Presidents who have been successful in achieving their foreign policy goals sometimes are described as having a doctrine. Harry Truman’s was containment of Communism; Ronald Reagan’s was rolling back Communism and “peace through strength”
Not all administrations can be labeled, because they lacked clarity of goals or didn’t achieve their goals. Bill Clinton didn’t seem to have a strategic goal; Jimmy Carter had one—promoting human rights—but he mostly gave left-wing dictatorships a pass while harassing right-wing dictatorships.
Not only do U.S. presidents have identifiable doctrines. Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev had one—namely that not one square inch of soil that Soviet communists conquered would be relinquished (NB: most such square inches were). When we can identify a president’s foreign policy doctrine, it provides a useful shorthand to describe how the administration sees the world and the U.S. role in it, and then we can judge its effectiveness.
There Is No Trump Doctrine Yet
It is too soon to ascribe a doctrine to the Trump administration. Candidate Trump campaigned on rejecting nation-building, foreign adventurism, and the notion that an assumed global consensus was the North Star for U.S. policy. Voters liked this, and it helped him win the White House. Nevertheless, over the past five months …read more