Trump rejects Marshall Plan nation-building, opts for ‘tough love’ foreign policy

President Trump is disrupting a foreign policy establishment truism dating to the days of the Marshall Plan. For places such as Syria, North Korea, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories, the White House is making clear that the U.S. has no interest in embarking on the expensive nation-building missions that have characterized American conflicts of the postwar era. Mr. Trump’s skepticism of U.S. aid programs is no surprise given his long pre-White House record and his comments on the campaign trail in 2016, but he has taken that opposition a step further in office by pre-emptively announcing that U.S. taxpayers won’t be on the hook even in ongoing crises such as the Syrian civil war and North Korean nuclear activity. “We won’t have to help them,” Mr. Trump told reporters in Singapore after his landmark summit in June with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un when asked about U.S. aid to build up the North’s primitive economy. “The United States has been paying a big price at a lot of different places, but South Korea, which obviously is right next door, and Japan, which essentially is next door, they’re going to be helping them. … So they will be helping them,” Mr. Trump said at the time. In the past week, the Trump administration has announced that it was ending funding to the U.N. agency that provides services to Palestinian refugees — reportedly over the objections of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — and confirmed the cancellation of $300 million in military aid to Pakistan to express displeasure over Islamabad’s record on fighting terrorist groups. In many of the hot spots where American forces are or have been engaged, the Trump administration has reined in U.S.-led reconstruction efforts and demanded that other countries step up. Case in point: the administration’s decision late last month to cancel $230 million earmarked for rebuilding Syria as the country’s devastating 7-year-old civil war appears to be winding to a conclusion. Mr. Trump last month considered but decided against rescinding some $3 billion that Congress had allocated to the U.S. Agency for International Development and State Department. The plan was to return the money to the Treasury. State Department officials, at the direction of the White House, have shifted the roughly $200 million set aside for Syrian reconstruction toward other department priorities. The bulk of the funds to aid in Syria’s recovery will be derived from a $300 million allocation from allies in the U.S.-led coalition, including $100 million from Saudi Arabia, to fight Islamic State and other jihadi groups. “Many coalition partners have made pledges and contributions in recent months, and the United States appreciates all partners who have stepped up to support this critical effort,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Friday while announcing the plan to shift funding. Rex W. Tillerson, as Mr. Trump’s first secretary of state, spearheaded the effort to dedicate U.S. funds toward Syrian reconstruction. The reconstruction and aid effort in Syria, as well as other areas of the world, have flamed out since his departure in March.

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