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Friday, March 1, 2024
The Observer

Professors examine foreign policy under Trump administration

Though President Trump has promised to put America first, professor of political science Rosemary Kelanic said in reality, the current administration’s policies are closer to “Trump first” than they are to “America first.”

“I think that [Trump] conflates his personal interests with the interests of the United States,” Kelanic said. “He doesn't really draw a distinction between what is in the national interest and what he thinks and likes and doesn't like, and what he desires and doesn't desire.”

Professor of political science Rosemary Kelanic said the Trump administration's foreign policy
Professor Rosemary Kelanic said the Trump administration's foreign policy has been driven largely by the president's self-perception. Kelanic presented as part of a “Pizza, Pop and Politics” panel hosted by NDVotes.

Kelanic was one of two professors who discussed the Trump administration’s foreign policy in a “Pizza, Pop and Politics” panel hosted by NDVotes on Tuesday evening. As to what will drive U.S. foreign policy decisions under the Trump administration, Kelanic said the president‘s ego will be a determining factor.

“The underlying logic is what is good for [Trump’s] ego at any given point in time, and how does he view himself?” she said.

President Trump’s identity as a dealmaker is also a driving force in his foreign policy agenda, Kelanic said. As a result of these traits, Kelanic said American foreign policy may become largely determined by President Trump’s personal relationships with other world leaders.

“He’s likely to favor those who flatter him and disfavor those who criticize him,” she said.

Michael Desch, a professor of political science and director of the International Security Center at Notre Dame, agreed with what much of Kelanic said. Foreign policy is also shaped by public opinion, especially under the current administration, Desch said, as Trump has taken advantage of a major shift in public opinion.

“President Trump ran for office and was elected at a time in which the political culture of a significant fraction of the American public had changed,” Desch said. “A new sort of approach to politics in general, and foreign policy in particular, had emerged.” 

Desch identified this new trend in American foreign policy as “Jacksonian,” after President Andrew Jackson. Some of the key tenets of this political philosophy are high levels of nationalism, populism and a pessimistic view of international politics.

During a question-and-answer session, Kelanic and Desch addressed the U.S. foreign policy with regards to North Korea.

The situation with North Korea might not allow Trump to be as aggressive as he may wish he could be, Desch said.

“The president very clearly came into office thinking that what he wanted was a military solution to the North Korean nuclear program because diplomacy had clearly failed,” Desch said.

But as it became clear to Trump that any military option in North Korea would have severe repercussions, he seems to have settled for continued pursuit of diplomatic solutions, Desch said.

Desch also addressed American foreign policy with regards to the situation in Israel and Palestine. Trump’s view of himself as a dealmaker may provide him with the necessary motivation to pursue a deal between Palestine and Israel — a deal which many have deemed to be almost impossible to achieve, Desch said.

“You say [it’s] too big a deal to Trump, and it’s like waving the red flag in front of the bull,” he said.