I did not want to write this. I believe that pretty much everything that can be said about our President’s foreign policy vision has been said. The people who support Mr. Trump do so with the same vigor as those who disagree strongly. But a July 13 New York Times op-ed by National Security Advisor LTG. McMaster and Director of the National Economic Council Cohn, entitled “The Trump Vision for America Abroad” convinced me to share my views.
LTG. McMaster and Mr. Cohn assert that the President’s early July visit to Poland and the G-20 Summit in Germany strengthened U.S. alliances and that “the American delegation returned from the trip with tremendous optimism about the future and what the United States, our allies and our partners can achieve together.” I am afraid that, based on a 35-year career in our country’s diplomatic service, I cannot share that optimism.
The two senior White House officials argue that the President at every opportunity abroad articulated his vision for securing the American homeland, enhancing American prosperity, and advancing American influence. He did that, but he did not advance our country’s interest in having our allies and partners join, or better yet follow, our leadership. Other countries are simply not very interested in reminders of our plans for our own prosperity, our own security, and our singular global influence. They want to hear our views on joint prosperity, joint security, and joint exercise of positive influence around the world. That is how we actually achieve our goals and articulate our leadership — by not making them sound self-serving.
LTG. McMaster and Mr. Cohn nevertheless believe that the President’s recent visits abroad built coalitions. In support of that coalition building, during those visits, the President affirmed that his America First vision is based on American values. I can only hope that he was well intentioned, if incorrect. American values are generous and big-hearted; inclusive and tolerant; self-assured and compassionate. America First conveys a much more limited, U.S. centric vision.
I am an immigrant with a deep love of my country. In my heart America is always first. I get teary-eyed every time I read Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee’s eulogy of George Washington: First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen. What a powerful statement of being first as an American leader! As an American diplomat and Ambassador, I never used America First as a recipe for achieving U.S. foreign policy goals abroad. That would have led to failure. I showed U.S. leadership by example and demonstrated the value to others of joining in our initiatives. Every country wants to be first when it comes to its national interests.
So, respectfully, Mr. President. For your recent overseas travel, you deserve credit for your support of the NATO mutual defense commitment and for achieving a ceasefire in Syria. But you did not strengthen our alliances around the world and you did not demonstrate the resurgence of American leadership to bolster common interests and affirm shared values. You demonstrated your vision for a chest pounding America. For the rest of the world that vision is all about us, not about leading in partnership with others. It is no cause for optimism about the success of American global leadership.