By Daniel Larison
November 28, 2017
The American Conservative

Walter Russell Mead gives Trump credit for something he hasn’t done:

In steering American foreign policy away from the inflated expectations and unrealistic objectives produced by the end of history mirage, the Trump administration is performing a much-needed service.

Mead’s assessment would be more persuasive that this is worthwhile if the Trump administration weren’t pursuing its own unrealistic and dangerous foreign policy objectives. The central flaw of all post-Cold War U.S. foreign policy has been the mistaken assumption that the U.S. has enough power to do almost anything, and that has encouraged our government to pursue unachievable ends in many places around the world for almost thirty years. The rhetoric and rationalizations may be different under Trump, but the overconfidence in American power hasn’t changed.

Trump simultaneously wants to renege on a nuclear deal with Iran while demanding that a nuclear-armed North Korea completely abandon both its weapons and its nuclear program. North Korea’s denuclearization has never been less achievable than it is now, but despite this it remains the goal of administration policy. Contrary to the best available evidence, the administration believes North Korea cannot be deterred. It is not possible to obtain a “better” nuclear deal with Iran, but Trump is making U.S. participation in the agreement contingent on extracting concessions that will never be offered. In both cases, administration policy is divorced from reality. If this is what bringing foreign policy “back to earth” looks like, it is scarcely distinguishable from flights of ideological fancy.