Statement of IR Scholars on Trump Administration Foreign Policy Failures: We Need New Leadership

We the undersigned scholars of international relations and foreign policy view the Trump foreign policy record largely as a failure. This administration has emboldened US rivals and alienated many vital US allies. Crises at every level have been mishandled, from the global Covid19 pandemic and climate change to slowing or containing national nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea. The United States, once a world leader, is seen as weak and disengaged by many leaders and in many populations across the world. The result is greater instability, insecurity, and human suffering. We need new leadership.

1) The US trade war with China increased tariffs, additional taxes paid by US consumers for imported Chinese goods. Meanwhile, the US trade agreement with China has fallen far short in raising US exports to China. China has not met the targets agreed to with the Trump administration. The trade war badly hurt US farmers, with the Trump government then spending tens of billions of dollars to subsidize them. When the United States badly needed PPE to fight Covid19, Trump’s trade restrictions hindered its acquisition.

2) Authoritarian Russia continues to meddle in and undermine the legitimacy of US democratic elections while President Donald J. Trump denies it is a problem. The Trump administration seems to feel closer to Putin’s Russia than our NATO allies.

3) North Korea has continued its nuclear weapons program despite the exchange of fawning letters between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean leader.

4) In response to Trump’s policy, Iran now attacks the United States in Iraq with greater frequency and has a more robust nuclear program. In addition, the United States is talking about closing its embassy in Baghdad as a result. This embassy closure — in Iraq of all places — would be an apt illustration of the weakening of the Department of State under this president.

5) US policy toward Venezuela has overpromised and underdelivered, leaving Venezuelans even more desperate, the opposition divided, the Maduro government emboldened, and US credibility weakened.

6) The US Director of National Intelligence has dangerously limited bipartisan intelligence sharing. This latest example of frequent partisan manipulation of intelligence leaves fewer US officials to evaluate potential crisis and threats, damages relations between the Executive Branch agencies and Congress, and could create dangerous gaps for US rivals to exploit.

7) Rather than focusing the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on meeting external threats to US national security and on rising domestic white supremacist terrorism, the Trump administration has used DHS as a hyper-partisan weapon against immigrants and US antiracism protestors. This diversion of resources could well leave the United States ill-prepared should a foreign adversary seek to do harm to the United States and its citizens.

8) As deadly wildfires and hurricanes tragically remind the United States of the climate crisis and the increasing number and intensity of extreme weather events, the Trump administration pulled out of the major international climate agreement (the Paris Accords), often questions the scientific consensus that the crisis is human-induced, and offers no substantive alternative remedy.

9) In the midst of a global pandemic, the United States announced it was pulling out of the World Health Organization and failed to provide almost any global leadership to meet Covid19. The US domestic failure to get Covid19 under control is a model of what not to do but sadly one consistent with several other countries with authoritarian-style leaders.

10) The administration has separated thousands of children from their parents, detaining or deporting them and often failing to reunite them with their parent(s). They have been held in inhumane conditions lacking adequate medical care; this abuse and trauma is detrimental to child development. More generally, the Trump administration has physically prevented hundreds of thousands of people from making asylum claims on the southern US border in violation of international law. The administration deported individuals with positive Covid19 diagnoses, further spreading the disease. Meanwhile, the administration has nearly eliminated the US refugee resettlement program, a symbol of US humanitarianism and a welcome pathway for oppressed people to start a new life and enrich US society.

11) Racist and discriminatory policies at home, anti-democratic crackdowns on US protestors, and direct insults of Latin American and African countries embolden racists in other countries and further weaken the US ability to persuade other countries to respect democratic rights, such as China’s brutal detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang.

12) In two key battles, the Trump administration has done no better than its predecessors. The forces of the Islamic State are rebuilding. Nineteen years later, despite diplomatic talks, the War in Afghanistan continues.

13) While the administration has some policies that did not fail, their impact was greatly exaggerated. The new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico was more an updating of the North American Free Trade Agreement than a whole new policy. The Bahrain-Israel-United Arab Emirates agreements were a modest diplomatic achievement but completely failed to address Trump’s promise to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and may deepen a regional arms race.

President Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy has already caused major harm. The United States can rebuild in positive ways, but a second Trump term would do even deeper damage to US institutions, diplomacy, leadership, and international norms. Countries such as China would continue to fill the vacuum. Instead, to increase US security and reduce human suffering, we need new leadership now.

October 9, 2020

Institutions are mentioned below for the purpose of identification only. No institution listed below has endorsed this statement.

If you are a professor of international relations and/or foreign policy who would like to publicly add your support to the statement, sign here. The names of additional signers will be added below.

  • Karen Ruth Adams (University of Montana)
  • Karen J. Alter (Northwestern University)
  • Mary Beth Altier (New York University)
  • Anthony Clark Arend (Georgetown University)
  • Ivan Michael Arreguín-Toft (Brown University)
  • Robert J. Art (Brandeis University, Emeritus)
  • Victor Asal (University at Albany, SUNY)
  • Boaz Atzili (American University)
  • Severine Autesserre (Barnard College, Columbia University)
  • Deborah Avant (University of Denver)
  • Alexander D. Barder (Florida International University)
  • Naazneen H. Barma (University of Denver)
  • Michael Barnett (George Washington University)
  • Regina Bateson (University of Ottawa)
  • Andrew Bennett (Georgetown University)
  • Marie E. Berry (University of Denver)
  • Chris Blattman (University of Chicago)
  • Mia Bloom (Georgia State University)
  • Michael Boyle (Rutgers Camden)
  • Brian Bow (Dalhousie University)
  • Joshua Busby (University of Texas-Austin)
  • Michael Butler (Clark University)
  • Dan Caldwell (Pepperdine University)
  • Chuck Call (American University)
  • Susanna Campbell (American University)
  • Charli Carpenter (University of Massachusetts-Amherst)
  • Jason Chang (University of Connecticut)
  • Erica Chenoweth (Harvard University)
  • Dan Chong (Rollins College)
  • Anjali Dayal (Fordham University)
  • Erica De Bruin (Hamilton College)
  • Geoff Dancy (Tulane University)
  • David R. Davis (Emory University)
  • Alexandre Debs (Yale University)
  • Stephen Deets (Babson College)
  • Marc DeVore (University of St. Andrews)
  • Kim Yi Dionne (University of California Riverside)
  • Daniel Drezner (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy)
  • Martin S. Edwards (Seton Hall University)
  • Richard Eichenberg (Tufts University)
  • Rachel A. Epstein (University of Denver)
  • Jennifer Erickson (Boston College)
  • Christopher Fariss (University of Michigan)
  • Tanisha Fazal (University of Minnesota)
  • James D. Fearon (Stanford University)
  • Harvey Feigenbaum (The George Washington University)
  • Martha Finnemore (George Washington University)
  • V. Page Fortna (Columbia University)
  • M. Taylor Fravel (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Paul Fritz (Hofstra University)
  • Kemi Fuentes-George (Middlebury College)
  • Rebecca Galemba (University of Denver)
  • Adrian Gallagher (University of Leeds)
  • Charles Glaser (George Washington University)
  • Stacie Goddard (Wellesley College)
  • James Goldgeier (American University)
  • Louis Goodman (American University)
  • Ryan Grauer (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Kelly M. Greenhill
  • William Grimes (Boston University)
  • Seva Gunitsky (University of Toronto)
  • Mustafa Gurbuz (American University)
  • Tamar Gutner (American University)
  • Emilie M. Hafner-Burton (University of California, San Diego)
  • Elizabeth Hanson (University of Connecticut)
  • Kyle Haynes (Purdue University)
  • Eric Heginbotham (MIT)
  • Cullen Hendrix (University of Denver)
  • Kai Holsti (University of British Columbia)
  • Ted Hopf (National University of Singapore)
  • Lise Howard (Georgetown University)
  • Elizabeth Shakman Hurd (Northwestern University)
  • Ian Hurd (Northwestern University)
  • Patrick Thaddeus Jackson (School of International Service, American University)
  • Bruce W. Jentleson (Duke University)
  • Robert Jervis (Columbia University)
  • Miles Kahler (American University)
  • Morgan Kaplan (Harvard University)
  • Oliver Kaplan (University of Denver)
  • Sabrina Karim (Cornell University)
  • Sean Kay (Ohio Wesleyan University)
  • Jonathan Kirshner (Boston College)
  • Jochen Kleinschmidt (Universidad del Rosario)
  • Andy Knight (University of Alberta)
  • Austin Knuppe (Utah State University)
  • Gregory D. Koblentz (George Mason University)
  • Ellis S. Krauss (University of California, San Diego)
  • Ronald Krebs (University of Minnesota)
  • Raymond Kuo (Independent political scientist)
  • Andrew Kydd (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • David A. Lake (University of California, San Diego)
  • Joshua Landis (University of Oklahoma)
  • Henry Laurence (Bowdoin College)
  • James Lebovic (George Washington University)
  • Brett Ashley Leeds (Rice University)
  • A. Carl LeVan (American University)
  • Nanette Levinson (American University)
  • Jack S. Levy (Rutgers University)
  • Keir Lieber (Georgetown University)
  • Daniel Lindley (University of Notre Dame)
  • Philip Y. Lipscy (University of Toronto)
  • Sarah K. Lischer (Wake Forest University)
  • Yonatan Lupu (George Washington University)
  • Jason Lyall (Dartmouth College)
  • Terrence Lyons (George Mason University)
  • Julia Macdonald (University of Denver)
  • Andrea Malji (Hawaiʻi Pacific University)
  • Renée Marlin-Bennett (Johns Hopkins University)
  • Kimberly Marten (Barnard College, Columbia University)
  • Frederick Mayer (University of Denver)
  • Kathleen McNamara (Georgetown University)
  • Jeffrey Meiser (University of Portland)
  • Jeremy Menchik (Boston University)
  • Barak Mendelsohn (Haverford College)
  • Manjari Chatterjee Miller (Boston University)
  • Nicholas Miller (Dartmouth College)
  • Jennifer Mitzen (The Ohio State University)
  • Mike Mochizuki (George Washington University)
  • Sara Bjerg Moller (Seton Hall University)
  • Nuno P. Monteiro (Yale University)
  • T. Clifton Morgan (Rice University)
  • Craig N. Murphy (Wellesley College)
  • Crystal Murphy (Chapman University)
  • Dale D. Murphy (Georgetown University)
  • Shoon Murray (American University)
  • Vipin Narang (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Stephen Nelson (Northwestern University)
  • Abraham Newman (Georgetown University)
  • Daniel Nexon (Georgetown University)
  • Timothy Passmore (Virginia Military Institute)
  • Rodger Payne (University of Louisville)
  • T.J. Pempel (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Evan Perkoski (University of Connecticut)
  • MJ Peterson (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
  • Susan Peterson (William & Mary)
  • Brian Phillips (University of Essex)
  • Mark Pollack (Temple University)
  • Elliot Posner (Case Western Reserve University)
  • Lauren Prather (University of California, San Diego)
  • Jeremy Pressman (University of Connecticut)
  • Jeffrey Pugh (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
  • Stephen Quackenbush (University of Missouri)
  • Kal Raustiala (University of California Los Angeles (UCLA))
  • Brian Rathbun (University of Southern California)
  • Bryce Reeder (University of Missouri)
  • David L. Richards (University of Connecticut)
  • Andrew Ross (Ohio University)
  • Andrew L. Ross (Texas A&M University)
  • Barnett R. Rubin (New York University)
  • Andrea Ruggeri (University of Oxford)
  • Stephen M. Saideman (Carleton University)
  • Carol Saivetz (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Brent Sasley (University of Texas at Arlington)
  • Elizabeth N. Saunders (Georgetown University)
  • Cathy Lisa Schneider (American University)
  • Stephanie Schwartz (University of Southern California)
  • Laura Seay (Colby College)
  • Joshua Shifrinson (Boston University)
  • Kathryn Sikkink (Harvard University)
  • Etel Solingen (University of California, Irvine)
  • Christopher Sprecher (Allan Hancock College)
  • Paul Staniland (University of Chicago)
  • Harvey Starr (University of South Carolina)
  • Jennifer Sterling-Folker (University of Connecticut)
  • Jonathan Strand (University of Nevada Las Vegas)
  • Rachel Strohm (University of California, Berkeley)
  • Jelena Subotic (Georgia State University)
  • Christine Sylvester (University of Connecticut)
  • Caitlin Talmadge (Georgetown University)
  • Jordan Tama (American University)
  • Stacy Bondanella Taninchev (Gonzaga University)
  • Stephen Tankel (American University)
  • Nina Tannenwald (Brown University)
  • Zak Taylor (Georgia Institute of Technology)
  • Alexander Thompson (Ohio State University)
  • J. Ann Tickner (American University)
  • Michael Tierney (William & Mary)
  • Monica Duffy Toft (Fletcher School, Tufts University)
  • Peter Trumbore (Oakland University)
  • Thomas Turner (independent scholar)
  • Kristin Vekasi (University of Maine)
  • Stephen Walt (Harvard University)
  • Michael Ward (Duke University)
  • Steven Ward (Cornell University)
  • Dov Waxman (University of California Los Angeles (UCLA))
  • Sharon K. Weiner (American University)
  • Michael Weintraub (Universidad de los Andes)
  • Alexander Wendt (The Ohio State University)
  • Jon Western (Mt. Holyoke College)
  • Kristen P. Williams (Clark University)
  • Phil Williams (University of Pittsburgh)
  • Robert E. Williams (Pepperdine University)
  • Joe Young (American University)
  • Guy Ziv (American University)

Written by

Jeremy Pressman is a political scientist.

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