Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

The Tragedy of Trump's Foreign Policy

| Mar. 05, 2019

In a classic tragedy, the leading figure is usually a person with admirable qualities and even good intentions, drawn inexorably toward disaster by a tragic flaw. Othello is susceptible to jealousy, Macbeth is too ambitious, Hamlet cannot make up his mind, and Faust cannot resist an offer to trade his soul for knowledge and pleasure. In each case, a single flaw overwhelms their positive qualities and places them on the road to destruction.

From that perspective, it's hard to see Donald Trump as a truly tragic figure. Far from being heroic but flawed, he's just the spoiled, self-indulgent scion of a wealthy and odious father, with more deficiencies of character than one can count. Apart from a genuine gift for self-promotion, a decent golf game, and a practiced ability to connive on cue, he's decidedly lacking in other virtues.

Yet there is an undeniably tragic quality to the Trump presidency, even if he manages to avoid impeachment, jail, or permanent disgrace. Why? Because Trump did have some valid and important insights into America's current problems and he had a chance to do something about them when he got elected. That opportunity has been wasted, however, and Trump's flaws as a politician, strategist, and human being are the main reason why....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“The Tragedy of Trump's Foreign Policy.” Foreign Policy, March 5, 2019.

The Author

Stephen Walt