Historian Melvyn Leffler's assessment of Trump's foreign policy in his first yearHistorians in the News
Leffler addressed foreign policy and national security issues in Trump’s first year.
Though many presidents have faced major tragedies during their first year in office – Sept. 11, 2001 fell in George W. Bush’s first year, for example – Leffler said that Trump has not yet faced a similar test.
“There has been no Bay of Pigs, no 9/11,” he said.He noted that the Trump administration could count the fall of ISIS in Syria and Iraq as “one unequivocal success in foreign policy.”
“That is a really noteworthy accomplishment, which was already underway in Obama’s last years, but which the military under Trump has succeeded in accomplishing,” he said.
However, he also listed several failures that he was concerned about as a scholar and historian of foreign policy.
“He has neither improved relations with Russia, which he had stated he wanted to do, nor constrained Russian actions in Ukraine or Syria, nor confronted Putin over electoral intervention here and in Europe,” Leffler said. “President Trump, for all his rhetoric, has not stopped North Korea’s strategic advances, has made no progress in containing the projection of Chinese military strength into the South China Sea, and has done very little to contain the expansion of Chinese influence elsewhere.” Among other concerns, Leffler also worried that Trump’s “America First” policy could reduce the policies of international cooperation that have kept the peace in many ways after World War II.
“These were the policies that bred peace among the great powers for the last 75 years,” Leffler said. “These were the policies that brought more people out of poverty in the last 40 years than in any comparable era in world history. Those were the things that made America great.”
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