When the President Is Ignorant of His Own Ignorance
How prepared is our president for the next great foreign, economic or terrorist crisis?
After a little more than two months in office, President Trump has raised doubts about his ability to deal with what the former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld famously described as the “known unknowns” and the “unknown unknowns.”
“President Trump seems to have no awareness whatsoever of what he does and does not know,” Steven Nadler, a professor of philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, wrote me. “He is ignorant of his own ignorance.”
During his first 63 days in office, Trump made 317 “false or misleading claims,” according to The Washington Post.
The FBI, the Treasury Department and two congressional committees are probing whether Trump’s campaign aides and advisers — including Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn — were complicit in alleged Russian interference.
联邦调查局、财政部及两个国会委员会正在调查特朗普的竞选助手和顾问——包括保罗·马纳福特(Paul Manafort)、卡特·佩奇(Carter Page)、罗杰·斯通(Roger Stone)和迈克尔·弗林(Michael Flynn)——是否涉嫌与俄罗斯合谋，对大选进行据称的干涉。
Without an obvious mandate (as the world knows, he lost the popular vote by 2.87 million), Trump has proposed a profound retrenchment of domestic policy.
His 2018 budget, the potential impact of which he does not seem to grasp, calls for cutting $54 billion from programs that pay for education, housing and child care assistance for low- and moderate-income families, protection against infectious diseases, enforcement of environmental, worker and consumer protection regulation, national parks and a host of other social programs. See the accompanying chart, which illustrates the depth of these changes. It shows, to give a few examples, Trump’s proposal to cut the Environmental Protection Agency budget by 31 percent; the Labor Department by 21 percent; and the Health and Human Services budget by 16 percent.
他的2018年预算要求削减540亿美元，这笔钱原本用于支持低收入和中等收入家庭的教育、住房和儿童保育；防止传染病；执行环境、工人和消费者保护条例；维护国家公园；以及其他一系列社会计划，对于这一预算的潜在影响，他似乎并不清楚。附图可以说明这些变化有多么深刻。例如，特朗普的提案将环境保护局(Environmental Protection Agency)的预算削减了31％；劳工部预算削减了21%；卫生和公众服务部预算削减16%。
Trump proposed these cuts in spite of what Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, described in an essay titled “The World Without America” as threats to “the domestic foundations of American Power,” including “crumbling infrastructure, second-rate primary and secondary schools, outdated immigration system, and slow economic growth.”
外交关系协会(Council on Foreign Relations)主席理查德·N·哈斯(Richard N. Haass)在一篇题为《没有美国的世界》的文章中描述了“美国实力的国内基础”所面临的威胁，包括“残破的基础设施、二流的小学和中学、过时的移民制度、经济增长缓慢。”然而特朗普提出的削减完全无视这一切情况。
In addition, Trump has antagonized the leaders of allied countries like Mexico, Australia and Germany, and he has repeatedly demonstrated an extraordinary lack of knowledge about foreign affairs.
This is the president who faces what Warren Christopher, President Clinton’s first secretary of state, called problems from hell. A partial list, compiled by Project Syndicate, includes: intensifying conflicts and dissent within the European Union; the rise of illiberal forces, including welfare chauvinism and exclusionary nationalism; the danger to the continued independence of the buffer states surrounding Russia; a frayed consensus in support of western liberal democratic principles; aggression from a nuclear-armed North Korea and counter threats from the Trump administration of a pre-emptive strike; a foreign policy that The Economist reports has left America’s allies “aghast” — a policy that “seems determined to destroy many of the institutions and alliances created in the past half century.”
这位总统所面临的情况，曾被克林顿(Clinton)总统的第一任国务卿沃伦·克里斯托弗(Warren Christopher)称为来自地狱的问题。由评论汇编(Project Syndicate)整理的部分问题包括：欧盟内部日益加剧的冲突和异议；专制力量的兴起，包括福利沙文主义和排外民族主义；俄罗斯周边缓冲国的独立性受到威胁；支持西方自由民主原则的共识日益损耗；有核朝鲜的敌对姿态，以及特朗普政府以先发制人打击的威胁作为回应; 《经济学人》(The Economist)报道中令美国盟友“惊恐”的外交政策——该政策“似乎决心摧毁过去半个世纪以来缔造的许多制度和联盟”。
How dangerous is the situation that the United States faces?
I asked a range of foreign policy analysts and other scholars to assess the ability of President Trump and his administration to effectively manage the developments listed above.
Steve Nadler of the University of Wisconsin had more to say:
Donald Trump and the people with whom he has filled his cabinet are perfectly unqualified and unprepared to handle any and all of those developments and trends. The lack of experience and understanding of the world, especially of our historical and contemporary relationship with our European allies and rivals is frightening, especially in today’s world, where the stakes and the dangers are so much greater than ever.
Andrew Bacevich, professor emeritus of international relations and history at Boston University and a retired Army colonel, wrote that Trump is “utterly unqualified, both intellectually and by temperament, for the office he holds,” adding that “the possibility that Trump will disastrously mishandle” foreign policy “is real.”
Bacevich makes an intriguing argument to downplay the danger of a Trump presidency:
Because Trump is manifestly unprincipled, there are very few things he actually believes in.
the growing list of things he seemed certain to do where that certainty has now largely disappeared: “tearing up” the Iran nuclear deal; jettisoning NATO; abandoning the “One China” policy; moving the US embassy to Jerusalem; reinstituting torture.
Gambling the future of the country on the possibility that Trump will turn out to be a weak reed is, however, a high-risk proposition.
Charles A. Kupchan, a professor of international affairs at Georgetown, wrote me, arguing that Trump’s “America First” agenda is a retreat “into an illusory and dangerous isolationism.”
乔治城大学国际事务教授查尔斯·A·库普坎(Charles A. Kupchan)给我写信称，他认为特朗普的“美国优先”议程是一种倒退，“陷入了虚幻和危险的孤立主义之中”。
“If Washington walks away from the rules-based order it has defended for the last seventy years,” Kupchan explained,
its democratic allies will be ill-placed to defend it on their own. Whether by design or by default, Trump may well preside over the closing of the era that began when the bombing of Pearl Harbor awakened the United States to the responsibilities and privileges of international leadership.
Of the multiple international tensions that could turn into crises at any time, North Korea could lead the way.
Toby Dalton, co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment, focuses on this growing threat. In an email, he writes:
卡内基基金会核政策项目(Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment)联合主任托比·道尔顿(Doby Dalton)关注这一日益增长的威胁。他在电子邮件中写道：
Between an impulsive president who seems uninterested in details, an advisory system that does not (yet, at least) produce good advice, a general lack of respect for expertise, and a distrust of intelligence, a crisis with North Korea could go very poorly.
The current situation is not stable, Dalton said,
and probably not sustainable. I wish I had greater confidence that Trump could distinguish between the imperatives and distractions, discern the worst outcomes and least worst outcomes, weigh up the options, and come up with a reasoned approach.
David Bell, a historian at Princeton, emailed his thoughts on Trump’s capacity to handle the difficulties that will face his administration:
Trump himself is abysmally ignorant about both international and domestic affairs, and he is nearly always guided by a single principle: his own self-interest.
Normally, there is quite a lot of expertise available in institutions such as the State Department to guide administrations during crises, but Trump seems to be doing his best to decimate the institution.
Mark Leonard, a British political scientist who directs the European Council on Foreign Relations, suggests that Trump is part of a much larger phenomenon encompassing Brexit and the rise of right wing populism. In a Project Syndicate essay at the end of February, Leonard argued that the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in what he calls “Liberal Order 2.0,” which no longer sought to uphold “national sovereignty at all costs” but instead “sought to pool sovereignty and to establish shared rules to which national governments must adhere:”
指导欧洲对外关系委员会(European Council on Foreign Relations)的英国政治学家马克·伦纳德(Mark Leonard)表示，特朗普是一种更广泛的现象中的一部分，英国脱欧和右翼民粹主义的兴起也在其内。在“评论汇编”二月底发表的一篇文章中，伦纳德认为，苏联的崩溃引发了他所谓的“自由主义秩序2.0”，各国不再追求“不惜一切代价维护国家主权”，而是“寻求集合主权，并制定各国政府都必须坚持的共同规则：”
Before too long, sovereignty-obsessed powers like Russia and China halted its implementation. Calamitous mistakes for which Western policy makers were responsible – namely, the protracted war in Iraq and the global economic crisis – cemented the reversal of Liberal Order 2.0.
In this context, Trump arrives ill equipped to manage a larger, more dangerous process that Leonard argues has the potential to become “a new kind of globalization that combines the technologies of the future with the enmities of the past.”
In this emerging system, according to Leonard,
modern and pre-modern forms will prevail: support for government repression, like Russia has provided in Syria, or ethno-religious proxy wars, like those that Saudi Arabia and Iran have waged across the Middle East. The internet, migration, trade, and the enforcement of international law will be turned into weapons in new conflicts, rather than governed effectively by global rules. International conflict will be driven primarily by a domestic politics increasingly defined by status anxiety, distrust of institutions, and narrow-minded nationalism.
So how prepared is our president for what’s next? Given the magnitude of the problems that lie ahead and the embedded contradictions that make them difficult to solve, we face precisely the kind of world President Trump is least equipped for, mentally and morally.