On March 28, a headline on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security website proudly declared, “Secretary Nielsen Signs Historic Regional Compact with Central America to Stem Irregular Migration at the Source, Confront U.S. Border Crisis.” The story under the headline told of how El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras would continue to work cooperatively with the U.S. to address the “ongoing humanitarian and security emergency at our Southern Border.”
The only effective means of stopping the flow of immigrants from these countries is to provide them financial and technical support to cut violence, produce jobs, and keep their citizens at home. El Salvador is a success story for that policy. Border apprehensions of Salvadorans decreased from over 72,000 in 2016 to less than 32,000 in 2018. The policy has yet to take hold in the other two countries but it can work.
On March 30, the president announced he was cutting assistance to the three countries because, “They haven’t done a thing for us.” The two-day timeframe might have been a little short for the historic March 28 policy to produce dramatic results. Do people in the White House coordinate with one another?
This is just another example of a fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants foreign policy that endangers the security of our country. The North Korean dictator is first a lying murderer, but then a trustworthy pal. Now, he is an estranged love interest. Everyone who understood the North Korean dictatorship knew it would end this way. Kim was not going to give up his nukes.
Syria is another example of the President’s ill-considered policy making. During a testy phone call with Turkey’s autocrat leader, Trump blurted out that the U.S. would yank 2,000 troops out of Syria immediately, leaving it to our enemies. But a few days later, under great Congressional and public pressure, he changed course. Next, he said we were going to leave 400 troops in the country for a short time, but later said it may be for a longer duration. What the heck is it??
More recently, he first said we might resort to military force in Venezuela, but then announced we wouldn’t. As the U.S. dithers to decide upon a Venezuela policy, a stalemate has set in there, and the dictator, Maduro, might not be dislodged from power.
Our allies in NATO and the European Union are sometimes our friends and sometimes our enemies. We may withdraw from NATO one day, but we might not the next day. Canada and Mexico are valuable trading partner at times but a national security threat at others. The U.S. has become an untrustworthy trading partner, driving allies in both Europe and Asia to seek trading alliances with China.
This type of helter-skelter foreign policy is extremely disconcerting to our friends, particularly our North American and European allies. Our friends need to have some predictability as to American policy and should be consulted before a dramatic swing takes place. Our enemies need to understand when there are red lines they dare not cross. An erratic foreign policy blurs the location of those critical lines.
Because our president is enamored with the Russian dictator, who is also the enemy of our closest allies, is it likely that those allies will share sensitive intelligence with us regarding the common Russian threat? With our president so beholden to the Saudi despot, can we ever disengage our support for his murderous and failing war in Yemen?
The U.S. presidency is not an ideal place for on-the-job training in foreign policy. If a novice ends up in the White House, he should recognize his limitations and hire competent people to do the job for him. That has not happened yet in the Trump White House and it endangers our alliances and the security of our beloved country.
Jim Jones is a former Idaho attorney general and a former Idaho Supreme Court chief justice. His previous columns can be found at https://JJCommonTater.com.