A must-read piece by Thomas Wright for The Atlantic – The Second Act of the Trump Foreign Policy

After 614 nights in office, we know quite a lot about President Donald Trump’s foreign policy. He has visceral beliefs about America’s role in the world that date back 30 years, most notably skepticism of alliances, opposition to free trade, and support for authoritarian strong men. Many of his administration’s senior officials do not share his views and fight against them, with varying degrees of success. Trump is undisciplined and impervious to normal forms of argumentation and bureaucratic process. He likes those who praise him and hates those who don’t. He is often shocking but rarely surprising.

All of these features were on display in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday. However, there are two things that we do not yet know: What’s Trump’s second act on the world stage? And how does it end? If one looks closely, Trump provided some clues to the answers yesterday.

About a year ago, Trump was resentful of being managed by the so-called adults in the room—Rex Tillerson, H.R. McMaster, Gary Cohn, Jim Mattis, and John Kelly—and he began pushing back by issuing orders over their objections. Since then, he has rushed through his presidential bucket list. He moved the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, imposed tariffs on China, had his summit in Helsinki with Vladimir Putin, went to the brink with NATO over defense spending, and effectively normalized relations with North Korea.

On many of these issues, he has declared victory. Of course, that’s a fiction. North Korea has no intention of denuclearizing. NATO nations will not reach the defense-spending target of 2 percent of GDP. But in Trump’s mind, he fixed it and it’s time to move on. As he candidly confessed after his summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, if it turned out that he was mistaken about North Korea, he would not admit it.But move on to what? Most presidents would outline a plan to deal with Iran after the nuclear deal, or to transform NATO to cope with the threat from authoritarian states, or to resolve the trade war. But Trump is not one for detail or course correction. In his world, there was a problem, so he did something quickly. And now it’s solved. To say anything else is to suggest the unthinkable—that he is not a magician.The other thing we do not know is how this ends. If the Trump presidency were a novel, the plot up to this point would have been the most dramatic, compelling, and mind-boggling imaginable. It would surely culminate in a historic catastrophe, a major crisis where we pulled back from the brink, or a Shakespearean unraveling of the lead character. It would not, under any circumstances, end with a whimper whereby Trump spends the rest of his days in power frustrated and having little effect on the wider world.This is not a novel. But everything we have experienced to date should prepare us for the possibility of a cliffhanger finale.

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