Why Trump's Advisors Keep Quashing His Realist Whims | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Why Trump's Advisors Keep Quashing His Realist Whims

The multitude of policy zigs and zags seems to constitute a case of a president suffering from foreign policy bipolar disorder. Yet a pattern may exist amidst all of the turmoil. Trump’s foreign policy instincts often appear to be a sound and refreshing contrast to the stale conventional wisdom that has led the United States to careen from one interventionist debacle to another over the past quarter-century. (His early hostile stance toward North Korea and his policy toward Iran at all times are the major exceptions to sound instincts.) But time and again Trump has allowed his advisers to talk him out of his initial (usually correct) positions. That’s not surprising. The president is not an avid reader about foreign policy (or apparently anything else), and his knowledge base is alarmingly shallow. That deficiency gives policy advisers an exceptional degree of influence.

If Trump sought out qualified advocates of a foreign policy based on realism and restraint, the consequences flowing from his own intellectual limitations would not necessarily be all that negative. But he has been surrounded by utterly conventional thinkers (Mattis, McMaster, Pence) or ultra-hawks (Bolton, Haley, Pompeo). In such an environment, his worthwhile instincts often wither and his worst inclinations become more pronounced.

The abrupt Syria and Afghanistan troop withdrawal decisions may be simply another volatile episode. Ideally, they are manifestations of badly needed, overdue policy changes.