2018…new year, new politics? Maybe, but so far, the first week of the year has continued in much the same way as 2017 played out. We’ve seen the American President boasting about the size of his nuclear “button” to taunt North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. We’ve seen protests in Iran, unrest in Afghanistan, and shifting relations between the United States and Pakistan.

All of this while international “twi-plomacy” continues to flow from President Trump’s thumbs, but the physical structure of U.S. diplomacy (via our State Department) continues to see its power, numbers, and influence weaken as the United States withdraws from positions of leadership around the world. As we pull out of international discussions and agreements like the Paris Agreement, or Trans-Pacific Partnership it solidifies the image that ours is a country that cannot be relied upon to lead.

You can listen here as I spoke about this very issue with Meghna Chakrabarti of WBUR’s Here and Now earlier this week. We also touched on the issue of North Korea – a hot spot that continues to simmer at near boiling point as Kim Jong-un simultaneously makes overtures to South Korea while threatening nuclear destruction using his own “nuclear button.” As I told both Here and Now and NBC Nightly News we still have a 70-80% chance of working this out diplomatically and we should aggressively pursue diplomatic resolutions with North Korea, seizing this tiny window of potential opportunity to do so.

And as we hope to take steps that avoid war on the Korean peninsula, MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell and I spoke earlier this week about America’s longest running war – the one taking place in Afghanistan – where the U.S. is facing the Taliban and now, ISIS. In the wake of a tragic loss of one of our men there and the wounding of four others, I told her that, unfortunately, I expect we’ll see more in the coming year as we send more troops to the country who will be used in more aggressive missions. To provide a bit more perspective, I spoke with the AP; this has been a long war of 17 years for both sides. The ultimate goal in sending more troops isn’t to extend the war, but to push the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Staying in the region, but moving west from Afghanistan, I chatted with the folks at CNBC as President Trump’s itchy twitter fingers couldn’t help but comment on the protests taking place in Iran this week.

I went into a bit more depth when I spoke to my friend Hugh Hewitt, for his radio program The Hugh Hewitt Show. As I told Hugh – (and Meghna at WBUR!), I believe the protests represent both an opportunity and a danger. The opportunity is if we play our hand of cards well, and are relatively in the background on this, there is a real chance here of exchanging the regime in Tehran. On the other hand, the danger is if we get too aggressive we’ll make the story not about the protests, but about us, ‘the Great Satan’; we will become a rallying cry within Iran.

Vis-à-vis the latest back and forth between President Trump and the government of Pakistan, again the twitter president continues to muddy the waters of diplomacy by calling out a nation using crude language in 280 characters. While the frustration that Trump feels is undoubtedly justified, publicly shaming the government is not a strategic move that would be advised. We addressed this in a chat on Morning Joe mid-week and my advice to the president on this, would be to criticize in private and work together in public as it is crucial that the U.S. maintain this cooperation with Pakistan to best manage the trouble at their border with Afghanistan.

As ever – and with so many of these hots spots around the world – the path we need to be on is one of diplomacy. How we work with our allies, partners, and friends around the world is the key to making progress in any of these regions. Unfortunately, the strategic failure to lean into our relationships with those allies, partners, and friends means 2018 may continue to deliver us rough seas on the waters of international relations, law, and diplomacy.

Happy New Year to all – and as always, thanks for reading.

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