Trump's Show Business Politics Demolished American Credibility Abroad. He Must Be Restrained | Opinion

President Trump runs his administration like a reality television show: every hour, another insult; every day, another plot twist; every week, another senior official told, "You're fired." This is a showbusiness presidency, driven by ratings, not rationality. Applied to America's international relations, this approach has destabilized our alliances, cheered our enemies, and made every American measurably less safe.

On the global stage, the president alienates long-standing allies, flinging insults at his fellow Western leaders, including the German chancellor and the Canadian prime minister. When asked to catalogue America's "foes," Trump put the European Union at the top of the list. In January, Congress felt compelled to pass legislation barring the administration from withdrawing the United States from NATO, the West's premier military alliance. (Even then, more than ten percent of House Republicans rejected the bill.)

At the same time, since taking office, the president has held at least five closed-door, one-on-one encounters with Vladimir Putin of Russia, the full contents which he reportedly did not divulge even to his own intelligence community, and praising authoritarians like Putin and Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. Apparently, the feeling is mutual: strongmen from Hungary to Cambodia cite Trump's actions as justification for their own abuses. The opening to totalitarian North Korea was a made-for-TV charade that handed a propaganda victory to the country's fratricidal dictator, Kim Jong-Un, in exchange for no binding commitments of any substance. This was entertainment diplomacy, as evidenced by the exchange of theatrical "love letters" between Kim and Trump.

Perhaps the deepest damage is in the Middle East. In December, the White House abruptly ordered the Pentagon to pull all remaining U.S. personnel out of Syria—reportedly following a private phone call between Trump and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Such a move would represent America's abandonment of the Syrian people—especially the Kurds, who will be vulnerable to attack should Turkey take over security. It would also allow both Russia and Iran to tighten their grips on the region. Trump's response when questioned about this was to say that, as far as he was concerned, Iranian forces in Syria could "do what they want." His sudden reversal confused our allies, precipitated the resignations of the defense secretary and of America's representative to the anti-ISIS coalition, and forced administration officials to tour the region calming tensions by watering down the president's policy.

The administration's reckless policies do not only create an opening for our adversaries, but also further destabilize the region and present a threat to the strategic interests of the United States, including the security of Israel. On Israeli-Palestinian relations, Trump has abandoned all semblance of balance. The administration had already cancelled $200 million in humanitarian assistance to Palestinian civilians, even before new legislation effectively forced the Palestinian Authority (PA) to reject all U.S. aid including the security assistance programs. This aid furthers US interests; cutting it creates a vacuum for terror organizations to fill. Alongside moving the embassy to Jerusalem, the Trump administration announced the closure of the consulate in Jerusalem, long the focus of U.S. relations with the PA-and a key part of our security strategy. From now on, Palestinian affairs will be handled by an office reporting to Ambassador David Friedman, Trump's bankruptcy lawyer, and a man who has long supported Israeli settlements and calls the two-state solution a "scam."

At the same time, America's capacity to act has been decimated. America still lacks ambassadors to Egypt, Turkey, the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, just to name a few. The top two State Department positions dealing with near-east policy are likewise empty. Two years into this administration, these vacancies look less like an oversight and more like a ploy to restrict contact with key powers to a clique around the president—a suspicion exacerbated by Trump's appointment of his son-in-law - an individual with no foreign policy background or experience- as Middle East liaison putting him effectively in-charge of U.S. policy in the region.

Shockingly, the President has derided even America's own intelligence and law enforcement professionals, rewarding their patriotism by comparing U.S. intelligence agencies to "Nazi Germany," describing the FBI as "a cancer in our country," and publicly illustrating that he believes Putin over our own intelligence community. By forcing a 34-day shutdown over Christmas, he put federal workers—including those whose job it is to keep us safe—literally in line for food banks. It is worth noting that foreign intelligence agencies typically target people in financial difficulty and those who have a grievance against the government.

America has become addicted to this spectacle the way people become addicted to soap operas. We must change the channel before it is too late. Instead of bickering over the latest tweet, we must take a close look the way our country is being governed and the things that are being done in our name. Politicians of all parties must take seriously their duty to hold the executive to account. The times we live in are much too serious for a show business government.

Ali Soufan is a former FBI Supervisory Special Agent who investigated and supervised international terrorism cases, including the events surrounding 9/11. He is the Chief Executive Officer of The Soufan Group and Founder of The Soufan Center.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.​​​​​

Trump's Show Business Politics Demolished American Credibility Abroad. He Must Be Restrained | Opinion | Opinion