News & Politics

Here Are 5 of the Most Disturbing Foreign-Policy Blunders of the Trump Era

The president has had a generally abysmal record on foreign policy.

President Donald Trump has not only used his “draining the swamp” concept in connection with domestic policy—he has applied it to foreign policy as well, denouncing the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations as foreign-policy nightmares. Trump, in fact, has often been quite critical of Bush and his vice president, Dick Cheney, for the disastrous Iraq War and the overthrow of dictator Saddam Hussein. But Trump has hardly been a stellar president on foreign policy. From hiring a Bush-era CIA torture proponent to undermining NATO to embracing war-crazed neocon John Bolton, Trump has had a generally abysmal record on foreign policy.

Here are five of the most disturbing foreign-policy debacles of the Trump era.

1. The Undermining of NATO

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As president, Trump has had no kind words for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which he has painted as a parasite that refuses to pull its own weight. At the G7 summit in Canada in June, Trump asserted, “NATO is as bad as NAFTA. It’s much too costly for the U.S.”—and at the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium on July 11, Trump described Germany, France and other NATO members as freeloaders who were doing little, if anything, for the United States. Reflecting on Trump’s “incessant attacks on our NATO allies” during an interview with MSNBC’s Brian Williams in July, neocon Bill Kristol even went so far as to say that he feared Trump was actually hoping that NATO would fall apart.

2. Trump Nominates Gina Haspel to Head CIA

As critical as Trump has been of Bush’s presidency, that didn’t stop him from nominating Gina Haspel to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Haspel, according to the New York Times, was in charge of Bush-era CIA activities in a secret prison in Thailand—and one of the prisoners, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (who was suspecting of heading al-Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf), was subjected to severe waterboarding, locked in a box and slammed against the wall. Torture is not only immoral—it is also a flawed interrogation method because those being tortured are more likely to make false confessions and offer bad information in order to get the torture to stop. And if someone is suspected of being an al-Qaeda organizer, the CIA should seek good, reliable intelligence information—not promote practices that encourage false confessions. So from a security standpoint, nominating Haspel was an epic failure on Trump’s part.

3. Trump Praises Turkish Strongman Erdogan

Although Trump had nothing good to say about long-time NATO allies like Germany and France during the July 11 summit in Brussels, he did have high praise for one NATO representative: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, an authoritarian who has been doing everything possible to undermine democracy in Turkey. After claiming that Erdogan—unlike everyone else in NATO—“does things the right way,” Trump gave him a friendly fist bump in Brussels. Erdogan has incarcerated dozens of journalists, restricted freedom of speech, built new prisons to lock up dissenters on sedition charges, and altered the Turkish constitution to give himself broader powers—and yet, Trump has much kinder words for Turkey’s authoritarian-in-chief than he does for the U.S.’ closest NATO allies.

4. Trump Selects John Bolton as National Security Advisor

Consistency has never been Trump’s strong point, and despite the fact that he was critical of Bush-era neocons and their nation-building fantasies in the past, he selected the ultimate neocon nation-builder as his national security advisor: John Bolton. During his eight years as president, Barack Obama was a big-time war hawk and oversaw a huge U.S. military expansion in Afghanistan; still, Obama valued diplomacy and didn’t automatically embrace the force-for-the-sake-of-force view that epitomizes a hardline neocon like Bolton, who passionately supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq and has called for regime change in Iran and North Korea.

5. Trump Salutes France’s Racist Marine Le Pen

When Marine Le Pen, head of the racist, far-right National Front party, ran against neoliberal Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential race in 2017, Trump praised the white nationalist for being “strong on borders.” And Steve Bannon, formerly White House chief strategist in the Trump administration and ex-head of Breitbart News, is even more enthusiastic in his support for Le Pen: Bannon has travelled to France, spoken at National Front events and praised Le Pen’s white nationalist agenda. The good news is that Le Pen lost the election, receiving only 33.9% of the French vote compared to 66.1% for Macron. The bad news is that one-third of French voters favored a white nationalist who has been applauded by a U.S. president and his former White House chief strategist.

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.