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Trump's Leadership on the Global Stage

May 29, 2017
Weekly Columns

Last week, Donald Trump wrapped up his first foreign trip as President of the United States. His travels took him to the centers of the world's three predominant monotheistic religions, at each of which the President mixed traditional diplomacy with his own unique approach to politics and public policy.

Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican were the first three stops on the President’s itinerary. One is the home to the most holy site in Islam - Mecca. One is the birthplace of Christ and the homeland of Judaism. And one is the capitol of the worlds oldest Christian Church, Roman Catholicism. While the destinations themselves were very symbolic, the message the president delivered at each stop was any thing but.

In Saudi Arabia, addressing the leaders of the world's Muslim nations, President Trump assured them that America is “not here to lecture—we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship. Instead, we are here to offer partnership -- based on shared interests and values -- to pursue a better future for us all.” Trump went on to challenge the assembled nations to help drive terrorism out of their places of worship, their communities and their holy lands.

From Saudi Arabia the president flew to Israel on a flight that was itself historic. It was the first ever direct flight from Saudi Arabia to Israel. While in Israel, President Trump reiterated America’s commitment to the Jewish Holy Land and pledged our support to bringing a peaceful settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. President to visit the Wailing Wall, which is the most holy site in the Jewish faith.

Also in Israel, Trump crossed the border to visit with the Palestinians in hopes of renewing the dialogue between Israel and its Palestinian neighbor on an elusive two-state solution that both nation's people can accept. Progress on this front is likely to be difficult, but at least the president made an effort.

In both Saudi Arabia and Israel, the president spoke forcefully of the need for all of America's allies in the region to confront the common enemy of Iran, the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world. He also concluded one of the largest arms deals in in history in order to strengthen the Saudis and make good on his promise to create jobs in America.

The next stop was the Vatican, the headquarters for the world’s estimated 1.2 billion Catholics. There the President had a 30 minute audience with Pope Francis who, like President Trump, is known to be an outspoken and blunt advocate for the causes and policies near and dear to his heart. While the President and the Pope have many policy differences, their visit focused on their common objectives of religious tolerance and bringing peace to the world’s troubled spots.

The President ended his trip with a meeting of the 28 nations that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, better known by its acronym, NATO. In his address to NATO, the president urged the other nations to meet their obligation to spend at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.  Currently only five of the 28 members meet that obligation. President Trump argued that the failure of other nations to meet their financial obligations was unfair to the taxpayers of the United States who end up footing the bill for those nations who do not.

After the NATO visit, the president met with the G-7 nations to discuss how to speed up growth in the world's largest free economies. He concluded his visit with a speech to America's men and women in uniform, thanking them for their service and reminding the world of the indispensable role our military plays in keeping the peace and defending America and its many allies.

Donald Trump came to office unlike any other U.S. President before him. He had never held public office and he had never commanded an army in a major conflict, something that every U.S. President before him has done. Consequently, nobody knew what to expect from his first foreign trip as President. What we saw was a confident president who projected American strength, was unequivocal in his policies, and who, along with First Lady Melania Trump, represented the United States in a way that should not only reassure Americans, it should make us proud.