Is Trump Fit to be Our President?

In my last blog post, I asked myself whether Trump was fit to govern the American people, and answered that he is not. This time I want to look outside of America and ask whether he is competent to be our top diplomat.

“Wait. I thought the Secretary of State was the top diplomat.” Well, yes and no. The Secretary of State has to follow the policies and orders of the President. If the President has no understanding of the realities of diplomacy, then those policies and orders are unlikely to result in workable agendas for the Secretary. An undiplomatic President is unlikely to lead a diplomatic administration. And, of course, the President is sometimes called upon to work directly with the heads of state of other nations. (Think Cuban Missile Crisis or the Camp David Accords.)

An effective President, then, must have a firm grasp of diplomacy, and the core of diplomacy is the ability to be firm yet yielding. One must be able to hold one’s position while being willing to move toward the other party, recognizing that the other party is also holding its position. The goal is not being sure that your position prevails, but reaching a mutually acceptable agreement. In short, diplomacy is not about winning; it is about agreeing. (Comes to that, it’s arguable that the same thing is true of effective governing, especially in a democratically governed nation.)

There are three things (at least) that diplomacy requires. The first is patience. A diplomat cannot hurry things along to the point that the other party is pushed into an intractable corner. On the contrary, one must be able to listen carefully and understand what the other party’s position actually is. And a diplomat must find ways to assure that the other party feels listened to, feels heard, and feels appreciated.

The second quality is imperturbability. A diplomat cannot fly off the handle or appear to be flummoxed, angered, dismissive, put off guard, or be visibly upset, unless it is by design. To be sure these things can sometimes be useful tactics, but those situations are relatively rare. Good diplomacy requires that one remain calmly firm in the face of what often appears to be a brick wall of disagreement but usually is not. It is simply the other party also being firmly calm. But when imperturbability meets patience, each side begins to find that the brick wall has cracks that can be widened into agreement.

And that brings us to the third quality. One must be able to recognize what is core to one’s position and what is expendable. Since diplomatic solutions to problems very rare involve getting everything that one wants, one must be able to see what is essential and what is expendable or can be put off for the time being, and this in both one’s own stance and in the other party’s stance. It is rare that one can get this without giving up that. These less essential points are the cracks that lead to agreement. Without this ability, one falls into the mistake of insisting on getting everything (winning), and agreement becomes impossible.

Has Trump all three of these qualities? Is he patient? No. Is he imperturbable? No. Has he the ability to see what is core and what is expendable? No. Well, can he at least be firm yet yielding? No. Does he understand the difference between winning and agreeing? No. Has he ever shown any diplomatic ability at all? No. Imagine him leading a diplomatic effort while imagining the he is the only one who understand the situation and what can lead to peace.

In short Trump Is not fit to our President. Or so I think.

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