His latest threat, to meet further North Korean provocations with “fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before,” is disconcerting for two reasons:
- Who believes him? Certainly not the North Koreans, who responded to Trump’s bluster by threatening to strike the American island of Guam.
- North Korea never backs down. It is the superpower, not an impoverished country with an army from the Stalinist era, that is supposed to act responsibly and deescalate.
Seven months into his administration, the failures of Trump’s speak-loudly-and-carry-a-small-stick foreign policy are already manifold:
- He threatened China with commercial reprisals if it wouldn’t rein in North Korea. It didn’t.
- He encouraged far-right politicians in Europe in a bid to weaken the EU. He ended up uniting Europe — against himself.
- He hectored NATO allies at a 9/11 memorial to invest more in their defense. They have not changed their spending plans.
As for Trump’s signature campaign promise, to make Mexico pay for a border wall, it is so absurd it barely warrants mentioning.
Trump may have been able to browbeat the Republican Party into submission; the rest of the world is not so easily impressed.
And that is dangerous. Trump is boxing himself into a corner. At some point, he might feel he needs to make good on his threats, which could mean war.