By separating himself from a reputed national security adviser going to war, Donald Trump finds himself facing his indecision on the subject of external interventions.
The news was shaking in Washington. On March 23, 2018, Donald Trump announced on Twitter the appointment of John Bolton as National Security Advisor. A supposed Falcon, an eternal defender of the war in Iraq, the former United States Ambassador to the UN under George W. Bush seemed to swear with the isolationist views of his employer. One year and six months later, it is also because of "deep disagreements" on foreign policy that the President of the United States announced, always on Twitter, having asked his advisor go to war to resign. At the time of the balance sheet, it seems far from having arrived at its ends. "I'm amazed that Bolton really failed to start a war," said a researcher from an American think tank, the Cato Institute.
Can we still present Donald Trump as a dove? Faced with John Bolton, reluctant to negotiate with Iran, the Taliban or North Korea, the tenant of the White House seems indeed hold his line isolationist. After all, its slogan "America First" also means letting the nations concerned take care of the conflicts that affect them. However, this president is indeed the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, apocalyptic threats against Kim Jong-un and strikes in Syria. Associate professor of history and specialist in the United States, Corentin Sellin decrypts for L'Express the paradoxes of American foreign policy after this umpteenth resignation.
Two opposing speeches
"The problem of Donald Trump is that he still has not decided between his two speeches, says Corentin Sellin L'Express. The first, heard especially during his campaign, was very critical of deployments abroad, perceived as long and expensive – in February 2016, for example, he described the war in Iraq as "a big mistake," recalled the Huffington Post. The second, the US specialist continues, feeds on his anti-Obama obsession, seen as "a petchard who did not go to Syria and who traded with Iran." Anxious to make the United States a country once again respected, the president would be open to military interventions in the form of show of force, not destined to last but to show that he is the "strong leader" of a nation that can defend himself. Two lines obviously "contradictory", observes the associate professor of history.
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The episode of strikes against Iran last June, aborted, according to Donald Trump, ten minutes ahead of schedule, illustrates the ambiguity of the position of the US President on these issues, Corentin Sellin analysis. After Iran shot down a US Navy drone, retaliatory strikes against "a handful of Iranian targets, such as radars and missile batteries" had been ordered before being canceled, the military said. New York Times. "The president is worked by those who remind him that for its base, 'America First' also means 'less intervention'," says the specialist of the United States. "As a result, he's letting Iran get away from it by saying on Twitter that he's going to charge them." In the days leading up, Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has the ear of order in chiefwarned him of the consequences of such strikes on his eventual reelection, New York Times.
With Bolton, understanding and disagreements
John Bolton did not suffer from such indecision, and Donald Trump himself did not ignore it. "John Bolton is clearly a hawk," said the president last June in an interview with NBC News. "If it were up to him, he would face the whole world all by himself." Before joining the White House, he had defended in forums the idea of strikes against Iran and North Korea. This is not enough to scare the president, who shared with his new adviser his opposition to the Iranian nuclear deal, left by the United States only a month after his arrival. "At the time, there is not a sheet of cigarette paper between the two men," said Corentin Sellin. They also believe that on the American continent, the United States are the only masters on board and refuse any attempt at European interference on continental conflicts, says the specialist of the United States. "Donald Trump did not need to be engrained by John Bolton to threaten Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, nor to support the coup de force of Juan Guaido", recognized as legitimate president of the country by fifty countries, reminds -he.
The issues of contention have accumulated in recent months. On ideas as on the method. According to US media, the invitation of Taliban leaders to Camp David, the United States President's vacation spot, in the context of negotiations prior to the withdrawal of thousands of American soldiers from Afghanistan, is the straw that has overflowed the vase. The Associated Press agency even announced Monday, the day before the departure of John Bolton, a heated telephone conversation between the two men. The former adviser was also opposed to negotiations with Iran, and reportedly tried to persuade Donald Trump not to withdraw US troops from Syria, the agency added. As for the failure of the takeover of Juan Guaido in Venezuela, the president would have given the hat to his adviser. On the method side, details Corentin Sellin, the adviser would have found himself "out of step with the show diplomacy" of the tenant of the White House, "impulsive and entirely centered" on the president, who would like above all to attribute to himself the success of his foreign policy .
Trump, "paper tiger"?
His security advisor thrown out, which line could now follow Donald Trump? In recent weeks, the President of the United States has not been the fiercest in the face of "rogue states". While North Korea is multiplying rocket fire, it is minimizing. Faced with Iranian provocations, he threatens but recoils before jumping and even lets Emmanuel Macron regain control of the talks with Tehran A waltz-hesitation that reduces his ability to arouse anxiety among his opponents. "After a while, when you threaten to get angry, you have to end up doing it," says Corentin Sellin. "The risk for Donald Trump today is to appear as a paper tiger."
And when Donald Trump hits, his explanations show that he is mainly driven by his impulsiveness, argues Corentin Sellin. In April 2017, the United States had targeted a military base of the Syrian regime, in response to yet another attack on civilians. "The president had seen shocking photos" of child victims of the attack, recalls the US specialist, who notes that emotional reactions "do not make a strategy." In hindsight, these strikes have not begun a serious inflection in the report of the tenant of the White House to external conflicts, he adds. Faced with his isolationist base, he seems tempted not to add oil to the fire. Will it be the same once re-elected?