Looking back over the first two weeks of the Trump administration, I am reminded of one of the few lines in his inaugural address that I liked. He said: “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world.” I said at the time that this couldn’t be squared with the hawkish attitudes of his appointees, but it was a good thing to say and it would have been even better if he had meant it. The start of a new administration offers the U.S. an opportunity to rebuild frayed relationships and strengthen those that are still intact, but with the possible exceptions of Britain and Israel Trump has not been seeking “friendship and goodwill” with other nations at all.
During the transition, he went out of his way to provoke China, and surrounded himself with hard-liners eager for confrontation with other states. Since his inauguration, he has picked a pointless fight with Mexico, took a gratuitous swipe at the EU, and spat in the faces of at least seven nations by barring entry to their nationals on spurious national security grounds. His administration continues the shameful U.S. support for the Saudi-led war on Yemen that began under his predecessor. Washington said in his farewell address, “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.” Trump is hardly the first president to disregard and flout this advice, but he is starting off his presidency to a remarkable degree by pursuing the exact opposite of what Washington recommended.