Trump’s Middle East Policy: The Ironies of Hawkishness

Donald Trump ran for president declaring that he would take a more cautious and less-interventionist approach to the Middle East, take a more even-handed approach to Israel and Palestine, and avoid being tied down in endless wars. As an outsider with few ties to the foreign policy establishment, some hoped he might bring a more pragmatic and enlightened approach to U.S. policy in the region. However, once in office, Trump has pursued reckless and militaristic policies, deepening U.S. military involvement, backing the Israeli colonization and annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories, deepening ties to Arab autocrats, and threatening war with Iran. His appointees have tended to be those who are guided more by ideological prejudices than knowledge of the Middle East, resulting in growing concerns not only by traditional progressive critics of U.S. foreign policy, but by many in the security and intelligence establishment as well. The extreme nature of these policies, however, may be providing an opportunity for a serious re-evaluation of U.S. Middle East policy as a whole, which may make possible positive changes in U.S. policy in the longer run. The dangers from Trump administration policies in the meantime, however, are quite serious, and risk provoking even more violence and instability.