- Trump has taken action in places like Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan
- The moves have given US power a shot in the arm, according to observers
Eighty-six days into the new administration, the President seems to pivoting away from the “America First” doctrine that drove his campaign and foreshadowed a withdrawal from the world stage. Some of Trump’s foreign policy decisions still seem to reflect that protectionist view — in particular his decision to slash the budget for US diplomacy.
But Trump’s recent use of military force in Syria and Afghanistan points to a possible evolution in his thinking about the use of American power and how best to wield it on the world stage.
While his embrace of military action is raising concerns in some quarters, others say Trump’s shift takes the White House closer to a traditional US foreign policy.
“It’s too early to suggest that we’re seeing a doctrine, I don’t think any president had a doctrine at this point, but certainly we’re seeing more military force,” said Barry Pavel, vice president at the Atlantic Council. “They are showing some evidence of an ability to learn and move toward the mainstream.”
The moves have given US power a shot in the arm, according to observers like Peter Mansoor, a retired Army colonel who served in Iraq and now teaches at Ohio State University.
“President Trump has given much more leeway to his military commanders to strike, and they’re striking,” Mansoor told CNN. “And I think that does send a message around the world that America’s back.”
“Those who would like to challenge the United States in Asia, the Middle East and Europe knew toward the end of 2013 there was almost nothing the Obama administration would use military force to address,” Pavel said. “They knew we had the ability, but not the will.”
Trump’s decision to strike Syria “startled the Russians, and also certainly startled the Chinese and the North Koreans,” Pavel said.
North Korea, which celebrated a major national holiday Friday that it often marks them with a show of military aggression, has complained that Trump policies, words and tweets “make trouble” and that the US has become “more vicious and more aggressive” under the new president.
With Pyongyang soon expected to conduct a sixth nuclear test, Vice President Mike Pence is headed to Asia this weekend, with stops in Seoul, Jakarta, Tokyo and Sydney.
Trump was also asked if he had given the green light for the military to use what’s known as the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan. “What I do is I authorize my military,” Trump said. “We’ve given them total authorization and frankly that’s why they have been so successful lately.”