The foreign policy establishment might be suffering from whiplash this week, after President Donald Trump reversed many of his stances regarding the U.S.’ engagements abroad.
We’ve certainly seen quite a change, moving on from “America first” campaign promises to bombing Syria and Afghanistan and sending U.S. Navy ships to the Pacific to keep an eye on North Korea – all within a week.
In addition, this all occurred with an overlay of the NATO secretary-general’s – by all accounts – very good meeting with President Trump.
I joined PBS NewsHour to discuss this foreign policy reset, and you can watch the interview below:
Overall, we need to see a clear, consistent, strategic plan on if and how the U.S. will address the challenges facing the world. And that has yet to be seen from this administration, although I do feel that recently things are moving in a better direction.
For example, the strike in Syria was a fairly well-thought-out strategic move that sent a message that the United States will use force, it intends to be at the table in the Middle East, and also (hopefully) has a sobering impact on both China and North Korea.
North Korea is an area to keep a very watchful eye on where two things are coming together this weekend: One is the distinct possibility of a sixth North Korean nuclear weapons detonation and the other is an American carrier strike group, a great deal of firepower headed right at the Korean Peninsula. We’ll have to wait and see how this plays out. I spoke with NBC News about the dangers North Korea presents. Watch the interview below:
Ultimately, an overall strategy is key to both defining the U.S.’ role in the world, but also crucial to other world leaders relying on U.S. influence and support in their countries. While U.S. influence has remained relatively strong, the nation’s credibility has certainly been waning, including in a serious way after the WMD mistakes we made in regard to Iraq prior to invading that country in 2003. Moreover, I’m not sure the Trump administration has been a credibility booster either.
And it is true that throughout diplomatic history, nations have often sought to undermine the credibility of their opponents for political purposes. But we have arrived today at a point when our credibility feels unusually low, which will create real drag on our ability to build coalitions, convince allies and partners to come along on our missions, and convince the neutral nations of the world that we are in the right. I wrote about this in TIME.
Let’s be hopeful that this administration’s strategic consistency evolves, but that we keep tactical surprise when we need to. Together, they will help us create a positive foreign policy and work to reverse our credibility problem.
As always, thank you for reading.
Dean Stavridis with his basset hound, Lilly.
Dean James Stavridis is the 12th leader of The Fletcher School since its founding in 1933. A retired Admiral in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander.
- A Conversation with Maria Kristensen (F02), 2017 Fletcher Women’s Leadership Award Winner April 28, 2017
- What Can You Do With a Fletcher Education? April 21, 2017
- A U.S. Foreign Policy Reset April 14, 2017
- Dealing with Dictatorships April 7, 2017
- Why Fletcher? March 31, 2017
- On Reading and Leading March 24, 2017
- Don’t Make Diplomacy the “Missing Man” in Our Foreign Policy Formation March 20, 2017
- Adapting to Today, Turning Towards Tomorrow March 10, 2017
- Don’t Increase Defense Spending on the Backs of Diplomacy and Development March 6, 2017
- A Guide to Getting U.S. Foreign Policy Back on Track February 24, 2017