The No Impulse Control Doctrine

So now we’re pretending that Trump has a worked-out policy or plan or organizing principle or something, and that the word for it is “flexibility.”

As he confronted a series of international challenges from the Middle East to Asia last week, President Trump made certain that nothing was certain about his foreign policy. To the extent that a Trump Doctrine is emerging, it seems to be this: don’t get roped in by doctrine.

Please. Laziness isn’t a “doctrine.” Empty-headedness isn’t a doctrine. Toddler-level impulsiveness isn’t a doctrine. Being totally random isn’t a doctrine. Breaking all the rules and stamping all over the porcelain isn’t a doctrine.

“Our decisions,” Mr. Trump said in the Saturday address, “will be guided by our values and our goals — and we will reject the path of inflexible ideology that too often leads to unintended consequences.”

That concept, flexibility, seems key to understanding Mr. Trump. He hates to be boxed in, as he mused in the Rose Garden last week while contemplating the first new military operation of his presidency with geopolitical consequences.

“I like to think of myself as a very flexible person,” he told reporters. “I don’t have to have one specific way.” He made clear he cherished unpredictability. “I don’t like to say where I’m going and what I’m doing,” he said.

He’s not making a serious argument there. He’s explaining how awesome he is. What he means by not having to have “one specific way” (such an elegant way to put it) is that he doesn’t want to do the work of figuring out what he thinks and what that tells him he should do. It’s so much easier to just do what you feel like in the moment and then praise yourself to an admiring world for being so “flexible.”

That flexibility was a hallmark of his rise in real estate, and if critics preferred the word erratic, it did not bother Mr. Trump — it has since worked well enough to vault him to the White House. But now that he is commander in chief of the world’s most powerful nation, leaders around the world are trying to detect a method to the man.

Well quite. He’s erratic, which is to say random. That’s because he’s lazy, ignorant, and thick. That’s all. Let’s don’t complicate it or big it up with talk of doctrine.

“There is no emerging doctrine for Trump foreign policy in a classical sense,” said Kathleen H. Hicks, a former Pentagon official who is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “There are, however, clear emerging characteristics consistent with the attributes of the man himself: unpredictable, instinctual and undisciplined.”

There you go. That’s what I’m saying.

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