A decade has passed since Barack Obama failed to enforce his “red line” against the use of chemical weapons in Syria. But a US president made good on that commitment in the end. Who, upon the election of Donald Trump, thought he would be the one to hit Bashar al-Assad’s air force with cruise missiles on a point of principle?
I ask because governments around the world are trying to anticipate the foreign policies of a second Trump administration. It might be easier to forecast the temperature in London at 3.12pm on April 16 2048. He is, in the end, an egoist, and egoism is an ambiguous force in politics, as liable to pull a state inward (“screw the world”) as to send it violently abroad (“the world must feel our strength”). All predictions of what he will do if elected next year must be laced with doubt. But some things seem probable.