Tuesday, May 16, 2017

face time

Presidents have a penchant for thinking that personal relations with foreign leaders can override structural conflicts or basic policy differences. Starting in World War II, American leaders have yearned for summit meetings, both to practice their charm and win praise in the media. Subordinates work overtime to prepare successful meetings, often with fully scripted outcomes.

In my class this spring I asked students to prepare an intelligence assessment on the Untied States and its leadership as if for President Putin or President Xi. The students recognized from media reports that foreign leaders should appeal to Trump's vanity with personal praise and minor agreements that he could boast about.

Foreign leaders made the same assessment -- notably Japanese Prime Minister Abe and Chinese President Xi. They and others realized that they needed actual face time with Trump to get his attention and win his support for their views.And as the Atlantic's David Graham writes today,  Trump is a pushover.
The pattern has become clear: A foreign official comes to President Trump. They speak. The official leaves with what he or she wants, and Trump emerges chastened, having reversed a major policy, or both.
Clemenceau was right that war was too important to be left up to the generals. International relations are too important to be left up to the whims of leaders.

No comments:

Post a Comment