The resignation of Brian Hook — the U.S. special envoy to Iran who championed the ill-conceived view that if we unilaterally withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, we would gain a stronger hand with Iran — reminds us of that colossal flop. The administration withdrew from the deal, insisting that our allies would follow suit (they did not), that increased pressure on Iran would bring it to the negotiating table (it did not), and that we would continue to reap the benefits of the JCPOA, namely limits on Tehran’s nuclear weapons program (we did not).
At every stage in the “policy," which was more a political impulse than a thought-out alternative policy, the administration refused to acknowledge that while the JCPOA had flaws (e.g., regarding missile testing), we could have addressed them within the framework of the deal and keep our allies on board. Instead, the ideological and personal insistence on ripping up “Obama’s deal” overrode common sense. (Those who could not fathom why some of us who opposed the JCPOA when implemented should now understand why we dreaded getting rid of it. We never had a better alternative.) By any measure, we are in a worse position now than we were four years ago regarding Iran, which continues to fund terrorist groups and destabilize the region.
And where on the planet have we improved our position? Not with North Korea, whose dictator was rewarded with public relations bonanzas in exchange for nothing. After the United States halted some military exercises with South Korea, North Korea’s nuclear program continues, our allies have learned not to trust us and North Korea’s human rights atrocities have not abated. (Indeed, Trump humanized and excused Kim Jong Un’s rule of terror.)
Meanwhile, never has a Russian leader gotten so much from the United States for so little. Russian President Vladimir Putin put bounties on the heads of U.S. troops. No response. He reaped the benefits of an ill-conceived withdrawal from Syria, a betrayal of our Kurdish allies. He has watched with glee as the United States unilaterally planned to pull thousands of troops from Germany. Trump publicly took Russia’s side over intelligence experts regarding Russian interference in our election — and consequently never took defense of our election systems seriously.
Trump continually undermines and whines about the NATO alliance. He was ready to throw Ukraine to the Russian bear — and betrayed national security — to help his reelection chances. And Republicans, rather than remove him, mouthed Russian propaganda. Any Cold Warrior who would defend that record has lost their soul.
China? The trade war was not quick and was not won. Our farmers, consumers and businesses still pay the price of the tariff war while the West finds China continuing its effort to steal intellectual property and commit atrocities against the Uighurs. (Trump reportedly condoned the building of detention camps for the minority group.) China also extended its international influence as we recede from international bodies (e.g., the World Health Organization) and agreements (the Trans-Pacific Partnership).
Trump came within a whisker of inviting the Taliban to Camp David. He covered for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in the grisly murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He praised illiberal autocratic regimes in Eastern Europe. And his denunciation of the domestic media as an “enemy of the people” empowered dictators around the world to jail, kill and intimidate their own journalists.
I’m sure a calamity or two has slipped my mind. Nevertheless, history will record Trump as the worst foreign policy president since Lyndon B. Johnson. The Republicans who defended and enabled him would have declared Obama a traitor had he done any of this. Trump, who revels in his own ignorance, never bothered to learn about the world and never cared for a values-based foreign policy.
Republicans who derided Obama, took credit for the victory in the Cold War and insisted on the necessity of U.S. leadership in the world disgraced themselves by their partisan support of an inept and unfit president. It is one more reason no elected Republican and no Republican who joined and defended this cavalcade of stupidity should be trusted with power again. Ever.
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