“Faithful are the wounds of a friend,” the Bible observes—in other words, friends tell each other hard truths. For Donald Trump, that means suggesting on Twitter, in the raw moments after an explosion on a London train injured dozens on Friday, that the “loser terrorist” behind the blast was in “the sights of” British law-enforcement and might have been stopped had the authorities been as “tough” and “proactive” and “nasty” as he aims to be. Trump’s national-security adviser scrambled to make nice. Trump was describing his counterterrorism strategy, not indicting Britain’s, H.R. McMaster insisted. The United States, McMaster declared, “stands in solidarity” with the British people.” But on the other side of the Special Relationship, the wounds had already been inflicted. “I never think it’s helpful for anybody to speculate on what is an ongoing investigation,” British Prime Minister Theresa May shot back.
Trump has been lacing into traditional U.S. allies for decades now; back in the 1980s, he took out a full page newspaper ad arguing that supposed friends like Japan and Saudi Arabia weren’t paying enough money for U.S. protection. But as president, Trump has gone further, repeatedly kicking U.S. allies—in public and often on Twitter—when they’re down. He questioned the value of NATO and wavered on his commitment to defend its members just as the alliance grappled its greatest threat since the Cold War: a newly aggressive Russia. He berated London’s “pathetic” mayor Sadiq Khan for being insufficiently alarmed by terrorism on London Bridge, and made known his preferences in France’s presidential election after a terrorist attacks on the Champs-Elysees in Paris. He accused Qatar, which hosts the largest U.S. military base in the Middle East, of bankrolling terrorism while the Qataris were embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies. He charged South Korea with “appeasement” shortly after South Korea’s immediate neighbor to the north tested a nuclear device with several times the explosive power of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.