President Trump is barely two months into his term, and already he’s on course to make the foreign policy mistakes of the Obama administration much, much worse. Instead of cutting American losses in unwinnable situations, moving toward retrenchment, and re-assessing America’s long war in the Middle East, the Trump administration seems to be taking bigger gambles in operations, loosening the rules of engagement for the military, and doubling down on conflicts that only have the most marginal relation to core U.S. interests.
It’s a bitter result for those who hoped that a candidate opposed by most foreign policy hawks would turn out to be a dove as president. But getting to a more peaceful and restrained foreign policy was always going to be a problem for Trump. As a candidate, Trump was always of two minds on foreign policy. Non-interventionists and other peaceniks hoped that Trump would lean toward his conviction that the United States has been fighting dumb wars for years, and that these wars resulted in gains for our enemies and enormous costs in blood and treasure for America.
But candidate Trump didn’t just criticize our leaders for their impulsiveness and stupidity. He also lambasted them as weaklings who followed politically correct rules and had lost the will to achieve victory. He said that’s he’d bring back worse than waterboarding, and that he wouldn’t rule out nuclear weapons. He would “knock the hell out of” the Islamic State, and we would win wars again.