In his approach to the carrot-versus-stick equation that is central to statecraft, Donald Trump always opts for the stick. Apparently unaware of, or unconcerned with, the advantages offered by the canny use of public diplomacy, coercive tactics have become a main feature of his Presidency. On the international stage, Trump has used rhetorical bluster, unleashed financial sanctions, and threatened military action against adversaries such as Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea, and has deployed withering tariffs to initiate an ongoing trade war with China. It is not only against nations with which the White House has ideological differences that Trump has chosen such an approach; he has also made rumblings about slapping tariffs on imports from long-standing American allies, including Canada, France, and Germany.
The weaker the country, the more bullying Trump’s behavior. In March, for instance, in a bid to pressure the nations from which much of the current surge of migrants is arriving, he announced cuts to U.S. humanitarian aid to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. On May 30th, he moved to punish Mexico over immigration, as well. He peremptorily announced, via a pair of tweets, that he had decided to tax all Mexican imports with a five-per-cent tariff, beginning June 10th, “until such time as illegal migrants coming through Mexico, and into our Country, STOP. The Tariff will gradually increase until the Illegal Immigration problem is remedied, at which time the Tariffs will be removed.” His idea was that the tariff would rise by five per cent at the beginning of every month until it reached twenty-five per cent—the same rate he has levied against China.