This past week we witnessed Donald Trump speak for the first time at the United Nations General Assembly. Many were shocked by his threat to destroy the country of North Korea (not just remove its leadership, but destroy the whole country, which is against international law btw.), decertify Iranian compliance with the Nuclear Accord, and some wily threats against Cuba and Venezuela. Many commentators are talking about how bad this is for U.S. foreign policy. I agree, this is blusterous, inept, and destructive foreign policy which could lead to the deaths of millions of people. Yet, what most are missing is: Trump Doesn’t Care!
He's not looking outside U.S. borders when he makes speeches such as the one at the U.N. The only thing he cares about is unifying, consolidating, and maintaining his base of support in the U.S. His speech was not for the international audience arrayed before him in New York City, it was for those who voted for him in the swing states across the country. Trump does not care if he causes international tension, happens to start regional wars, or even possibly propel the world into a massive global catastrophe. In fact, he would prefer it. Americans have a history of unifying behind the President during times of War, whether that President started it or not. A war, he believes, would help his electoral chances in the future (assuming he survives the multiple inquiries into GOP, Trump Campaign, and Russian collusion and treason in the 2016 election).
Therefore, don’t take what Trump is saying at face value, as he means nothing he says. Instead, see it for what it is: A sales pitch of his brand. His entire life has been a sales pitch of his brand. He successfully converted from low-end apartments in New York’s outer boroughs to casinos to television to politics through selling his brand. The same is happening on the world stage. It’s about brand recognition, loyalty, and ratings. When looked at this way, you can see he’s still the same sleazy salesman who doesn’t care if you get a crappy product, as long as he gets the specific deal he wants. There is no long-term strategy, no caring about relationships (clearly seen from the revolving door of his White House staffing system), or about what it even means for anyone but him. He’s trumping his name and brand, hoping to make it have enough value to legitimately win him an election.
Trump doesn’t care if hundreds of thousands of South Koreans may die in Seoul, thousands of U.S. military personnel may die in conflicts around the world, or even if Hawaii is nuked (it’s a blue state after all). All he cares about is manipulating the electorate of the United States enough to win the electoral college again in 2020. When seen through this perspective, his entire administration is easily understood, and more importantly, could be easily countered. Give the man a hug, pat him on the back with an Atta-boy, and send him packing. He’d be happy, and the rest of us would be safe to live our lives without the threat of nuclear Armageddon. Most foreign policy analysts, mom and pop shop owners, and even Trump voters would probably agree, that’s a deal worth taking.
Jeremy Strozer is a Strategic Risk Adviser with experience teaching and consulting with multiple Defense, Development, and Diplomatic agencies within the U.S. and allied governments. He also writes about the personal experience in War at www.jeremystrozer.com