Michael McFaul is the director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, a professor of political science, and a Hoover Institution senior fellow, all at Stanford University. He is the author of From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia (2018). (October 2019)
During his presidency, Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure” and “restoring deterrence” have weakened America’s position on every count of its stated policy objectives in the region, while simultaneously, at least in the short run, strengthening the most conservative elements within the Iranian regime. Compared to three years ago: we have no nuclear agreement with Iran, let alone a more comprehensive one; we have enabled greater Iranian influence in the region, especially in Syria and Iraq, not less; and we have seen the Islamic Republic’s theocratic order become more repressive and entrenched, not more open or democratic.
The State Department does not have a reputation for producing heroes. On the contrary, the department is commonly maligned in both elite and popular stereotypes as the stomping ground of drab, cautious bureaucrats. But President Trump and his inner circle have taken disregard for our career diplomats to a new level, one of outright trashing. Now, though, the disruption of the Trump–Giuliani “drug deal” is a crucial victory for diplomacy—and the American national interest. Ambassadors Yovanovitch and Taylor both championed the fight against corruption and strengthening of the rule of law in Ukraine. Ironically, their courageous actions have also helped thwart corruption and reinforce the rule of law in their homeland.