Upon entering the White House, Donald Trump’s governing blueprint was clear: to force through conservative priorities on domestic issues—immigration, health care, tax reform, environmental regulation, and so forth—while avoiding major crises abroad. Although Trump had made no secret of his admiration for the US military during the campaign, he insisted that achieving progress (as he saw it) on domestic issues took precedence over confronting Russia over Ukraine, or China over the South China Sea. But now, with his domestic program a shambles and the White House under investigation by federal prosecutors, it appears that Trump and his allies are shifting the pendulum in the opposite direction, away from an exclusive focus on domestic issues and toward a more bellicose stance abroad. Such a shift is sure to win favor among Congressional hawks of both parties, while distracting the media and the public from Trump’s domestic woes. It also entails enormous risk, as Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea are also flexing their military muscles—making any confrontation in Europe or Asia the possible spark for a major conflict.
Why Trump Is Beating the War Drum—and How It Could Lead to Disaster