President Trump promised to "Make America Great Again," but the foreign policy and international budget he has sketched out so far will only make America weaker and poorer.
His to-do list reads like a how-to manual for exacerbating global crises, eroding U.S. influence and squandering precious resources:
1. Increasing military spending while slashing aid and diplomacy. Doubling down on the threat of force while shortchanging international cooperation is likely to alienate allies and build sympathy for terrorists and rogue states. Over 120 retired generals and admirals have warned that the military "needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism — lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness."
2. Expanding the global gag rule. Previous Republican administrations have prohibited family planning aid to organizations that use their own money to perform, counsel, or even refer women for abortions in countries where it is legal, a policy known as the "global gag rule."
But Trump has gone much further, by signaling that the rule will be applied to all global health funds. This could cripple international efforts to achieve an AIDS-free generation and end preventable maternal and child deaths, because so many medical clinics might no longer qualify for aid.
3. Removing tools for fighting corruption. One of Republicans' first legislative actions, welcomed and signed by the president, was to rescind regulations requiring extractive firms to disclose their payments to foreign governments. The purpose of the rule was to make it harder for corrupt foreign officials to embezzle public funds.
4. Ignoring climate change. Regardless of whether Americans believe that climate change is real — and 70 percent of them do — poor people around the world are already experiencing its impact. With funding for environmental conservation, emergency preparedness and sound management of natural resources, countries can improve community resilience and reduce the damage from floods, droughts, fires and other weather-related disasters. But Trump has proposed eliminating all resources for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
5. Hobbling oversight. If Trump decimates the staff charged with ensuring that foreign aid funds are spent and accounted for correctly, no one should be surprised when money goes missing and results are not achieved. The administration's proposal to cut the State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) by 37 percent will require dramatic staffing reductions, making it harder to properly monitor programs.
6. Blaming the media. Telling the media to "keep its mouth shut," as the president's senior adviser, Steve Bannon, did, or calling it the "enemy of the people," as Trump tweeted, won't make international problems go away.
Such attacks will only make it easier for the administration to avoid addressing difficult situations until they become full-blown crises.
7. Reneging on commitments. Over the past year, Trump has threatened to "rip up" the Iran deal, withdraw from the Paris climate accord, abandon NATO and pull back from multilateral organizations. Going it alone in foreign affairs is not only more expensive, but less effective.
8. Rejecting American values. Whether it's the embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the downplaying of international human rights concerns, the suspension of refugee admissions or the plan to slash humanitarian aid, Trump’s policies give a green light to abusive regimes. The United States has now put a target on the backs of freedom’s defenders and taken hope from the hearts of the defenseless.
Congress need not abide by this playbook. A growing number of Republicans have signaled their disagreement with the administration’s foreign policy directions, with one calling Trump's budget "dead on arrival."
But to stave off irreparable damage to U.S. national interests and global standing, Democrats and Republicans will need to stand together in rejecting this dangerous course.
Diana Ohlbaum is an independent consultant at DLO Global; a principal of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a reform coalition composed of international development and foreign policy practitioners, policy advocates and experts; and a board member of the Center for International Policy, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization that promotes cooperation, transparency and accountability in global relations.
The views of contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.