0232 GMT May 27, 2022
There’s some truth to that statement. The U.S. did withdraw from the world to a limited extent. Trump did not expand the U.S. footprint. He decried America’s forever wars and overseas commitments but did very little to stop or limit them. After expanding U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan, he struck a deal to have the troops withdraw in 2021. He undermined U.S. alliances in Europe. But he increased the number of drone attacks. He talked about “America First,” the slogan embraced by pro-Nazi Americans in the late 1930s. He cut taxes for the wealthy and eliminated social programs for poor and working Americans, but he increased military spending. So, he was isolationist in his rhetoric but not always in his behavior.
One might say that in practice, under Trump, the U.S. was isolated more than once in the international arena, perhaps most notably in its unilateral withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. In your opinion, what kind of calculation or strategic consideration motivated Trump to make that choice, and what was the impact of his decision?
Trump, in his incompetence, ignorance, and boorish ranting, was the opposite of Barack Obama who was erudite, articulate, hardworking, and knowledgeable. On some level he knew how oafish and clownish he was compared to Obama and he resented it. He set out to reverse every one of Obama’s policy achievements. I was and remain an outspoken critic of Obama’s foreign policy. However, his greatest foreign policy achievement was the nuclear deal with Iran. Trump wasted little time in blowing it up.
This was tragic because it was working. Although Iran never got the economic benefits it was expecting, Iran was complying with the deal, which substantially reduced the prospects of an Iranian bomb and lessened tensions in the region. Trump surrounded himself with Iran haters. He was also in bed with Netanyahu, who had openly intervened in the 2016 elections on Trump’s behalf and vigorously opposed the JCPOA. So, the U.S. wrecked the deal and the world is worse off for that fact. The negotiations are stalled while Iran increases it stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Even the Israelis recognized their mistake, but that is what happens when two war criminals – Trump and Netanyahu – get in bed together.
*Peter Kuznick is professor of history and director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at the American University.