As the U.S. heads into the July 4th holiday weekend, the hustle and bustle in Washington has yet to settle into its usual summer lull. From South Korea, to Qatar, to Syria, the Trump administration and the D.C. establishment have their work cut out for them.

One theme that seems to be threading itself through most issues facing the administration is the lack of leadership from the top and its impact on U.S. relations with several of our best allies, not to mention a host of our more challenging counterparts across the globe.

Earlier this month when Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain imposed an aggressive blockade on Qatar, the Trump administration appeared divided. President Trump seemed to take the Saudi line fully, and indeed appeared to take credit in a series of tweets for the Saudi policy shift that led to the blockade. The Pentagon and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, on the other hand, called for continued cooperation with Qatar, despite the crisis. The State Department, in the meantime, is trying to help mediate while also offering mild criticisms of Saudi-led policies against Qatar. I wrote about this in the New York Daily News and you can read the piece here.

Today, President Trump is heading into a challenging meeting with the new South Korean President Moon Jae-In, who will need to project strength to his domestic audience and prove he does not need U.S. permission to act in the region. Carrying off such a message with an already alpha-male U.S. president, we could mean we’re in for a showdown around the Korean Peninsula. I spoke about this on CNBC. Watch the interview below:

Underpinning these challenges is the disappearing role of the State Department in U.S. foreign policy. While Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with the Qataris earlier this week, most deputy level positions with the department remain unfilled. This is the level where the first crisis meetings take place and from which recommendations are typically made to the Cabinet on a host of issues.

I spoke about this on MSNBC’s Morning Joe and made the point that the inflow of young, bright, talented foreign service officers has declined; a development that risks the future success and stability of our State Department.

You can watch the interview below:

Cohesion is crucial. The U.S. can’t afford to risk the lives of Americans and many others because those at the top can’t get on the same page.

As always, thanks for reading.

Comments are closed.