The pageantry and scale of the royal reception toward President Trump and the U.S. is reflective of much more than a singular presidential visit to a nation and region of geo-strategic importance.
The word “reset” is frequent amid media reporting of the Saudi trip but few people have followed the recent regional history to thoroughly understand what exactly is being reset.
President Trump is being recognized and respected by the regional Arab coalition for his specific approach and outward worldview which is based on eye-to-eye diplomacy.
Through the contacts, discussions, emissary meetings and individual diplomatic engagements over the past six months, the Arab region members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) -and specifically Saudi Arabia- are overjoyed to find a fresh U.S. perspective based on mutual respect.
The pageantry/scale of the royal reception is directly proportional to the scale of respect being shown by the regional partners toward the worlds largest and most influential leader.
Around the world no-one doubts who is the biggest most significant nation; the size of the U.S. economy speaks for itself. It does not need to be proven – it is self evident.
What is different with the Trump administration as they engage each nation is the change in nationalistic outlook, and specifically foreign policy therein, toward other national leaders as independent sovereign representatives – with respect to their individual cultures and norms.
No longer is the U.S. approaching nations from an inherent need to prove we are ‘better than’, or leverage our interests into their neighborhood.
The expressed policy outlook of President Trump is for the United States to be the best; and through our actions and behaviors to lead on global initiatives that show how we define ourselves and our values. This approach is specifically centered around a policy position stating we do not need to demand acceptance of those values, and we respect independent nations’ that may hold values or beliefs not identical to our own.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has cultured this approach throughout each of his diplomatic engagements. The U.S. leans forward on all Trump policy objectives through the perspective of our national needs first; but that does not necessarily mean we demand or force other nations into a compliance mindset.
Compliance implies aversarialism. President Trump and Secretary Tillerson do not view international engagements as necessarily adversarial.
The U.S. can engage eye-to-eye with the same level of respect to the smallest as we exhibit toward the largest (our own size does not need to be part of the equation, it is self evident), and work policy objectives toward the point of mutual benefit. If the engaged nation does not receive benefit from the policy, we do not demand an acceptance of it; and more importantly we express both an understanding and a respect of their position and inability.
This Trumpian approach, a willingness not to undermine and to accept the partners downside position within any policy, is grounded on inherent truth.
President Trump and Secretary Tillerson openly accept and admit when the engaged partner will be unable to meet our defined terms, we discuss what actions can be take to remove the inherent obstacle in the future, we make a commitment (or not) toward removing that obstacle, we shake hands, and we part company retaining the position of friendship and optimism for the potential of re-engagement at a later date.
In all recent previous administrations there was an implied message that engagement with the United States came with terms and conditions that might be antithetical to the sovereign nations’ best interests. If you want “X” (their need) you must deliver “Y” (our need), and the “Y” might be something which creates conflict or tension.
President Trump and Secretary Tillerson ask about the impact of “Y”, the possibility of the downside, prior to making a decision on fulfillment of the request (“X”), but the inquiry does not necessarily preclude our willingness to deliver.
This dynamic is unique to the engaged nation because no member of the Trump Administration’s policy team is approaching any of the policies from a position of their own inherent politics. Team Trump, writ large, represents America’s best interests, not the political construct of America’s best interests. [Coincidentally this approach is why Trump has so much domestic opposition]
This non-political approach and respect, exhibits honesty within the transaction. Yes, both Tillerson and Trump approach politics through the transactional prism, it’s what deal-makers do.
This non-political approach is what causes leaders like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi make the following remarks:
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: “I first saw the campaign of his excellency President Trump, and I listened to his speech of the neccessity of facing and confronting terrorism all over the world; that he is a great personality and a unique individual, and that he will find great success.”
“I fully trust the capabilities of President Trump, and I have full conviction that he can do things, exert efforts, that very few people can do. And he can succeed in so many fields that others cannot. I trust him wholeheartedly.”
“I followed all his announcements through his campaign, he has a very unique personality and administration, and now I’m speaking with full confidence of unprecedented success for him. He is seeking the interests of the United States and the American people in a very clear manner, and a very direct manner. And a very strong manner as well.”
“His true will is a very strong will to counter terrorism and extremism in the world; and that is a very strong commitment from his excellency the president, and in addition I am very supportive with full force in facing this terrorism.”
“There is a true understanding to the realities in the region, and there is a seriousness and responsible actions in facing extremism and terrorism in the region, and that’s a wonderful thing indeed. There is nothing better than to counter evil.” (link)