Trump’s notion that the world is composed of rivals looking for the mental kill, the equivalent of the psych-out or put-down, may work on the campaign trail and in real estate negotiations. But not on the international stage. Trump has already responded publicly to David Cameron’s criticism of his ban on Muslims in somewhat the same way the candidate once entered into a monthslong feud with Megyn Kelly, by saying, “It looks like we’re not going to have a very good relationship.” And that’s America’s closest ally he’s talking about. Far from making a president appear tough and resolute, personalizing these issues appears petty and juvenile and creates a kind of kindergarten playground mentality.
Moreover, the world these days isn’t just divided neatly into friends you consider faultlessly loyal and enemies to get even with. America deals with any number of countries, including China and Russia, where both competition and cooperation are likely to be the order of the day.
And should Trump actually become president his kill-or-be-killed view of the world won’t much help him or the United States. On one hand he blasts the Chinese for currency manipulation and “raping” the United States; but on the other sees Beijing as the only way to influence North Korea. Interestingly enough, despite Vladimir Putin’s efforts to oppose U.S. policies in Ukraine and Syria, Trump is carrying on an unusual bromance with the Russian leader, a man he claims he can deal with. Given Russia’s determination to protect its interests, an intemperate and easily slighted President Trump may quickly find himself frustrated by Putin’s risk-ready policies. And how would he then feeling betrayed deal with the man in Moscow. The same holds for our imperfect Middle East allies, notably Saudi Arabia where Trump has already lambasted Riyadh for disrespecting the president on his last visit and threatened to stop buying Saudi oil if they don’t step up the fight against the Islamic State.