Tags: Donald Trump | Media Bias | Presidential History | pacific rim | vietnam

Trump's Savvy Is Leveling Foreign Policy Playing Field

Image: Trump's Savvy Is Leveling Foreign Policy Playing Field
U.S. President Donald Trump waved as he arrived during the ASEAN-U.S. Summit on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017 in Manila, Philippines. The president has had a lengthy Asia trip with an international summit and a series of meetings with Pacific Rim allies, including his host in the Philippines. (Aaron Favila/AP)

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Monday, 13 Nov 2017 12:51 PM Current | Bio | Archive

President Trump has often been dismissed as a novice in international affairs. His current trip to Pacific rim countries is offering him a splendid opportunity to demonstrate competence in this crucial area of presidential power.

In our Constitution, it is the president who is charged with the primary responsibility for diplomacy and foreign affairs. The president sets the tone for how our country will conduct itself on the international stage. This had been true since the time of George Washington.

It has been thought, in many quarters of  academia for example, that American power and prestige have declined. Indeed, many perceived the last administration as given to leading from behind, following the strategies and desires of other nations — retreating from the former role of this country as a world leader.

It's too early to know precisely what the stance of the Trump administration will be, but President Trump’s intriguing speech delivered Nov. 10, 2017, in Da Nang, Vietnam, offers a glimpse at the evolution of a Trump doctrine in foreign affairs. A creed echoing many of the themes on which he won the presidency last year.

Following a gracious acknowledgement that he was speaking in a nation with which we had recently been at war, and that "Today, we are no longer enemies; we are friends," the president suggested what had happened in Asia was "nothing short of miraculous," because the people of Asian countries had taken "ownership of their future." Mr. Trump observed that "In the early 1990s, nearly half of Vietnam survived on just a few dollars a day, and one in four did not have any electricity."

Today, however, "an opening Vietnamese economy is one of the fastest-growing economies on Earth. It has already increased more than 30 times over, and the Vietnamese students rank among the best students in the world." The president observed similarly astonishing accomplishments in Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, India, and China.

He then explained, that in his view, the key to this success was that "citizens of sovereign and independent nations have taken greater control of their destinies and unlocked the potential of their people," and that in the course of doing so, "They’ve pursued visions of justice and accountability, promoted private property and the rule of law, and embraced systems that value hard work and individual enterprise." Instead, then, of offering a vision of central planning and socialism, the president engaged in a full-throated defense of conservative principles of individual initiative, private property and the rule of law.

These are the same notions he embraced in the presidential campaign.

The president even engaged in a touch of poetry. "This entire region," the president explained, is "a beautiful constellation of nations, each its own bright star, satellites to none  — and each one, a people, a culture, a way of life, and a home."

He went on to suggest that the U.S. would embrace trade relationship with the Asian nations, but only on the basis of "fairness and reciprocity," and, in particular, "that private industry, not government planners, will direct investment." The U.S., he said, would no longer permit "product dumping, subsidized goods, currency manipulation, and predatory industrial policies."

This was a bracing message, but the president made it clear that it was one putting each nation on an equal footing. Mr. Trump even declared, "I am always going to put America first the same way that I expect all of you in this room to put your countries first." This particular stance was greeted with loud applause.

The president clarified, "We will respect your independence and your sovereignty," adding, "We want you to be strong, prosperous, and self-reliant, rooted in your history, and branching out toward the future."

Trump's vision was far from the socialism that once seemed to be advancing globally, "We will not remain silent," he emphasized, "as American companies are targeted by state-affiliated actors for economic gain, whether through cyberattacks, corporate espionage, or other anti-competitive practices." He urged the other nations to do the same.

The president’s foreign policy of equality among countries will need to have words followed by deeds, of course, but this purported novice, with refreshing candor, returned to tried and true principles governing civilized nations for centuries.

Our media is obsessed, as usual, with conspiracies, innuendo, and calumny.

It is passing almost without media notice, but our president is articulating a structure for the international community based on simple principles that have been incorporated into the law of nations since the founding of the republic.

President Obama won great praise and even the Nobel Peace Prize for his embrace of international norms. Based on his speech in Vietnam, might President Trump eventually merit similar acclaim?

Stephen B. Presser is the Raoul Berger Professor of Legal History Emeritus at Northwestern’s Pritzker School of Law, the Legal Affairs Editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and a contributor to The University Bookman. He graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and has taught at Rutgers University, the University of Virginia, and University College, London. He has often testified on constitutional issues before committees of the United States Congress, and is the author of "Recapturing the Constitution: Race, Religion, and Abortion Reconsidered" (Regnery, 1994) and "Law Professsors: Three Centuries of Shaping American Law" (West Academic, 2017). To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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StephenBPresser
Our media is obsessed with conspiracies and innuendo. It's passing almost without media notice, but our president is articulating a structure for the international community based on simple principles incorporated into the law of nations since the founding of the republic.
pacific rim, vietnam
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Monday, 13 Nov 2017 12:51 PM
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