Gage Skidmore
Politics /30 May 2016
05.30.16

The Trump Doctrine is Plain Nutz

If Donald Trump becomes the next US president, Americans will come to realize that Trump’s ill-conceived foreign policy agenda – hardly espoused and advocated by a wide spectrum of sane elements in the US – will signal the beginning of an unbalanced, prejudice-coated foreign policy, whose parochial propensity could undermine the global image of a liberal American nation. While Trump seems to say all sorts of things, Noam Chomsky rightly comments: “Some of them make sense; some of them are crazy. But the US is an extremely powerful state [and] if Trump means what he’s saying; the human species is in very deep trouble.”

Future of Transatlantic Relations

In a highly anticipated speech on the heels of his primary-contest sweep across the Northeast, Donald Trump emphasized a drastic shake-up in America’s foreign policy. He suggested, “getting out of the nation-building business” to demanding that NATO allies pay their “fair share” or be left to “defend themselves.”

“It’s time to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy,” the Republican presidential front-runner said.

In what was billed as a major policy speech, Trump called for an “America first” approach. To that theme, Trump voiced skepticism toward international deals like NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement). He claimed that a Trump administration would not allow the US to enter agreements that reduce America’s ability to control its own affairs. He panned what he described as the “false song of globalism.”

The speech, read from a teleprompter and focused on policy, was also heavy on campaign-season slams against President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. He called their policies “aimless” and destructive, and criticized them for not using the term “radical Islam.”

If elected president, Trump said, he would call for a summit with NATO allies and another summit with Asian allies to discuss common challenges such as migration and Islamic terrorism. He broadly called for the US to project strength in the world in order to decide who are America’s allies and enemies. Regarding Russia and China, he said: “we are not bound to be adversaries.”

Terrifyingly real, a world under Trump presidency wouldn’t only plummet race relations, but would also open a space for a looming third world war. Chomsky reminds us of the magnitude of having a Trump presidency: “American run polls show that the U.S is the greatest threat to world peace by a large margin.

“To have somebody who’s kind of a wild man with his finger on the button that could destroy the world or make decisions with enormous influence is an extremely frightening prospect.”

Any Resemblance?

Some of that critique came from a familiar place: The libertarian skepticism of engagement abroad and aggressive law enforcement at home expressed by Rand Paul. More telling was the bristling but insular vision of America’s role in the world presented most comprehensively by Trump and largely reinforced by Cruz. Packer says many Europeans are currently looking at Trump’s success and thinking: “Those Americans are crazy!” But Trump isn’t some strange US mutation, says New Yorker writer George Packer. He is instead, according to Packer, an evocative equivalent of European right-wing populists, à la Marine Le Pen in France and Viktor Orbán in Hungary.

While politicians like Le Pen and Orbán inveigh against “Brussels,” Trump rails against “Washington” as the symbol of a degenerate political system “that doesn’t get things done anymore.” Just like his European counterparts, Trump is calling for isolation in the form of protective tariffs, entry-bans and border-walls. He inflames tensions against ethnic minorities and offers anxious citizens an authoritarian vision of a strongman who, although ignoring democratic conventions, would solve all problems on his own. Trump is presumably only the shrillest and most prominent embodiment of a trend that is becoming pervasive throughout the Western world.

Policy of Reorientation

Trump’s policy of reorientation braids skepticism of foreign military engagement, hostility to immigration, and resistance to free trade—what opponents call isolationism, nativism, and protectionism.

The embrace of these arguments by the two leading candidates in national polls is both a challenge to the outward-looking internationalism that has long dominated the GOP, and to the party’s internal debate that has been destabilized by an increased reliance on working-class white voters.

For decades, most Republican leaders have taken opposite views: Supporting a robust American role abroad, expansive immigration, and free trade. In recent decades, that internationalist Republican consensus was most ardently advanced by Reagan and George W. Bush, each of whom backed legalization for undocumented immigrants, expanded trade, and a vibrant American role in leading other nations toward greater freedom.

Obama the integrator, who fought discrimination against blacks and homosexuals, would be succeeded by Trump, who stirs up hatred against minorities while claiming that “political correctness” is the greatest threat to the United States. While Obama sought to explain complex problems, often sounding like an intellectual in the process, studies have shown that Trump, whose speeches are full of short, declarative sentences, speaks at a fourth-grade reading level. Problems, according to Trump, are “totally easy” to solve.

Foreign Policy Agenda?

There are many critics of Trump’s foreign policy agenda who in Europe and the Muslim world hold the argument that his foreign policy is based on social, cultural, political, and economic exclusivism.

Their critique is not without merit. Rubin correctly noted the ludicrous idea that Trump, who has alienated Muslims, now proposes to be the Middle East’s great friend. “Having declared he wants to ban Muslims from the United States,” McCarthy wrote, “he now vows to ‘be working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence.’” McCarthy points out that contrary to Trump’s attempt of presenting himself as a sceptic of humanitarian interventionism and nation building, specifically in Libya, he championed the military campaign against Qaddafi back in 2011.

In his wholesale adoption of the agenda of anti-Muslim bigots, Donald Trump has uniquely contributed to the growing xenophobia against Muslims in America. Trump has called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,” along with expressing support for requiring Muslim-Americans to register with a government database, mandating that Muslims carry special identification cards that note their faith. The Huffington’s editors describe Trump as follows: “Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”

In 1976, Reagan argued precisely the opposite. He took on the Ford-Kissinger policy of “détente” with the Soviet Union, and criticized what he termed as the sell-out of freedom in Eastern Europe that put the US stamp of approval on Soviet domination of the region.

Kissinger declared that Reagan was “trigger-happy” and accused him of “inciting hawkish audiences with his demagoguery.” But at the party’s convention in Kansas City, Reagan won a fight to include a “Morality in Foreign Policy” plank in the GOP platform. It declared: “The goal of Republican foreign policy is the achievement of liberty under law and a just and lasting peace in the world. We recognize and commend that great beacon of human courage and morality, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for his compelling message that we must face the world with no illusions about the nature of tyranny. Ours will be a foreign policy that keeps this ever in mind. Honestly, openly, and with firm conviction, we shall go forward as a united people to forge a lasting peace in the world based upon our deep belief in the rights of man, the rule of law and guidance by the hand of God.’’

That’s a very different message than what Americans are hearing from Donald Trump today. Trump has no clear foreign policy vision.

Trump’s critics include foreign policy specialists who view the Republican front-runner as erratic and misguided. Some go further to say he’s pushing ideas that endanger US interests. He has faced criticism for making campaign promises such as banning Muslims from entering the US, forcing Mexico to pay for a border wall between the two nations and, as he suggested Monday at a rally in West Chester, Pennsylvania, making Gulf states pay for a “safe zone” in Syria. His freewheeling temperament has also been a target.

“The main takeaway for me is an unpredictability. That would be the most worrisome issue among our friends and allies around the world—what Trump says today may not be what he says tomorrow. And he does not seem to have much compunction about changing his views,” said Richard LeBaron, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and long-time diplomat who served as US ambassador to Kuwait under President George W. Bush. “It’s very rarely a useful tool in foreign policy. It leads to misperceptions and it leads to miscalculations by other countries in how they react to the United States.”

Foreign diplomats from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia have expressed alarm to US government officials about Trump, calling his public statements inflammatory and insulting.

Given the complexities entailed by Trump’s foreign policy doctrine, it virtually appears that not only for Americans and the administration in the White House but also for the rest of the world at large, the coming years may be very tricky and more challenging if the will of the majority of Americans during the forthcoming election resigns in favor of a hard-core Republican presidential candidate.

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