order, not a ‘Core Leader’. US policies are products of shared and separated powers among various institutions and parties: the Senate and House, of course, but also courts, states, cities, federal departments and the private sector, including businesses and civil society.
Ironically, Mr Trump’s acolytes consider the US founders’ careful construction to be a “deep state”, mistaking the institutions of a healthy republic for some faceless resistance to Trump’s whims. But in foreign policy, some patriots will not support Mr Trump’s pitting of American nationalism against the country’s internationalism. They recognise that most often US nationalism and internationalism have been in synchrony, not conflict, and that the mixture created America’s unique global leadership.
The writer is a former president of the World Bank, US trade representative and deputy secretary of state