Trump, whose id often controls his understanding of policy, seems to think our allies are like members of his entourage picking his pocket. NATO, he says, is “worse than NAFTA,” and the European Union was created “to take advantage of the United States.” (It wasn’t.)
Meanwhile, even as Trump treats allied leaders such as Canada’s Justin Trudeau and Germany’s Angela Merkel like punching bags, he has gone to great lengths to praise and defend authoritarians in Russia, Turkey, China, the Philippines, and elsewhere. At least such leaders are “strong,” he often says. Trump genuflects at the sovereign inviolability of national borders, but even that goes out the window when it comes to Crimea’s borders. Because Putin is “strong.”
The Trump Doctrine, in short, is simply the international-relations analogue to the domestic version of Trumpism. The Big Man personifies the national will, and constraints on the national will are for suckers. Self-interest, personally defined, is inherently in conflict with collective interest. It’s Make America Great Again on a global scale. One problem: The world was not that great when everybody followed this doctrine.