Wary of the candidate’s perceived impulsiveness, a friend asked me recently what I was certain a President Trump would do once in office. My response: brag. Whether that provided the assurance he sought is unlikely; though I suggested he would find a fickle President Pepe still preferable to a consistent-as-the-bedrock neocon. Knowing what you’re getting isn’t the same as wanting it.
Though whether a Trump-stenciled Whitehouse would be governed by vision or ego rests mostly on whether its occupant understands how he came to find himself residing there. Men fondle women and tools for two very distinct reasons. I hope between lust and utility he knows which animates his popularity. I’m sure he considers himself quite an attractive guy. But the electorate is reaching for a chainsaw, not negligée.
His foreign policy speech today gave indications he grasps this. Most notably in his consistent theme of American interests over obligations. Our values makes only one moribund appearance throughout, and that was in repudiation of its universalist application.
In many ways the speech was revolutionary in its shifting philosophical moorings. I can certainly understand why his detractors have chosen to alight on its poorly articulated and inchoate tactics, rather than the generally clear strategic vision behind them. They want readers focused on the widgets rather than the company. And what Trump expressed repeatedly is that the American company exists for the benefit of Americans. Not The Economy, or democracy, or immigrants, african esteem, climate change, world hunger, or to redress their ancestors’ accused moral infirmities.
My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first…That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make. America first will be the major and overriding theme of my administration
However obvious this may sound, it represents a complete departure from a generation of interventionist doctrine driven by foreign moral obligations. As a philosophical cornerstone, it’s akin to a man suddenly stating that he prioritizes his children over yours. Which is fairly outrageous when you’ve come to rely on the opposite.
Today I want to identify five main weaknesses in our foreign policy.
My paraphrasing and interpretation of these five weaknesses are as follows.
1. Overextension: militarily and diplomatically. America has its nose up too many colons.
2. Parasitic allies: “the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.” I initially read this to suggest that Israel should be treated at arm’s length as an independent foreign state. But that would be worse than Hitler, and Trump is later effusive in praise for our greatest ally. Thus the freeloading allies are identified as NATO members.
But bear in mind a key unmentioned element. Either King George or Abe Lincoln could have granted independence with the same stern tone. I don’t know whether the heads of European states actually want autonomy or to remain American satraps. But I know what Trump appears to be offering them under the veil of discipline.
3. Unreliable American loyalty. Including to “our great friend” and “force for justice and peace,” Israel. While survivors of the USS Liberty might quibble with that characterization, it’s a valid point that our affections can be fleeting. Though consistent loyalty to foreign states, even where earned, will periodically come into conflict with the core principle of American interests first.
4. Too weak with rival countries. China and North Korea were specifically cited.
5. No clear and coherent foreign policy goals. “One day, we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians. The next day, we’re watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls and absolutely falls apart.” Apparently Trump doesn’t realize we just promised democracy. We didn’t say anyone would live through it. He also critically mentioned “failed interventions” and their resulting “massive increase in refugees.” Hey, there were some survivors of democracy after all!
But here is the key quote: “We’re getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.” We all remember W. Bush intoning the same thing in 2000. But if Trump actually prioritized global stability over our values, then America’s refugee resettlement industry might be the next victim of fascist oppression.
He then proceeds into foreign policy goals.
1. Halt the spread of radical Islam (AKA, Islam). Below are his provisions:
a) Reciprocity: A concept simply unheard of in modern Western discourse. “We should work together with any nation in the region that is threatened by the rise of radical Islam. But this has to be a two-way street. They must also be good to us. Remember that. They have to be good to us, no longer one way. It’s now two-way.”
b) Muslim migration pause (a pause likely to become as lengthy as Nixon’s “temporary” suspension of the gold standard): “The struggle against radical Islam also takes place in our homeland. There are scores of recent migrants inside our borders charged with terrorism…We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies…A pause for reassessment will help us to prevent the next San Bernardino or frankly, much worse.”
c) Bombing ISIS (Sound the Paris air raid sirens!): “And then there’s ISIS. I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how.” I’ll tell you where, Europe. Who the hell cares what they do in the Syrian desert?
2) More money for the beleaguered Pentagon, whose generals must somehow cobble together a strategy for defending our country from Salvadoran irregulars with only $586 billion dollars budgeted in the current fiscal year. It would seem contradictory to advocate for an even larger “defense” allowance in context of a doctrine of waning military adventurism. Though it can be logically squared if one imagines a well-guarded sphere of influence. Of course the neocons imagine the same thing: a bright blue sphere.
3) A reiteration of American interests. “We must develop a foreign policy based on American interests. Businesses do not succeed when they lose sight of their core interests and neither do countries.”
Here are some additional worthy quotes:
We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations, and must regard them with open eyes, but we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests.
I think China is fated to globally stretch its legs, and as such will represent an increasingly formidable rival state. The extent to which our dumbly diversifying population can maintain that rivalry is another matter altogether.
Though as for Russia, it has been criminal folly to push them into embrace with the great sedge hat. Our pointless hostility will be the source of laments for many years.
On trade, on immigration, on foreign policy. The jobs, incomes and security of the American worker will always be my first priority.
Under a Trump administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of a foreign country.
No country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first. Both our friends and our enemies put their countries above ours and we, while being fair to them, must start doing the same. We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism. The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony.
That’s getting close to a Kakistocracy theme on nation-state alignment. That is to say, a government exists to further the interests of the people who ratified it, and for very little other reason at all. Trump’s position here is so alt-right extreme it could have been penned by George Washington.
NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the United States and has emptied our states — literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs. And I’ve just gotten to see it. I’ve toured Pennsylvania. I’ve toured New York. I’ve toured so many of the states. They have been cleaned out. Their manufacturing is gone.
Never again, only the reverse — and I have to say this strongly — never again; only the reverse will happen. We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. There will be consequences for the companies that leave the United States only to exploit it later. They fire the people. They take advantage of the United States. There will be consequences for those companies. Never again.
Ross Perot’s famous sucking sound wasn’t just a reference to the noise from Senator Graham’s chambers. It was a real phenomenon, and why we must now import millions of Amerinds to work in our factories in China.
However, unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct.
I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.
This is the typical boilerplate that issues forth in paragraphs preceding the announcement of America’s latest bombing campaign. Though in context of his broad philosophical retrenchment from global interventions it may carry more weight than normal.
And one of the best for last.
Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions. Instead of trying to spread universal values that not everybody shares or wants, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions.
Again, True Conservatives will bleat about the absence of specifics, though I am presently more interested in his vision. And what a different perspective it is. Disseminating universal values at gunpoint has been the sine qua non of neoconservatism (AKA, conservatism). Just as the subversion or abandonment of Western institutions has been to liberalism. Reinvigorating the West while leaving the third-world to caterwaul in its filth is an utter repudiation of both.
Which leaves us with a clearly expressed governing philosophy of self-interested military, demographic, and economic protectionism. It’s called tending your own garden. And if Trump actually moves the world an inch in that direction, my friend will forgive the inevitable boasts.