What Did America Gain from Trump's World Tour?
No; America is turning its back. Some who have praised the trip most effusively have suggested that it has demonstrated that the United States is now back on the world stage, presumably in stark contrast to what they believe was Obama’s abdication of leadership. Others suggest that the Trump trip has more clearly identified America’s friends and enemies, and in doing so is now better positioned on the world stage.
But it’s still not clear what this really means. Beyond the rhetoric and strutting, asserting American leadership means getting important stuff done—unilaterally, bilaterally, or multilaterally with allies and partners—to preempt or solve problems, support friends and contain adversaries in the service of American interests. Trump certainly made the Saudis and Israelis feel better, but at the same time, he didn’t seem to reap any immediate gains in return. And in Europe, he has done significant damage to America’s relationships and, at a minimum, annoyed, offended and reinforced their nervousness and unease. Indeed, if Trump wants to make America great again, why would he gratuitously want to undermine the security architecture and alliance politics that aim to project American influence in the world?
One presidential trip clearly does not a coherent and productive foreign policy make. But we wouldn’t be surprised if Trump isn’t up for another one soon. Indeed, the travel and all the attention and hoopla may have been a lot more fun and enjoyable than Trump anticipated, particularly the way he was feted in Saudi and Israel, and the mischievous delight he seemed to take in annoying and bullying the Europeans.
And now that he’s back, the president may well come to appreciate even more that the world beyond America’s shores—however challenging—is certainly much less cruel and more forgiving than the one he confronts here at home.
Aaron David Miller is a vice president and Distinguished Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and author of The End of Greatness: Why America Can’t Have (and Doesn’t Want) Another Great President. Miller was a Middle East negotiator in Democratic and Republican administrations.
Richard Sokolsky is a nonresident senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He served in the State Department for thirty-seven years, including ten as a member of the secretary of state’s Office of Policy Planning from 2005 to 2015.
Image: President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive in Riyadh. Wikimedia Commons/Public domain