What Would A Trumpist Foreign Policy Be Like? No One Really Knows... But There Are Some Unfortunate Clues
Trump keeps going on TV and claiming that foreign policy experts have given his maiden foreign policy speech high grades. As with most of what Trump says, that isn't true. Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Trump is a guy who doesn't understand the difference between a business negotiation and a negotiation with sovereign powers (watch the video of him up top on ABC's This Week yesterday. "One of the things that worries me," said Gates, "is that he doesn't appear to listen to people. He believes he has all the answers. That he's the smartest man in the room. I've worked with different presidents. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Barack Obama. One thing they all had in common was a willingness to listen to people who had experience and then make their own independent judgments... I think [foreign leaders have] spoken for themselves. Many have said publicly, how worried they are about the possibility of Mr. Trump becoming president. His unpredictability. His lack of understanding of the complexity of international affairs. His threats. His claims that he's going to make other countries do things when, in fact, the president of the United States does not have the power to make them do things. So, I think-- I think a lot of leaders around the world, both among our friends and potential adversaries, are quite concerned."
Conservative pundits pointed out that the speech was "incoherent and shallow" and "filled with internal contradictions, falsehoods and genuinely crazy assertions." But Ryan Lizza noted that the speech "was hardly a break with current conservative thinking about foreign policy. Anyone who has listened to conservative talk radio or read prominent conservative columnists, such as Charles Krauthammer, condemn President Obama’s foreign policy as weak and feckless would recognize Trump’s speech as a standard list of grievances and proposals on the right. On foreign policy, just as he has done on immigration and crime and race, Trump has been paying attention to the base of the Republican Party. He has simply distilled the base’s grievances into something like a platform." Nonetheless, Krauthammer found it a jumble that offered no clarity.
Fareed Zakaria demolished the speech and called it an embarrasment-- populist pandering masquerading as a strategy... "anti-immigrant and nativist... largely isolationist but if and when engaged abroad militaristic and unilateral. In trade it is protectionist and on all matters deeply suspicious of international alliances and global conventions."
Writing for the Brookings Institute, Thomas Wright found the speech "contradictory in parts and repeated standard Republican criticisms of President Obama, but there was a clear message that is consistent with what Trump has said before. It was not the shift in substance that some predicted. There were several notable takeaways, most of which confirmed what we already knew.
1. Trump will end U.S. alliances in Europe and Asia"Nothing in this speech will ease widespread international concern at Trump’s foreign policy," he concluded. "If anything, concerns will grow as Trump demonstrates an ability to present an isolationist 'America First' vision as a more mainstream realist foreign policy. We are headed for an election on fundamental questions of America’s role in the world."
2. Trump has an isolationist mindset
3. Trump wants to do a deal with Russia and China
4. Trump’s audience was the Republican political establishment, not its foreign policy elite
5. Trump views foreign policy very personally
Much of what he said, he just pulled out of his ass-- or off the Hate Talk Radio airwaves. USAToday fact-checked his assertions and found many of them just plain false.
In his foreign policy speech, Donald Trump claimed that “now ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.” But an expert on Libya’s oil operations told us there’s no evidence that the Islamic State is producing or selling oil out of that country.Hisham Melhem, one of the most respected Middle Eastern journalists based in America is the Washington bureau chief for Al Arabiya and yesterday warned his readers what they should expect were Trump to get into the White House, accurately dubbing the speech "a toxic brew of distrust, ignorance and isolationism" and pointing out that "the America that Trump wants to revive is a power that is unto itself, unwilling to be magnanimous, or benevolent, while at the same time serves and protects its interests as a sovereign nation."
Trump also repeated false and misleading claims that we have vetted before on the NAFTA pact, Iraq War and the U.S. trade deficit:
• Trump said NAFTA “literally emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs.” Actually, economic studies say NAFTA’s impact on U.S. jobs has been small.
• Trump claimed he was “totally against” the Iraq War and warned “that it would destabilize the Middle East.” There is no public record of him being against the war before it started.
• Trump said President Obama “crippled us” with “a huge trade deficit.” Actually, the trade deficit has gone down under Obama.
Trump also criticized Hillary Clinton’s response to the Benghazi attacks on Sept. 11, 2012. We address one of the Benghazi claims below, and in a separate article-- “Trump on Clinton’s ‘3 a.m. Call’”-- we write about Trump’s claim that Clinton failed to take charge during the Benghazi attacks, and instead “decided to go home and sleep.” The evidence shows Clinton was actively involved in responding to the attacks, and subsequent investigations concluded the government response was appropriate.
It was a strange sight to be marveled at and remembered in amazement. Donald Trump addressing the foreign policy establishment in Washington, reading from a prepared but meandering speech, obviously written by a committee of advisors. The man who mocked President Obama for delivering his speeches by reading them with the help of a teleprompter, stood behind a teleprompter, and was ill at ease reading for 40 minutes without wildly gesticulating, or making exaggerated poses, and refraining from hurling insults at large groups of people.Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned pan-Arab version of CNN based in Dubai but broadcasting to millions of people across the Arab world, it's top markets being Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, the UAE, Israel, Bahrain and Qatar.
The man who personifies anti-intellectualism was talking to the scholars, journalists, and pundits he usually revels in denigrating them. This was part of a long held tradition in presidential campaigns; every candidate has to deliver a ‘major’ foreign policy address to establish his knowledge of world affairs and his understanding of the complex national security challenges he is likely to face as a president. But the presidential veneer did not hide the real Donald Trump who gave us an incoherent collage of inconsistencies, superficial slogans, dangerous and simplistic solutions to complex issues, misstatements, and downright falsehoods.
The speech betrayed a shocking ignorance of the intricacies of the international system that the U.S created after WWII and the new European dynamics that emerged after the end of the Cold War. In Trump’s world, globalization is seen only as a negative force, and not as the engine of growth that the US ushered in, and mega deals can be struck with Russia and China regardless of their belligerent behavior, and alliances should be based solely on transactional and not value-based considerations, and autocratic regimes can be tolerated if they are good business partners, regardless of what they do to their citizens. He naively believes that the US has already surrendered to the ‘false song of globalism’, as if globalization could have been conceived without America at its core.
Trump chastised America’s allies supposedly because they are not paying enough for American protection, while he showed deference to America’s adversaries. Trump probably did not know that the major theme of his speech ‘America First’ is a slogan with an ominous history. In the 1930’s and early 1940’s, ‘America First’ was the name of an isolationist movement that did not want to help England and the other European countries fighting Nazism and Fascism.
Pity these strange American times, when the presumptive nominee of a major political party after delivering such a hollow speech, is given a cover of legitimacy by the likes of Republican senator Bob Corker, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who described the speech as ‘very thoughtful’ and praised the candidate for 'challenging the foreign policy establishment.’ Jacob Heilbrunn the editor of the National Interest Magazine which hosted Trump extolled the candidate because he ‘was quite disciplined’ and ‘more retrained’.