Ah, say the Trump fans in Washington, but this president is different. He is decisive. His boldness opens new possibilities. Secretary of state Mike Pompeo said this week that, whereas Barack Obama tried to ‘underwrite and appease’, Trump has been willing to ‘confront and contain.’ Except, he hasn’t. In June last year, at the very last moment, Trump canceled a punitive strike on Iran for having targeted Saudi oil facilities.
Is it all madman-theory brinksmanship? As he did with Kim Jong-un, Trump tries to con his enemy into thinking he is insanely unpredictable. But one wonders if Trump himself isn’t sometimes fooled by his own trick. I’m told he has privately exhibited a distinct nervousness in recent days.
Or perhaps he really is inventing some inspired form of improvisational statecraft? His critics love to say that he is incapable of serious strategic thought. But what Trump beautifully exposes is that everyone is winging everything all the time. It’s not as if academic grand theory has done America any good in recent decades. In an endlessly complex world, Trump’s gut instincts are arguably better than any game-planned containment stratagem.