July 20, 2019

There's a Method to Trump's Madness

“Time-travel with me back to 2016. Fears were rampant that Donald Trump would not be able to handle an international crisis, that he would react either recklessly or timidly and thereby hurt U.S. security. We’re going through a period of intense global pressure right now, and so far he has proved up to the task.

Take Iran’s recent provocations. U.S. sanctions have started to bite, so the mullahs are saber rattling. But neither threats to ramp up their nuclear program nor credible intelligence that they intended to attack U.S. interests have provoked the president. Instead, the administration is prudently responding via diplomacy (witness Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s recent unscheduled trip to Baghdad) and by sending a carrier battle group to the Arabian Sea. People might disagree with some of President Trump’s Middle East policy decisions, such as his decision to rescind the Obama administration’s deal with Iran (I think it was the right call because the deal merely subsidized a multiyear delay in Iran’s nuclear weapons program rather than remove that threat entirely), but since then, Trump has conducted measured, thoughtful action.

Ditto with respect to the Venezuelan crisis. Fears were rampant when the United States and its allies recognized interim president Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate ruler that a cowboy invasion was right around the corner. Instead, we have seen the opposite. The application of sanctions and the slow isolation of Venezuela’s government and leadership haven’t toppled the dictator Nicolás Maduro yet. But neither has Trump given in to the temptation to either reverse course or recklessly attack. Again, one can disagree with the strategy but there is no quibbling with the tactics.”

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