2019 has not been a kind year for the Trump Administration. It marked the most defining moment of President Trump's legacy—his impeachment by the House of Representatives—while his ongoing trial in the Senate continues to loom over every action his administration takes.
Foreign policy is at the forefront of his impeachment process as allegations mount against him concerning the appropriateness of his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. That foreign policy affair is so big that it deserves a separate piece of its own, so I will not focus on that in my review. Rather, here are what I consider President Trump's biggest foreign policy successes and blunders of 2019.
The ongoing trade war with China still has no clear end in sight. This, however, has not negatively impacted the economy as many economists initially predicted. Stock markets have had highs and lows, but Americans continue to see record-breaking highs. The root cause of this trade war was to rectify the trade deficit the United States owes to China due to China's aggressive, and sometimes legally questionable trade policies, and I support finding a resolution to that problem.
Despite saying they disagree with the trade war, Jen Kirby of Vox reports all of the leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have presented similar approaches to addressing the problem as Trump is currently executing. This exemplifies that both parties agree trade with China is an issue, and President Trump's active solution seeking is not done in vain despite leading Democratic presidential candidates disagreeing with his specific execution. I find myself in agreement with most of the sentiment regarding the trade war—it is necessary for our economic security, and therefore, I support our ongoing efforts to rectify our trade deficit.
The trade war, however, has impacted our political agenda with the Chinese government. I wrote a piece in October 2019 condemning the Trump Administration's failure to adequately express support for Hong Kong protesters who were advocating for basic civil liberties associated with democracy. Just over a month after that piece was published, President Trump signed a bill passed by Congress imposing sanctions against Chinese and Hong Kongese government officials who were responsible for human rights abuses. I, therefore, must give President Trump credit for addressing this important issue; however, I believe he did not go nearly as far as I would have preferred to advocate for our Hong Kongese allies and other minorities oppressed by the Chinese regime. I also share Naomi Xu Elegant of Fortune's concern over how this minor measure may impact U.S. business in Hong Kong.
A more direct and egregious abandonment of our allies came when the U.S. withdrew forces from Northern Syria. This withdrawal culminated in Turkey attempting to ethnically cleanse our Kurdish allies who were invaluable in our fight against ISIS. President Trump completely abandoned our allies despite knowing Turkey would perpetrate war crimes against them. Though the Trump Administration condemned Turkey's actions and issued sanctions, the genocide is still ongoing. After all, Turkey is led by a man who a former United Nations investigator referred to as a “war criminal." As reported by Susan Edelman with the New York Post, U.S. withdrawal effectively stopped control of the area to the genocidal Syrian government, backed by the Russians, or our so-called North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally Turkey, who commits genocide against native people in their homeland.
In my opinion, this was the worst foreign policy decision made by the Trump Administration and will be remembered as amongst the worst decisions the U.S. has made in Middle Eastern foreign policy. This decision is partnered with a complete failure by the U.S. to recognize the Turks' genocide of Armenians after President Trump's Republican supporters in the Senate killed a bill to recognize that atrocity. Unlike his reversal on Hong Kong, President Trump has still failed to provide support to our Armenian and Kurdish allies.
Also in the Middle East, the U.S.'s tensions with Iran continue to fluctuate and reach near breaking-points. I find the Iranian government more at fault for these tensions than I do President Trump, but it is nonetheless a challenge he must strategically and effectively face. The conflict is still ongoing, so it is difficult to make a ruling on his strategy thus far, but I can say that I believe he is leading us mostly in the right direction. I would, however, like to see more diplomatic solutions explored in the future.
Minor successes worthy of mention include President Trump recognizing Juan Guiadó as the democratically elected president of Venezuela, NATO members increasing their budgetary contributions and positive developments in the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. Minor blunders include President Trump's advocacy for Russia to resume its G-7 membership, making an embarrassing attempt to purchase Greenland from Denmark and failing to make progress in denuclearizing North Korea despite a state visit.
2019 was a rocky year for the Trump Administration and for us as Americans. Whereas the Trump Administration did experience some successes, it is mired in larger, more poignant blunders that are defining the administration. Let us all hope 2020 ushers more successes than blunders and that many of the aforementioned ongoing conflicts find swift, effective and permanent resolutions.