Donald Trump was like a “drunk tourist” on his first trip abroad, which saw awkward handshakes with the French President, shoving the Prime Minister of Montenegro and causing German Chancellor Angela Merkel to declare the end of the US alliance with Europe.
A US State Department official blasted the “arrogance” of the President as he flew from Saudi Arabia and Israel to Europe last week.
“When it comes to diplomacy, President Trump is a drunk tourist,” the unnamed official told The Daily Beast.
“Loud and tacky, shoving his way around the dance floor. He steps on others without realising it. It’s ineffectual.”
A bit puzzled by Trump’s choice of places to go on his first excursion outside the USA, I had the thought a few days ago that Trump wanted to meet his enemies.
Saudi Arabia, after all, is the seat of the Wahhabi Muslim sect which is driving a lot of Islamic terrorism. It’s where Osama bin Laden came from too. And if Trump is devoted to anything, it is to defeating Islamic terrorism. What better way to start than to visit the heart of the beast, and meet a few of the key players, face to face?
Israel is no friend of Trump’s either. I think the Israelis would have preferred Hillary. She was at least a known quantity. Trump is not.
And the commie Pope in the Vatican is another enemy of Trump’s. I think he told Americans not to vote for Trump. But as the principal Christian spokesman in the world, Trump probably saw him as a potential ally in his battle with Islamic terrorism.
Many of the EU leaders he met on his visit to Brussels were also enemies. Trump doesn’t like the EU, and the EU doesn’t like Trump. And it seems he did indeed tread on a lot of their toes. Perhaps that’s exactly what he wanted to do. He not only wanted to meet them, but he wanted them to meet him.
At the G7 conference in Sicily he probably met a few more enemies, and stood on a few more of their toes.
It seems to me to be a good idea to meet your enemies. If you were living in Britain in the 1930s, and you were worried about the possibility of another war, it would probably have been a good idea to meet Hitler and Mussolini and Stalin and the acolytes that surrounded them, in order to gain the measure of them.
I suppose that if I had wanted to meet my enemies, I’d have set out to meet Deborah Arnott and Stanton Glantz and Simon Chapman. But I’ve never had any interest in doing so. If nothing else, they’re all employees, paid to stay in the public eye. I may not know the names of my most powerful enemies, the shadowy people who employ them.
And I think that if I’d been living in Britain in the 1930s, and worried about another European war, I would have been more interested in discovering my friends than meeting my enemies. I would have been wondering how to build an army to meet the looming threat. I would have set out to talk to English people. And Scots and Welsh and Irish people. And Americans and Canadians and Australians and New Zealanders. I would have gone looking for allies everywhere in the world. I would have set out to build communication networks.
I’m sure that Trump learned a lot about his enemies by meeting them face to face. But I wonder if he may not have been neglecting his friends. His administration is plagued with leakers, both inside the White House and outside. He needs a network of trusted friends around him. And he doesn’t seem to have that yet. And so his position is weak.
We smokers know well who (some of) our enemies are. We even know their faces. But it is not enough to know your enemy. You must also know your friends. You must set out to meet and talk with them, so as to find where you agree and where you differ, and build bonds of trust and confidence. For you may need them one day.