Ill-informed and incoherent

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The Editorial Board of the New York Times (1 Dec 2016) sums up the fears that many of have about the ill-informed and incoherent character of Mr Trump’s ideas on international affairs.

That Donald Trump is having trouble choosing a secretary of state underscores concerns about his ability to manage the international challenges he will face in office—from the aggression of leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin to the Islamic State to strains among NATO allies.

At times, Mr. Trump’s campaign talk suggested new approaches; at other times, he offered a jumble of contradictory ideas. His mantra of "America first" implies a reduced American role overseas, but he has also advocated a tough posture toward adversaries. All of this creates an unsettling unpredictability that has already affected how governments and companies think and act. There is still little sign that Mr. Trump, who has declined daily briefings by the intelligence agencies, understands these threats and how to deal with them.

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Presidents have wide latitude to act unilaterally in foreign policy and command a powerful bully pulpit. Even so, Congress, career diplomats, interest groups, the media and foreign leaders can help shape, inform and stymie presidential intentions. The world has long relied on the United States to be the steady hand. The challenges will be more complex than Mr. Trump ever imagined. There is little reason to believe that he will provide strong leadership on these fronts, but every reason to hope that he does.