There are two facts that have to be at the forefront of any discussion of foreign policy. First is what my father always told me, There is a foreign foreign policy AND a domestic foreign policy. They are often not the same. Actions are often made to appease or cater to some local group to get votes. An example is Cuban Americans in Florida. The majority of those voters are strongly anti the Cuba regime so any politician that calls for normalization of relations – ending sanctions etc with Cuba is likely to lose those voters.
Second, the US economic system is market oriented (or capitalistic) in spite of the many socialist programs (social security, medicare, laws about safety, individual rights etc). In such a system there is an orientation to bring costs down to enhance profits. It’s the American way. One of the major costs for most businesses is the cost of labor. So if one can make a mask for 35 cents in China, or Pakistan or where ever, and the cost to make it in the US over one Dollar – then it stands to reason that company will go to the foreign source to make the mask. Thats capitalism. The only way to go around that is for the US to institute a tariff on that mask to make it the same price as one made in the US. Net effect is the cost to the American consumer is greater. That is not capitalism.
Another little realized fact is that low cost products manufactured overseas help those economies and make them more capable of buying higher cost items made in the US. That’s the argument for free trade. Everyone benefits overall but not in specific cases. Trying to save jobs like in the coal or steel industry where labor in the US is expensive but far cheaper overseas may sound good but it is a fools errand. Trump played on the idea of helping coal workers and various manufacturing jobs in the US. The idea was to bring jobs back to the US. It never happened. Our balance of payments increased over the Trump years. Jobs did NOT come flooding back. Tariffs were instituted but the net effect cost the American consumer NOT China. The age old Republican mantra of free trade was abandoned to US detriment.
Perhaps the worst foreign policy decisions were the canceling of agreements. Trump seems to have adopted a policy of the bully – sanctions etc. As we have seen in country after country from Cuba to Iran, sanctions don’t work and often strengthen regimes we are trying to hurt. Meanwhile, since he never read the Iran nuclear deal or the TPP deal but said they were terrible (because they sounded good to oppose and his believers never knew or attempted to find out the terms as well) the net effect is 1. Iran has more nuclear material now than when he took office – a lot more and 2. China has taken over and created its own TPP leaving the US out of the picture. So much for America first. Meanwhile his touted foreign policy successes relating to Israel are really in one case an arms deal (UAE) and in the case of Morocco simply giving Morocco Western Sahara which it has been fighting over for years.
In the case of North Korea we got nothing for giving status to the NK leader. We got nothing in Turkey. The US is not looked as the world leader it was before he took office. Respected more? The opposite is true and anyone who travels overseas will see that first hand. Trump has made the US a joke. And now he is going after the very concept of democracy. The sooner he is out of office the better. Then we can only hope that Fox and the other right wing media will get some balls and start to show some responsibility and patriotism Wishful thinking.