Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts The Foreign Policy Views of Donald Trump
The Foreign Policy Views of Donald Trump

The Foreign Policy Views of Donald Trump

By Michael Vadon (Donald Trump) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Donald Trump (Source: Michael Vadon)

The foreign policy views of the Republican nominee Donald Trump have been called dangerous, treasonous, confused – and that’s just according to leading Republicans and conservatives. For example, the editor of The Weekly Standard Bill Kristol says, “It’s not like having someone who’s a little too conservative, or who’s not a great candidate, or he’s rich, or he’s not—people really need to stop and think, do you want Donald Trump to be the national spokesperson through an entire presidential election for the Republican party and the conservative movement? Is that acceptable?” The 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney said, “He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president, Mr. Trump’s bombast is already alarming our allies and fueling the enmity of our enemies.” Romney has also said, “I don’t want to see trickle-down racism, I don’t want to see a president of the United States saying things which change the character of the generations of Americans that are following. Presidents have an impact on the nature of our nation, and trickle-down racism, trickle-down bigotry, trickle-down misogyny, all these things are extraordinarily dangerous to the heart and character of America.”

Is there a divide between traditional Republican Party positions on foreign policy and those of Trump? What exactly are Trump’s positions? And where do they differ from other Republicans? Some have even noted a partial parallelism between the views of Trump and those of Bernie Sanders on the left. What precisely are those parallels?

Donald Trump views policy stances with a particular fluidity—as deals to be made with the American public, foreign governments, and people around the world in order to fulfill his underlying ideological goals. It is essential to understand the underlying ideology behind his stances on foreign policy. Trump has consistently wished to remain silent on expressing certain policy positions because, as he says, the American government is too predictable. In Trump’s mind, it is not possible to make a good deal with a country when they know exactly what you are willing to do. What follows is a compilation of many of Donald Trump’s stated foreign policy positions. The point of this essay is not to take a position on Trump, but simply to clarify his views.

Border/Immigration

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
                                       – Donald Trump, Presidential Announcement Speech June 16, 2015

Much like the rest of Trump’s campaign, his positions on border control and immigration remain controversial. The two most important issues on this subject are the illegal immigration of Mexicans into the United States and the immigration, legal or otherwise, of Muslims. Donald Trump seems to want to limit immigration generally seeing it as largely not worth the amount of resources needed to oversee operations. Trump attacks Hillary Clinton’s wish to increase the naturalization of immigrants, especially illegal immigrants and Syrian refugees.

Donald Trump sees the illegal immigration of Mexicans into the United States as a harbinger of increasing crime rates and drug importation. Trump attacks the Mexican government for sending the worst sorts of people into the country: drug traffickers, criminals, ruffians, rapists, etc. These statements remain quite controversial to the American public, while Trump has always clarified that he is referring to a certain segment of illegal immigrants, and not them in their entirely. To secure the southern border, Trump recommends increasing the support of border guards and the construction of a wall along the entire southern border. He argues that the Mexican government should be forced to pay for this wall because of all the problems their country brings into the United States. Unlike Clinton, Trump spends almost no time at all discussing the problems within Mexico or calling to aid them.

Mr. Trump also sees the legal immigration of Muslims as a problem for the United States. The immigrants coming in from countries like Iraq and Syria have little documentation, and it’s impossible to determine their risk to the nation. Even those immigrants who don’t harbor evil will toward the US government still may harbor more conservative Islamic views, which can lead their children to violent extremism. Trump argues for a “pause” in Muslim immigration from countries plagued by Islamic extremism until the US can guarantee the peaceful intentions of said immigrants.

Terrorism

“I have a simple message for [ISIS]. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where, and I won’t tell them how.”
                              – Donald Trump, Interview with NPR

The Debate over Islamic Extremism

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Donald Trump’s policy stances toward the prevention of terrorism have been quite controversial. He claims that the Obama administration has obscured the relationship between the religion of Islam and Islamic terrorism. This, in part, has led to Trump’s somewhat regular musings whether Obama has a hidden agenda of support for terrorists: on one such instance, Trump said,

Look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind. And the something else in mind — you know, people can’t believe it. People cannot, they cannot believe that President Obama is acting the way he acts and can’t even mention the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’ There’s something going on. It’s inconceivable.

The implication is rather frightening, but the expressed issue represents an idea held by many in the electorate: that many people, including Obama, refuse to acknowledge the unique problem the religion of Islamplays in fostering an ideology of terrorism.

Obama and Hillary Clinton have regularly responded to this claim by Trump and the Republican Party. Recently, Obama articulated his position as follows:

What exactly would using this label accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer is none of the above … Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction. …Not once has an adviser of mine said, ‘Man, if we use that phrase, we’re going to turn this whole thing around.’ … Where does this stop? The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer — they were all U.S. citizens. Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminate them, because of their faith? … Do Republican officials actually agree with this?

Alternative explanations for this heated political issue have been offered by others. Jeffrey Goldberg, a national correspondent for the Atlantic, argues:

Obama’s reluctance to describe the threat as one posed by ‘radical Islam’ is in part due to his pessimism on matters related to the dysfunctions of Muslim states, and to the inability of the umma—the worldwide community of Muslims—to contain and ultimately neutralize the extremist elements in its midst, has, at times, an almost paralyzing effect on him. The president has come to the conclusion … that the underlying problems afflicting Islam are too deep, and too resistant to American intervention, to warrant implementation of the sort of policies that his critics, including his critics in foreign-policy think tanks, demand.

Public intellectual Sam Harris has described this as the narrative of the narrative, or “narrative narrative:”

In fighting ISIS or resisting the spread of Islamic theocracy more generally, we must at all costs avoid ‘confirming the narrative’ of Islamic extremists. So the fear is that any focus on the religion of Islam or its adherents … the fear is that this will drive many more Muslims into the arms of the jihadists; they’ll become jihadists because of this. … Now this is either the most pessimistic and uncharitable thing ever said about a community, in the case of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, or it’s true.

Stopping ISIS and Islamic Terror

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In dealing with terrorism, Trump suggests using tactics similar to the containment policy that the United States used against the ideology of communism in the Cold War. Trump proposed a ban on Muslim immigration to the United States, or most recently, a ban on immigration from countries that have a history of radical Islam. It is often implied this means countries in the Middle East with this problem, and not countries in Europe.

Trump claims it is currently impossible to tell whether immigrants being admitted are Islamic radicals, or whether their children will become radicals. He sees the possibility of immigrants’ children adopting extremist Islamic views is a reason to ban migration. Trump says this Muslim ban will only be temporary, while the US re-evaluates the benefits of such migration and sets up protection from extremists. Trump does describe immigration in general as a very costly affair, which is rarely worth the effort. He also calls for increased report rates within the Muslim community for their extremist compatriots. During many of the attacks, Trump argues that Muslims could have done more to report those who exhibited radical beliefs and behaviors.

He has also called for much more drastic action to deal with terrorism. Controversially, he praised Saddam Hussein’s efficient killing of terrorists: “He was a bad guy — really bad guy. But you know what? He did well? He killed terrorists. He did that so good. They didn’t read them the rights. They didn’t talk. They were terrorists. Over. Today, Iraq is Harvard for terrorism.” When asked if Trump believed the police should be able to conduct warrantless searches of Muslims—in a common Trumpion fashion—he responded: “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago.” When asked, “Would President Donald Trump support a full Muslim database?” Trump responded, “Basically the suggestion was made and (it’s) certainly something we should start thinking about… But what I want is a watch list. I want surveillance programs. Obviously, there are a lot of problems. … But, certainly, I would want to have a database for the refugees, for the Syrian refugees that are coming in because nobody knows where they’re coming from.” He has also publicly mused on striking ISIS with nuclear weapons and increased bombing efforts and torture to combat terrorism. It seems that Trump is willing to go to rather drastic lengths to stop terrorists, bring back “order,” and “make America safe again.”

Trump attempts to appease Muslims by saying they are the most at risk from Islamic terrorism. And Donald Trump describes himself as the only candidate who can stop ISIS. To Trump, intervention in Syria and Iraq is worth the costs of intervention: what this intervention would be, he has largely left to the imagination. Trump has repeatedly decried the predictability of US military intervention, especially concerning the United States’ worst enemies. The risk of further attacks and the plights of persecuted Christians in the Middle East are both of primary concern.

Foreign Policy of Previous Administrations

We’ve let our rivals and challengers think they can get away with anything, and they do. They do at will. It always happens. If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.”
                               – Donald Trump, speech to the Center for the National Interest

A major part of Donald Trump’s foreign policy ideology is his criticism of recent foreign policy by the Bush and Obama administrations. To Trump, America is falling apart: US military superiority, economic growth, and other countries’ respect of America are in sharp decline. He blames the weakness of US policy toward its allies, rivals, and enemies as the cause of many of these problems.

According to Trump, the careless administration has even failed to own up to gross incompetence on many occasions, most notably for the Benghazi scandal. On many occasions Trump has noted the US failure to stop, especially Hillary Clinton’s State Department, the 2012 Benghazi attack on the American diplomatic compound. After the attack, the Republican Congress was aggravated at a perceived lack of information about the attack, which led to the House creating the Select Committee on the Events Surrounding the 2012 Terrorist Attack in Benghazi, Libya. This committee ultimately did not implicate Secretary Clinton as responsible for “negligence” for the security provided to the compound.

America First: New Foreign Policy Direction

“What does America First mean to you?”
“Meaning we are going to take care of this country first before we worry about everybody else in the world.”
                               – Maggie Haberman and Donald Trump, interview with the New York Times

Donald Trump describes his foreign policy with the slogan “America First.” This phrase historically is associated with the American First Committee of the 1930s. This group was described as isolationist and primarily was focused on keep America from entering the Second World War. This group believed that the United States had no business in the affairs of Europe and the Old World. But Trump disavows any intended reference: “To me, America First is a brand-new modern term. I never related it to the past.” While some argue that Donald Trump’s views are isolationist, John Haines prefers the term “detached primacy” to describe the difference between Trump’s views and true isolationism. Haines describes two conditions that lead a supporter of detached primacy to dissolve an alliance: one is that they “impose an unnecessary limit on American action… the second … is that they risk entangling the United States in regional conflicts that pose no direct threat to American national interests.”

A Trump presidency would be a fairly substantial shift in the course of American foreign policy. Many people criticize this aspect of Trump’s foreign policy as dangerous, especially  Hillary Clinton. This is Trump’s answer to the claimed lack of direction he sees in foreign policy. Mr. Trump calls for a new group of foreign policy makers to rise up because he believes members of the political establishment “frankly don’t know what they are doing.” One of Trump’s major impacts to the Republican platform was the agreement on his America First policy at least when it comes to trade deals, which would seem to signal at least a temporary shift in the Republican Party.

Intervention

 

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When intervening in the affairs of foreign countries, to Trump, it is all about the risk/reward ratio for the United States. Not all of the foreign investments America makes around the world have value. One can find an important example of this in his speech to the Center for the National Interest: “Our military is growing weaker because we are weakening the economy. Rebuilding other countries, and letting other countries take our jobs are of primary concern.”

Throughout Trump’s campaign, he has supported a policy of decreasing other countries’ reliance on the military might of America. This entails reducing foreign commitments with US allies, which will enable the US to build up its own economy. He says that other countries can build up stronger economies than the US because the US has to focus so much of its GDP protecting them. Other countries must pay comparable amounts of their GDP to the United States to ease this unequal burden. Although Trump recommends decreasing foreign intervention, for certain key issues he recommends intervention, like aiding the persecuted Christians threatened by the Islamic State.

Mr. Trump often remarks that the United States cannot make western democracies “out of countries with no experience or interests in becoming … western democracies.” Instead, Trump recommends trying to show other countries how marvelous western traditions are by example: “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.” Trump stated reluctance to interfere in foreign countries to support civil liberties abroad, to which the Washington Post responded, “He said in the interview, ‘I don’t think we have the right to lecture [other countries]. Look at what is happening in our country.’ This is pure left-wing anti-American bile. We are too disreputable, too corrupt to offer leadership to the world, says Trump — and the likes of Noam Chomsky. Had Obama said, ‘Who are we to tell China to respect human rights?,’ the right would have gone bananas.”

Donald Trump does support aggressive intervention when it comes to terrorism, which he says will be much harsher than what Obama has done. In terms of specific plans to stop ISIS and other Islamic groups, he has less to say. Trump recommends facing radical Islam like the way that United States dealt with communism during the Cold War. Cutting off the millions of dollars ISIS earns from Libyan oil is very important. Trump hasn’t said much about going for jihadi propaganda producers online as the Clinton campaign has.

International Relationships

International Organizations and Multinational Treaties

“And under my administration, we will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs.”
                                        – Donald Trump, speech to the Center for the National Interest

Generally, Trump is not opposed in principle to international organizations and multinational treaties, but he does have critical things to say about US involvement in certain organizations and treaties. In his speech to the Center for the National Interest (CFTNI), he says “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.” When asked if he would pull out of NAFTA, Trump responded: “If I don’t get change, I would pull out of NAFTA in a split second. NAFTA is signed by Bill Clinton, perhaps the worst trade deal ever signed in the history of this country.”

Trump has also been very critical of the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the same reasons. He also has issues with NATO members not pulling their own weight, but sees it as a useful organization for facing common challenges. Trump said that they look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us. In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries (exlcuding America) are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense. Mr. Trump also has said in an interview with the New York Times, “If we cannot be properly reimbursed for the tremendous cost of our military protecting other countries, and in many cases the countries I’m talking about are extremely rich… some people, the fools and the haters, they said, ‘Oh, Trump doesn’t want to protect you.’ I would prefer that we be able to continue, but if we are not going to be reasonably reimbursed for the tremendous cost of protecting these massive nations with tremendous wealth… [David E. Sanger proposes that it’s in US interests to keep open trading lines] … I think it’s a mutual interest, but we’re being reimbursed like it’s only in our interests…” Later, in this same speech, the host said, “My point here is, can the members of NATO, including the new members in the Baltics, count on the United States to come to their military aid if they were attacked by Russia? And count on us fulfilling our obligations.” Trump responded, “Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.” Many have been extremely critical of such statements, calling it insane to threaten the NATO alliance.

Problems with US alliances

I just ordered thousands of television sets and between LG and Samsung and I mean you know — No American company comes to see and comes to bid. It’s South Korea, and whenever they have a problem we send the battleships, we send the destroyers, we send our airplanes, we’re going to protect them. What are we doing; why aren’t they paying us? Why aren’t they paying us; what are we doing?”
                           – Donald Trump, speech to the Iowa Freedom Summit

Donald Trump has identified problems with the way the United States deals with its allies. Trump believes that America pays much more for the defense of its allies than America’s allies do proportionally. Trump thinks it’s unfair that America pays so much more of its budget on defense than any other country allied to the United States. If countries aren’t willing to increase their defense budgets, Trump suggests these countries should just pay for their entire defense. America’s allies take advantage of the fact they won’t take such drastic actions; it is crucial that the United States makes such drastic statements. Many people and organizations continually criticize these dramatic statements for threatening to destabilize US alliances, including Never Trump Republicans, Democrats, news programs, and many foreign policy think tanks.

Yet, Trump also sees incompetence in the Obama administration for failing to effectively aid US allies. Mr. Trump believes Obama antagonizes and snubs our allies and rewards America’s enemies. An important example of this is Trump’s view of the Iran deal: the deal rewards Iran by removing key sanctions, while it can continue to develop nuclear weapons and support terror around the Middle East. American allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Israel, are at the greatest risk from this perceived threat. Other examples of this include the abandonment of defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic and the ousting of a friendly regime in Egypt, which led to the rise of the hostile Muslim Brotherhood. Trump claims the Obama administration snubs Israel through criticism of Israel’s policies against Palestine. Not only does this delegitimize Israel in Trump’s view, but it also illustrates a clear lack of moral clarity.

Nuclear Proliferation

“Now, we have a game changer now, and the game changer is nuclear weapons. We really do have to get strong, and we have to get strong fast. We can’t let Iran get a nuclear weapon. We can’t do it. Can’t do it. We cannot let that happen.”
                           – Donald Trump, Iowa Freedom Summit

Trump’s basic position on nuclear proliferation is that America and its friends should improve their nuclear capacity, while US enemies should not. In Mr. Trump’s address to the Iowa Freedom Summit, he describes the modernization of the US nuclear arsenal as a “game changer.” Trump views such weapons as powerful tools in making deals with other countries. The American nuclear arsenal is described as “[deteriorating] into nothing,” and he seeks to invest in improving the arsenal. Mr. Trump has also expressed interest in allowing Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and various other countries to develop nuclear weapons. In regards to Saudi Arabia, he has also said that they will get nuclear weapons whether or not we want them to. In that same speech, he said, “stopping nuclear weapons in Iran and elsewhere” is one of his goals. His use of the term “elsewhere” as opposed to “everywhere” makes this statement consistent with his previously expressed views.

One of Trump’s most prominent gaffes involves his brazen ignorance of the Nuclear Triad, where Trump did not understand the three parts of the US nuclear program: strategic bombers, ICBMs, and submarine based. Later, he corrected his ignorance on the issue.

When asked about considerations of a no-first-use pledge before using nuclear weapons, Trump responded, “Depends on who we are talking about, it depends on who we are talking about. I would only make that commitment as the agreement is being signed. I wouldn’t want to play my cards. I don’t want to say that. … I will do everything within my power never to be in a position where we have to use nuclear power because that’s a whole different ballgame. That’s very important to me. … I only like that premise if nobody else has them. But that’s never going to happen.” When further questioned, “Do you think we have too many weapons than we actually need to defend the United States?” He said “I think we have a lot of obsolete weapons… We have nuclear that we don’t even know if it works. We have nuclear where the telephones systems are 40 years old and they have wire that’s so corroded that they can’t call from one station to the next.”

Israel

“OK. I think it’s probably the toughest agreement of any kind to make. It has been going on for many years, many friends of mine have been involved, they’re very good businessmen, good negotiators. A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is OK, sometimes agreements can’t be made, not good. But you have both sides really, but you have one side in particular growing up and learning that these are the worst people, these are the worst people et cetera et cetera. … But I will give it one hell of a shot. That I can tell you. But of all agreements – I would say if you can do that deal you can do any deal. That’s probably the toughest deal in the world right now to make and it’s possible it’s not makeable because don’t forget, it has to last. …”
                                 – Donald Trump, Interview with MSNBC

Of all the foreign policy stances that Donald Trump has made, the one that has generated the greatest amount of confusion is his stances on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The confusion was largely generated over his February 17, 2016 MSNBC interview where Trump said, “I don’t want to get into it for a different reason, Joe, because if I do win, there has to be a certain amount of surprise, unpredictability, our country has no unpredictability. If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you, and the other side now say, ‘We don’t want Trump involved, we don’t want’ – let me be sort of a neutral guy, let’s see what – I’m going to give it a shot. It would be so great.” The confusion arose over his use of the phrase “neutral guy,” which took many by surprise because overwhelmingly the Republican Party is seen as siding with Israel. Many potential candidates for the Republican nomination attacked Trump for this view as well as Democratic contender Hillary Clinton. However, people misunderstood this phrase. Trump makes it clear that he “doesn’t want to get into [the issue] for a different reason” and describes this reason in the following way “there has to be a certain amount of surprise, unpredictability, our country has no unpredictability.” This seems to suggest the idea again that Trump doesn’t want to engage the public in the same way that Hillary Clinton does. He wants to boost American deal making power by (appearing at least) to be neutral on a number of issues: for one could certainly imagine Palestine might be more willing to talk if the US weren’t so emphatic about its support for Israel in the conflict. Many criticize this stance because they insist Israel is only willing to deal with Palestine because the US assures its safety; Israel is perfectly happy with the status quo.

Possibly, Trump meant to stay silent on this issue because he believes it’s “the toughest agreement of any kind to make. … A lot of people say an agreement can’t be made, which is OK, sometimes agreements can’t be made, not good. But you have both sides really, but you have one side in particular growing up and learning that these are the worst people … But I will give it one hell of a shot. That I can tell you.” Mr. Trump hoped that this diplomatic neutrality would give him stronger deal-making powers in the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Criticism was levied against this foreign policy “naiveté” because many believe Israel wouldn’t even be willing to come to the table without strong US support.

Possibly because of this criticism, Trump’s position of “neutrality” did not last. Every four years, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential pro-Israel lobbying group, hosts the major presidential hopefuls to address their annual meeting. Throughout Trump’s speech to AIPAC, he emphasized his commitment to the Jewish people: throwing out credentials like Trump was the marshal for the Israel parade during the Gulf War. He blamed the Palestinians for refusing to make a deal stating that they do not want peace. The Israeli side is painted positively, “We know Israel is willing to deal. Israel has been trying to sit down at the negotiating table, without pre-conditions, for years.” Trump went on to describe that there is “no moral equivalency” between Israel and Palestine: “In Palestinian textbooks and mosques, you’ve got a culture of hatred that has been fermenting there for years, and if we want to achieve peace, they’ve got to end this indoctrination of hatred.” He sees Hamas as an important part of this culture of hatred. He describes half of Palestine being controlled by Hamas and says that the other half won’t stand up to Hamas. We can only wonder what triggered such a vast shift of tone and the abandonment of strategic silence.

In terms of what the agreement between Israel and Palestine would look like, he says quite plainly that it would not be made by the UN, “The United Nations is not a friend of democracy. It’s not a friend to freedom.” He views America as an important facilitator of negotiations, but says “no one should be telling Israel it must abide by some agreement made by others thousands of miles away that don’t even really know what’s happening.” To further guarantee the safety of Israel, Trump has called for the termination of the Iran nuclear treaty and a greater fight against Palestinian and Islamic terrorism which threatens the existence of Israel. Iran is identified as a key supporter of Hezbollah, which has created so many problems to peace in the region.

Middle East

“We’re a humanitarian nation, but the legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be weakness, confusion and disarray, a mess. We’ve made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before.”
                  – Donald Trump, Center for the National Interest

In regards to the Middle East, generally, Trump calls for less, but calls for aggressive intervention against ISIS at the same time. In terms of reforming Middle Eastern countries, he often remarks that the United States cannot make western democracies “out of countries with no experience or interests in becoming … western democracies.” He further criticizes intervening in the Middle East in this way when he discusses how the money the US invested in Iraq and Afghanistan did not actually improve their opinions of the United States. Trump laments in his Iowa Freedom Summit Speech, “Afghanistan has tremendous wealth in minerals, different, not the oil, but minerals. And we’re fighting here, and on the other side of the mountain China is taking out all the minerals. They’re taking it out. Trillion of dollars and millions of dollars of minerals.” He seems to believe if we can’t reform Middle Eastern governments, or get them to like us, at least we could get access to their resources after the United States pours in so much money.

Rivals/Enemies

“… Our rivals no longer respect us. In fact, they’re just as confused as our allies, but in an even bigger problem is they don’t take us seriously anymore. The truth is they don’t respect us. When President Obama landed in Cuba on Air Force One, no leader was there, nobody, to greet him.”
               – Donald Trump, Center for the National Interest[1]

Trump consistently asserts that America’s enemies and rivals see it as weak. The weakness is itself the result of incompetent foreign policy with bad implementation. During the campaign, he has been particularly critical against foreign policy decisions made by the Obama administration blaming both President Obama and Secretary Clinton. Mr. Trump claims that their policies have weakened US relations with its friends and forced America to bow to its enemies and rivals. To Trump, it is important to be able to differentiate enemies that will never be amenable to our interests from rivals who the US can work with. Working with China and Russia over certain issues like terrorism could benefit both countries. Dealing strongly with American rivals will insure they don’t take advantage of the US.

Russia

[Donald Trump is] a really brilliant and talented person, without any doubt … It’s not our job to judge his qualities, that’s a job for American voters, but he’s the absolute leader in the presidential race. … He says he wants to move on to a new, more substantial relationship, a deeper relationship with Russia, how can we not welcome that? … Of course we welcome that.”
                                           – Vladimir Putin

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Donald Trump has been criticized many times for his alleged compliments of Vladimir Putin; the New York Times asked Trump, “Let me ask you about Russia. You’ve been very complimentary of Putin himself.” To which he replied, “No! No, I haven’t.” Trump further alleged he was the sole recipient of compliments, which he warmly accepted: “It is always a great honor to be so nicely complimented by a man so highly respected within his own country and beyond,” Trump said in a statement. “I have always felt that Russia and the United States should be able to work well with each other towards defeating terrorism and restoring world peace, not to mention trade and all of the other benefits derived from mutual respect.” Trump welcomes further cooperation with Russia, especially on issues facing both countries like domestic terrorism.

A few news outlets and the Clinton campaign claimed that Russia supports Trump’s candidacy. There have been suggestions that many pro-Russian oligarchs helped finance Trump’s business ventures; Trump responded on Facebook by saying, “For the record, I have ZERO investments in Russia.” Trump has also suggested that he would not necessarily intervene if Russians invaded the Baltic: “Have they fulfilled their obligations to us? If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes.” The DNC argues that Russia did this to destabilize the United States and to support their preferred candidate.

Iran

“The wisest plan of crazy [Donald] Trump is tearing up the nuclear deal…”
                               – Hossein Shariatmadari, Iranian editor of the hardline Kayhan newspaper

Donald Trump has been openly critical of the Iran and the US involvement there. Trump has often called out Iran’s support of terror groups in its effort to gain regional domination at the cost of the stability of the region. Trump also identifies it as a primary threat to the state of Israel. Clinton says the same things about Iran, but what separates them is Trump’s opposition to the Iran nuclear deal and Clinton’s support. Mr. Trump says that dismantling the deal is his “number one priority” because he claims Iran will continue to sponsor terror in the region and get closer to building a nuclear weapon.

China

“[Trump]could in fact be the best president for China … That’s because the Republican Party is more practical and Trump is a businessman who puts his commercial interests above everything else, [Clinton, on the other hand] … might be the least friendly president toward China.”
                                            – Wu Jun, Hong Kong political commentator

The major statements Donald Trump has made about China have been about trade, the economy, and cyber-security. Mr. Trump asserts that bad leadership is responsible for losing the United States money and jobs and that dealing more strongly with the Chinese is essential to control the damage. It is important to reduce the amount of money that America owes to foreign governments like China. Part of the problem, in Trump’s opinion, is that the Chinese benefit from American peace keeping efforts and sweep in and get the economic benefits (i.e. Chinese mineral projects in Afghanistan). It is essential to get this issue under control in order to build up the American economy and infrastructure. Trump also condemns the Chinese use of industrial and state espionage, which Trump believes America could do more to protect itself. In particular, with China, he argues that by showing strength, America can learn to work together with China on shared issues such as Islamic terrorism.

Military

“We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest, single investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody.”

            –           Donald Trump, Center for the National Interest

Trump’s position on the military is to continue investment in American defense, but decrease other countries’ reliance on US protection. Rebuilding and defending other countries is decreasing our ability to defend America and improve the economy. Several policy goals are outlined by Trump in order to increase the military power of the United States. Increasing military spending, generally, is something he has argued for time and time again. Modernizing the American nuclear arsenal is a primary concern to Trump as well. The benefit seems to be nuclear weapons’ ability to influence change in the world, but Mr. Trump is willing to use nuclear weapons in conflicts if there is no other option. The need to invest in important new technologies, such as 3D Printing, AI, and cyber warfare, will enable America to keep up its edge.

In terms of waging war, Trump believes that the US must be assured of victory before they enter a conflict. The shadow of the failure of the Iraq war is the primary motivation for this belief. Mr. Trump believes that waging war should be done with caution.

Conclusion

If Trump wins the election in November 2016, we can expect to see massive changes in American foreign policy in his administration. The difference between a Bush foreign policy and an Obama foreign policy would pale in comparison to the difference between them and Trump’s foreign policy. If Trump doesn’t win, the Republican Party will likely expunge his isolationist and nationalist tendencies, but those tendencies will survive within a vocal fringe group for years to come. Trump may lose, but Trumpism will survive to see another day.


[1] The statement above is somewhat misleading because fact checkers at the Washington Post have determined that while the President of Cuba didn’t show up to great President Obama, the foreign minister of Cuba did.

 

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