President Trump puts all Americans at risk with scattered foreign policy

The killing of top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike authorized by President TrumpDonald John TrumpPelosi eyes end of April to bring a fourth coronavirus relief bill to the floor NBA to contribute 1 million surgical masks to NY essential workers Private equity firm with ties to Kushner asks Trump administration to relax rules on loan program: report MORE marked his most significant use of military force to date. While the death of represents a stunning setback for Iran and marks the elimination of a dangerous murderous enemy of the United States, the actions that Trump has taken will likely warrant a highly aggressive retaliatory response from Iran that could backfire on American forces and allies in the Middle East and beyond.

The decision on Solemani is confounding, and in many ways disturbing, given the inconsistent and often impulsive approach that Trump takes in dealing with Iran, as well as other rogue countries such as North Korea. Trump had indicated that he did not want to engage in a new Middle East war and even backed down from carrying out a strike on Iran earlier this year. Now Trump has placed the United States on the brink of conflict in the Middle East and deployed at least 3,000 more troops to the region.

Trump took drastic action that both his predecessors had rejected due to fears that it would result in all out war between the United States and Iran. Further, this risky militaristic strike was ordered without the approval of Congress, under the defense that it was necessary to protect Americans from imminent danger. The scattered track record of Trump on foreign policy is even more concerning, given the fact that the public has little to no information about the overall national security context planned by the administration for dealing with Iran, as well as the strategy to deescalate this crisis in order to prevent wider conflicts and to protect Americans.


Beyond the clear risks that his latest actions pose, Trump has also set himself up for a politically risky confrontation during an election year by committing the nation to an uncertain and potentially limitless conflict with Iran, whose supreme leader has vowed “forceful revenge.” Many Republican colleagues were quick to defend the president, calling the attacks justified and a much needed show of strength. Senator Lindsey Graham tweeted his thank you to Trump for “standing up for America.”

But critics on the other side of the aisle have argued that, while there is no question Soleimani deserved to die, the strikes were a reckless escalatory move in a dangerous region, and will come with grave consequences for peace and stability across the region. “President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox,” said former Vice President Joe Biden. “I fear this administration has not demonstrated at any turn the discipline or long term vision necessary, and the stakes could not be higher,” he continued.

The killing of Soleimani runs parallel to escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea. Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTired of worrying about the pandemic? There's always Pyongyang Overnight Defense: Pentagon orders bases to stop reporting coronavirus numbers | Hospital ship arrives in NY | Marines pause sending new recruits to boot camp | Defense bill work delayed North Korea: 'Reckless remarks' by Pompeo show US doesn't want nuclear talks MORE has vowed that the rogue nation will never denuclearize if the United States maintains sanctions. Additionally, American intelligence officials continue to closely monitor North Korea following the promise by Kim to deliver a “Christmas gift” to the United States if there was no sanctions relief granted by its deadline.

The holiday passed without any action from North Korea, as many in the administration were anticipating the “gift” to be a weapons test, especially following the release of a satellite image last month which shows activity at a previously dismantled North Korea test site. Concerningly, the images indicated that North Korea is preparing to resume testing engines used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, despite Trump claiming that the site was shut down after the Singapore summit.

Similar to the scattered strategy that Trump takes in dealing with Iran, his approach to North Korea has been worryingly inconsistent. Indeed, even when the administration has laid out a coherent foreign policy strategy and top aides pursue a sensible strategic vision, they are continuously undermined by Trump himself, often by his own public statements and tweets. It remains to be seen what the political implications of his latest actions will be or whether they will impact his reelection. However, as tensions escalate with both Iran and North Korea, his track record of volatility and unpredictability in these areas puts all Americans at risk.

Douglas Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) is adviser to President Bill Clinton and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He is the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”