“What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received:
“The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”
It struck me almost immediately that this was the most acute, and attitudinally honest, description of the manner in which members of Trump’s team, and Trump himself, understand their role in the world.
I asked this official to explain the idea. “Obama apologized to everyone for everything. He felt bad about everything.” President Trump, this official said, “doesn’t feel like he has to apologize for anything America does.” I later asked another senior official, one who rendered the doctrine not as “We’re America, Bitch” but as “We’re America, Bitches,” whether he was aware of the 2004 movie Team America: World Police, whose theme song was “America, Fuck Yeah!”
“Of course,” he said, laughing. “The president believes that we’re America, and people can take it or leave it.”
“We’re America, Bitch” is not only a characterologically accurate collective self-appraisal—the gangster fronting, the casual misogyny, the insupportable confidence—but it is also perfectly Rorschachian. To Trump’s followers, “We’re America, Bitch” could be understood as a middle finger directed at a cold and unfair world, one that no longer respects American power and privilege. To much of the world, however, and certainly to most practitioners of foreign and national-security policy, “We’re America, Bitch” would be understood as self-isolating, and self-sabotaging.
I’m not arguing that the attitude underlying “We’re America, Bitch” is without any utility. There are occasions—the 1979 Iran hostage crisis comes to mind—in which a blunt posture would have been useful, or at least ephemerally satisfying. President Obama himself expressed displeasure—in a rhetorically controlled way—at the failure of American allies to pay what he viewed as their fair share of common defense costs. And I don’t want to suggest that there is no place for self-confidence in foreign policymaking. The Iran nuclear deal was imperfect in part because the Obama administration seemed, at times, to let Iran drive the process. One day the Trump administration may have a lasting foreign-policy victory of some sort. It is likely that the North Korea summit will end, if not disastrously, then inconclusively. But there is a slight chance that it could mark the start of a useful round of negotiations. And I’m not one to mock Jared Kushner for his role in the Middle East peace process. There is virtually no chance of the process succeeding, but the great experts have all tried and failed, so why shouldn’t the president’s son-in-law give it a shot?
But what is mainly interesting about “We’re America, Bitch” is its delusional quality. Donald Trump is pursuing policies that undermine the Western alliance, empower Russia and China, and demoralize freedom-seeking people around the world. The United States could be made weaker—perhaps permanently—by the implementation of the Trump Doctrine.