What happens when a president is so successful with a particular issue that it no longer even merits discussion by the American people as he seeks re-election? What can you do if you are perversely a victim of your own success? How do you attract voters’ attention to policies of central importance in the face of a global pandemic, raging urban violence, and Supreme Court drama?
Thus is the state of the Trump foreign policy. In ordinary times it would be a significant theme in his re-election campaign, but Americans have been provided scant opportunity to ponder this president’s navigation of a perilous world order. COVID-19 and nationwide civil unrest saw to that, even before a gloriously unaccountable presidential debate commission wiped foreign policy entirely off their agenda. But voters will inevitably evaluate at some level how Donald Trump has ushered in a profound change in the way we deal with allies and adversaries alike.
Consider all that has happened on the international front since Trump settled into the Oval Office. Start by examining the things he has achieved that the three previous presidents of recent vintage promised but failed to deliver.
Foreign Policy Milestones
Mr. Trump is the first president in 30 years to reduce rather than escalate our involvement in foreign conflicts. He is the first chief executive to stand up to China – loudly demanding greater equity in our trade relationship and cracking down on their widespread intellectual property theft. He wiped out the ISIS caliphate, which had grown like metastatic cancer, severely destabilizing Syria and Iraq.
This president held to his explicit promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there. Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton made that same promise and failed to follow through.
He achieved a level of peace in the middle east previously thought unattainable, with not one or two, but three separate peace accords in recent weeks – the first in almost 30 years – involving Israel and their longtime enemies. Frustrated by the Palestinians’ legendary intransigence and perpetual state of grievance and victimhood, Trump re-imagined the failed peace process employed by state department bureaucrats for decades. He neutralized the Palestinians by working deals with their longtime allies, effectively engineering an end-run around them, and securing a greater level of stability in the region than at any time in recent memory.
Trump reintroduced the bedrock Reagan policy of peace through strength by rebuilding our flagging military to the point that no nation in its right mind would challenge our superiority on the ground, in the air, or at sea.
He tore up NAFTA and pushed the new USMCA across the finish line, removing some of the previous deal’s grossest inequities.
He forcefully called out – or shamed – our NATO allies for their failure to pony up their agreed-upon shares for the common defense of the 30-member alliance, producing billions more in commitments.
He moved the goalposts on North Korea. Discarding the multilateral talks that produced nothing for years, Trump replaced them with audacious personal diplomacy. In a historic photo-op moment, he passed through the DMZ, stepping over that line into North Korea for a handshake with the totalitarian Kim Jung-Un. Some have called the Trump approach reckless, but there is no debating that it has placed the issue of North Korea into an entirely new context and at least stalled a nuclear threat posed by the world’s definitive rogue regime.
President Trump discarded Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and placed crushing new sanctions on the brazenly anti-American regime in Tehran, resulting in a steep economic decline, which may soon force the Iranians back to the bargaining table.
He withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord, arguing that the world’s biggest polluters, foremost among them China and India, are held to far lower standards than the U.S. and that the regulations necessary to implement the changes called for in the accord would be devastating to the American economy.
No More Blood For Oil
But what history should recognize as Trump’s most seminal work, and clearly the most overlooked and underrated accomplishment of his administration, bridges the gap between foreign and domestic policy.
Thanks in large part to his deregulation of a heavily regulated fossil fuel industry and the ongoing fracking revolution, the U.S. is, for the first time in over 60 years, energy independent. We have become a net exporter rather than an importer of energy products. That carries with it two crucial assets: lower prices for everything from gas at the pump to fuel in your home and an end to reliance on foreign energy and oil-driven wars.
Even Trump-deranged leftists should applaud this new world free of foreign entanglements for the sake of oil, which they so loudly decried during the Bush 43 administration. But of course, they won’t.
The Trump era has been defined by a radical rejiggering of domestic policy and how we conduct international relations and protect ourselves from threats worldwide. Regardless of the many pressing concerns on the home front, this president’s foreign policy accomplishments merit far more than a passing glance from voters preparing to cast their ballots.
Read more from Tim Donner.