Trouble overseas starts here
President Trump has been largely ineffective at enacting his domestic policy agenda. Even with his own party in control of Congress, he has not been able to get even one of his major legislative proposals passed and signed into law. From my perspective, this is a good thing.
However, in the realm of foreign policy, the office of the president largely has free reign. In just a few months, President Trump has used the wide latitude of his office to do grave damage.
President Trump has single-handedly imposed dramatic changes to American foreign policy that should concern all Americans. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I am deeply troubled.
In the post-world War II era, every American president from Truman, Ike and JFK through Reagan, both Bushes and Obama has reaffirmed their role as leaders of the free world. This has always been a bipartisan consensus. Trump is changing that through his willful decisions to remove America’s principled leadership on the most pressing issues of our time, from human rights to press freedoms and our commitments to our closest allies. Some of these allies are making public their faltering trust in us, such as Germany and Canada. Rather than “negotiating better deals,” he is removing us from the bargaining table altogether.
President Trump first visited Saudi Arabia, where he was full of praise for the kingdom’s leaders and silent on matters of human rights and funding of terror. While in Saudi Arabia, he declared he wasn’t there “to lecture them” on human rights, but he had no such hesitation about lecturing on his next stop in Brussels.
When I first learned President Trump planned to attend the NATO and G7 meetings, I was encouraged to see him apparently embracing our allies and the important alliance that he so often called “obsolete” on the campaign trail (despite his lack of foreign policy experience or knowledge). However, I was alarmed by the president’s behavior on the world stage.
In Europe, Trump shoved fellow world leaders aside, figuratively and literally, and failed to reaffirm America’s commitment to NATO’S foundational article 5 of collective defense. He made a tired campaign-style speech about NATO’S financing (despite the litany of pressing global issues worthy of discussion). Trump set out to make other nations look irresponsible for their defense spending; but, in the end, it’s the United States that will be irresponsible if we turn our back on NATO.
NATO countries and others, like Japan, live under the umbrella of our protection. This is by our own design — a policy pursued in our own interest to, in the end, protect Americans. In 1949, in the wake of another world war and upon the vow of “never again,” leaders from 12 western nations created NATO to provide collective security against the Soviet Union and the threats it posed to democratic societies. Almost half a million Americans had fallen during the war and, while the violence had ended, conflict was still brewing between Western nations and the Soviet Union. NATO deters and diffuses the escalation of conflicts. Today, from Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Eastern Europe to violence spreading in the Middle East, it will be our commitment to NATO that will prevent aggression and violence from coming to our own country.
Now, Trump announced he is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accords, the landmark voluntary agreement between 195 countries to collectively address the threat of global climate change. The United States is the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases. Previously, only Syria and Nicaragua declined to join the agreement. While the Paris Accord may not seem like a foreign policy issue at first glance, when coupled with Trump’s words at NATO, the conclusion is clear: President Trump has resigned the United States’ role as world leader.
We are already seeing the impact of his blunders play out. Following several days of meetings with Trump, Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel told her citizens, “The times when we could completely rely on others are, to an extent, over.”
All Americans should be deeply disturbed by Trump’s demonstrated retreat from our ideals on the global stage and his lack of leadership on the issues of our time. The stakes are too high. U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-13, can be reached at his Glenside office at 115 E. Glenside Avenue, Ste 1, Glenside (215-517-6572); his Norristown office at 101 E. Main St., Suite A, Norristown (610-2708081); or his Washington, D.C., office at 1133 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. (202-225-6111).