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Photograph from the Daily Express U.K.

Dear Mr. President,

I would think that a businessman such as yourself would have an understanding of the importance of credibility. Maybe you’re too used to relying on contracts that can be bent to serve your interests and so you haven’t given the matter much thought. It’s worth considering the importance of having people believe you will do what you say you will.

I’m mainly talking about the nation as a whole here, as it seems you aren’t concerned with trying to maintain credibility with your base (though those reactions to the DACA overtures should probably concern you). President Obama, for instance, was criticized for failing to follow through on his “red line” declaration against Syria. Conservatives bemoaned the loss of U.S. credibility in foreign affairs. Given your affection for strongmen dictators, you would probably agree. When the U.S. says it will do something and then does not, it risks having people dismiss its declarations.

We don’t just lose credibility when we fail to follow through on our threats, however. We also lose credibility when we fail to live up to our promises, including those made by previous administrations. The Dreamers registered under DACA in good faith, providing their information to the government while trusting its promise not to use that against them. You have trampled on that promise and broken faith. Perhaps you are coming around on this point, but I’m not holding my breath.

And now you are trying to “revisit” the Iran nuclear deal. You’ve made no secret of your distaste for it, but the United States signed that agreement, and now we’re bound to live up to our obligations unless Iran doesn’t live up to theirs. This isn’t like those agreements with the contractors who worked on your real estate that you dragged into court to weasel out of. For one, the international court of opinion will not be impressed by fancy lawyers. For another, any country that’s ever been labeled a “rogue state” is going to be watching this and taking notes.

Yes, I’m talking about North Korea now. Unless you actually want to get millions of people killed by starting a war, at some point you are going to need a diplomatic solution. Right now Kim Jong-Un is watching what you’re doing with Iran, and the only conclusion he can possibly come to is that diplomacy with the U.S. is pointless. Any agreement we make with them won’t be worth the paper it’s written on, and everyone can see that. That only increases their incentive to develop nuclear weapons, because that is the thing that will trump all our threats.

If you don’t want countries like Iran and North Korea trying to get nuclear weapons, you have to show them that there’s another way out. Breaking our agreements sends the opposite message: That the U.S. is not trustworthy, and only respects power. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see nuclear war erupt.



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