The full title of the article is: The glorious absurdity of American diplomacy under Donald Trump


In a week of diplomatic frenzy, I’ve been thinking of the American diplomat. Whether veteran or novice, the career diplomat is traditionally the centre of attention, a magnet for counterparts seeking counsel and for governments looking for guidance. When I meet some US diplomats now, it doesn’t take much to pick up on the despair. They nod a lot but say little, avoiding having to comment on their president. Justifying wrong-headed policies is part of the brief.

But Donald Trump has imposed a whole new challenge: diplomats must explain his thinking where there sometimes is none, and make sense of policies when few are fully formed.
No matter that the president’s mercantilist approach to foreign policy — and a not-so-secret admiration for autocrats — is ruining America’s image abroad. A few months into the Trump presidency, a Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations found that a median 22 per cent had confidence the US leader would do the right thing in international affairs

In contrast to the harsh words he reserves for America’s democratic allies, Mr Trump was full of praise for a dictator who represses and starves his people: “Great personality and very smart. Good combination. A worthy negotiator.”

It’s hard to argue that the Singapore summit was anything but a diplomatic coup. But it’s equally hard to deny that Mr Kim “plays Trump like a fiddle”, as one former senior US diplomat puts it. Mr Kim has won prestige and international recognition and given only promises in return.