Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump outlined a decisive, “America-first” foreign policy vision recently, vowing to “replace randomness with purpose,” bring back the Reaganesque doctrine of peace through strength, and to reject the “false song of globalism.”
Speaking at the historic Mayflower hotel in the nation’s capital before a packed room of foreign-policy experts, current and former politicians, ambassadors, and military veterans, Trump explained that American foreign policy has meandered since the end of the Cold War, saying “We failed to develop a new vision for a new time.”
“It all began with a dangerous idea that we could make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interests in becoming a western democracy. We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed.”
Trump outlined his vision going forward, drawing a line between intervention and isolation with the goal of enhancing international stability and eliminating chaos.
That starts with a long-term plan to defeat radical Islam. He described this as a philosophical struggle, not unlike the Cold War. It will take a patient application of instruments of national power including, not limited to, military force. His immediate goal as president will be the destruction of ISIS: “ISIS will be gone if I’m elected president. And they’ll be gone quickly. They will be gone very, very quickly.”
Taking a page out of Ronald Reagan’s playbook, Trump promised to rebuild our armed forces that have been so depleted under President Obama. “We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest single investment we can make . . . Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody.”
However, Trump stressed that the decision to send troops into combat would only come as a last resort. And if undertaken, it will be a clear plan for victory, overwhelming combat power, and an exit strategy. In other words, get in and get out; no nation building on Trump’s watch.
Trump noted that the result of Obama’s confused foreign policy is allies who no longer trust us, and enemies who don’t respect us. He promised to be a consistent, dependable partner with our friends and a decisive, unpredictable actor against our enemies.
But Trump added that being a dependable ally must be a two-way street. He argued that our allies must begin to “pay their fair share” for their own defense. For example, while NATO Member States have all agreed to an annual goal of spending a minimum of two percent of their Gross Domestic Product on defense, only four of 28 nations do so. We want global stability, but achieving that cannot continue to be on America’s dime.
Turning to Russia and China, Trump said that “We have serious differences with these two nations . . . but we are not bound to be adversaries.” There are many common interests, from combating radical Islam to making favorable trade deals of mutual benefit that would enable us to live peaceably together.
However, unlike Obama’s legacy-chasing debacle of a deal with Iran, negotiator-in-chief Trump will come to the table from position of strength and in pursuit of U.S. national interests.
“Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a deal under my administration, a deal that’s great — not good, great — for America, but also good for Russia, then we will quickly walk from the table. It’s as simple as that. We’re going to find out.”
That sums up his “America First”’ approach. Mr. Trump grasps that being president of the United States is not about a global popularity contest; his responsibility is to the American people. “Businesses do not succeed when they lose sight of their core interests and neither do countries.”
“America First” includes protecting American sovereignty from international treaties that will ultimately kill jobs and harm the economy, and/or limit our ability to protect our national interests abroad. “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism” was arguably the biggest applause line of the entire speech.
At one point Trump extended a hand across the political aisle: “Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge. We need a new rational American foreign policy, informed by the best minds and supported by both parties, and it will be by both parties — Democrats, Republicans, independents, everybody, as well as by our close allies.”
However the bulk of this speech was clearly directed at the conservative Republican voters who hold the power to deliver him a first ballot victory in Cleveland. And after eight destructive years of Obama, “America First” comes not a day too late for the conservative base. And that’s Trump the master brander, at his best.
Patrick Murray (colonel, U.S. Army, retired) was part of a military-diplomatic exchange program between the Pentagon and Department of State, where he served in the Bureau of Political Military Affairs in Washington, D.C. In 2005, Murray became the U.S. representative to the Military Staff Committee at the United Nations in New York under Ambassador John Bolton. After retiring from the Army in 2009, Patrick became the Republican nominee for U.S. Congress in Northern Virginia. He is the author of "Government is the Problem." For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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