Read: Trump’s foreign-policy ‘adhocracy’
Trump’s supporters tend to explain away this behavior as the unsavory means by which the president hopes to achieve a worthy objective: a nuclear deal with North Korea, which has eluded his predecessors. They note that Trump has held firm on severe North Korean sanctions. “For 30 years, they’ve been trying to pound a round peg in a square hole,” the Republican Senator James Risch once told me, regarding the history of U.S. talks with Pyongyang. “Things need to be done differently.” If nothing else, even as Trump has worked to erase nearly every aspect of Obama’s foreign-policy record, the two presidents have fashioned a joint legacy: shattering the long-standing bipartisan American taboo of presidents directly engaging with their foes.
Inviting Taliban leaders to peace talks at Camp David right before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Congressional Republicans investigated and censured the Obama administration in 2014 for freeing five Taliban commanders from Guantánamo Bay in return for the release of a captive American soldier named Bowe Bergdahl, and for keeping U.S. lawmakers in the dark about it. “Those folks are sitting in Qatar capable today of inflicting harm on the United States of America," an indignant representative from Kansas named Mike Pompeo declared at the time.
Today those same folks are still sitting in Qatar as part of a Taliban delegation negotiating the terms of an American military withdrawal from Afghanistan, beside a U.S. team appointed by now–Secretary of State Pompeo. And earlier this month, Trump went much further than Obama ever did in his talks with the militant group, secretly summoning Taliban leaders to his Camp David retreat just days before the anniversary of 9/11 to seal a peace deal.
Republican officials have generally been more vocal about Trump’s prudence in canceling the meeting over a Taliban attack that killed an American soldier in Kabul than about the underlying folly of the scheme itself, but others in their orbit have been less forgiving. “It is an outrage that Obama freed” the Taliban commanders, the conservative columnist Marc Thiessen recently wrote. “But for Trump to even consider allowing leaders of a designated terrorist organization to set foot in Camp David is worse than an outrage; it is an insult to all those who died on 9/11 and the American troops who gave their lives fighting them in Afghanistan.”
Siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin over U.S. intelligence agencies.
Republicans went after Obama for—in their view—naively seeking to “reset” U.S. relations with Russia during his first term, and for informing then–Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, during a private conversation caught on a hot mic, that he would have more “flexibility” to discuss missile-defense issues after the 2012 presidential election.