President Donald Trump has tried to talk himself up as a sort of “strongman” leader in the Oval Office. But on foreign policy issues, particularly with Iran and North Korea, cracks within that persona have been exposed, which could result in frightening consequences.
At the start of the New Year, those two nations are posing new challenges for Trump. In Iraq, an apparent Iranian-backed protest movement resulted in attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, demonstrating that tough action and words spoken by Trump against Tehran in the past have had little effect in quelling their anti-American movements.
In North Korea, it was declared on Wednesday that the nation would deploy a “new strategic weapon” for the world to witness, The Independent reported. It’s a dubious claim, to be sure, but a statement that was in tangent with another declaration, that a moratorium on missile testing would resume in spite of a previous agreement with Trump that he said signaled things were heading toward total denuclearization of the peninsula.
Trump has claimed victories in both nations in the past. He’s called Iran a “very different nation,” and said that North Korea was “no longer a nuclear threat,” according to reporting from the New York Times. Those assessments seem questionable now.
I was moved to research this issue further, by examining Trump’s tough “strongman” rhetoric in the past, when I came across a VICE column by Eve Peyser. In it, she noted in 2017 that the president was all about content, and very little on policy substance. In other words, Trump sought to appear strong while rarely flexing his muscles to actually be as much.
Now that the president’s credentials are being questioned — his “strongman” persona is being directly challenged by these nations and others — it presents a new dilemma, one that could hurt our country in the long-run.
Trump’s strongman rhetoric has always been problematic, of course, but now that there’s a perceived weakness derived from his inability to deliver on his fiery rhetoric, it’s even more concerning.
The president, who is now being proven wrong in many theaters of foreign policy, will inevitably try to prove himself the “strongman leader” again. He will do so in one of two ways: increasing the frequency of his blustery statements, which won’t do the nation any good, or taking direct action militarily, which will also have negative consequences for the American people.
In short, having a strongman president is troubling for the country. Having a weak “strongman” may prove to be outright dangerous.