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For years, I have written in this humble blog that Obama and his team have created an unprecedented foreign policy disaster. The disaster be...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trump's Foreign Policy Address: Not Bad

I just read Donald Trump's April 27 address on his vision for America's foreign policy  (text as delivered here or as written here.) Not bad, not bad, at all.

I think he comes off as reasonable, coherent, and unafraid to say what needs to be said. Before I get into the speech, I would note that I was struck by how cleverly Trump was able to express his views with the sort of sophistication that appeals to the New York and Washington "elite" without backing off from or selling out the basic message that has so energized voters and has brought him to the verge of becoming the GOP 2016 presidential candidate.

It was the best foreign policy speech of the campaign by any candidate. Quite masterful. The man has to be taken seriously on foreign affairs.

His overriding theme is one which this humble blog has repeatedly raised,
America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.

But to chart our path forward, we must first briefly look back.

We have a lot to be proud of. In the 1940s we saved the world. The Greatest Generation beat back the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists.

Then we saved the world again, this time from totalitarian Communism. The Cold War lasted for decades, but we won.

Democrats and Republicans working together got Mr. Gorbachev to heed the words of President Reagan when he said: “tear down this wall.”

History will not forget what we did.

Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense.

Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign policy disaster after another.

We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos, and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper.

It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy.

We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill the void, much to their unjust enrichment. 
Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.
He certainly starts at the right place, and goes on from there to make a pretty well structured argument for a more nationalist foreign policy (I have a few quibbles, see below.)  He understands the link between domestic and foreign policies, and how absurd policies in one arena can have dire consequences in the other. He also understands the importance of military power while being reluctant to use it needlessly. He advocates an overdue rebuilding of our nuclear and conventional forces. He skewers Obama's Iran deal, and mocks him, appropriately, for the shabby reception given Obama in Cuba and Saudi Arabia--citing them as examples of the contempt and disregard with which foreign leaders hold the current president. He does a good job of tying Hillary Clinton to the mast of the sinking Obama foreign policy ship, uttering the word that Romney would not, "Benghazi." He also has no problem naming the threat posed by "radical Islam." I, of course, think the problem is more fundamental than "radical Islam," but, nevertheless, it's a good start, especially his insistence that "moderate" Muslim nations have to prove their commitment to fighting the crazies.

He avoided the great EU mess, probably wisely at this juncture, but did a good job of taking on the "refugee" lovers. He rightly noted that there is no way to vet these refugees, to wit, we don't know who they are or where they come from--a little something this blog has gone on and on about from the start. He stuck to his guns on immigration and lousy trade deals, both of which can hurt working Americans

He was right to note that most NATO members are not honoring their commitments, and in asking that they do so if they expect us to help defend them. Good, as far as it goes, but I have a couple of issues here. If you're a great power and intend to remain one, there are times when you have to accept an unequal burden. While he was right to criticize defense slackers, he also should have mentioned that allies such as Australia and Britain have stepped up repeatedly to defend the West and to put their blood and treasure on the line.

Not bad. Not bad, at all, especially since Hillary has no way to respond. I look forward to his expanding on his foreign policy vision.

36 comments:

  1. Thank you sir.

    I was glad to see that my impression agrees closely with yours, though I don't have the background to have made for myself your observation about expressing his views the way the Washington set likes to hear.

    I was taken aback by his statement about the power of weaponry being the biggest problem we face. Later I surmised that he may have missed the word "nuclear", and it seems that's what happened.

    I was delighted with this speech and look forward to other Trump policy speeches. This man is far from the arrogant ignorant bigot his detractors claim him to be.

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  2. Dear Diplomad,
    You should look into obtaining a political appointment with the Trump administration at the State department.

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  3. Greetings from Downunder,

    Not that I have a vote but, I do have an interest in the outcome.

    I thought the speech was excellent and so different to the policy of hope and change I was reminded of it.

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  4. A good speech, the real question is: how much of does he mean, and is willing to follow through with - and how much is just telling people what they want to hear?

    Unfortunately, Trump is the GOP's version of Pelosi's "we have to pass it to find out what's in it".

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    1. Should have read "how much of it does he mean". That's what I get for trying to type right before going to sleep!

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    2. Even if you are right, it is better to have the right policy with poor follow through than the wrong policy with excellent follow through ... but I do sense that Trump will indeed follow through. He is used to getting things done.

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    3. And how is that different from any other politician? They're not exactly known for keeping their promises yet anti trumpers seem to think that this is a valid attack in Trump?!?

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    4. The difference is that with other politicians, you can at least judge them by their track record of voting, kept/broken promises, etc.

      Trump has held left-wing views his *entire* life. He voted for Obama. He's a lifelong friend of the Clintons. But he wants us to believe that in the space of a couple years, he's suddenly had a conservative awakening and believes everything that conservatives believe - except for the moments when he slips and talks about his love of higher taxes, single payer health care, climate change legislation, abortion, etc., etc. (all of which he's done on the campaign trail).

      So when a candidate has that many conflicting 'viewpoints' - when he's off guard and in moments of honesty what he says matches the left leaning positions he's held for most of his life - it's entirely reasonable to doubt whether he means anything he's saying. Many politicians are just as duplicitous, yes - but not all of them.

      But instead of critically analyzing the things he says, you'd rather throw around 'anti-trumper' like it's some sort of slur, and dismiss some very significant problems with the patently false claim of 'everyone else is just as bad'.

      If the best defense you can mount against his insincerity is that "everyone else does it", then you clearly don't really believe he's sincere in his conservatism, either - which makes me wonder why you're so excited about his candidacy.

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    5. @ALyric: What you say about Trump's holding left-wing views his entire life resonates with me. I will probably rally behind Trump in November, but to say he'd probably be a better POTUS than Shrillary Shrooooooooo is setting a very low bar. Check out Trump's business record as well. He seems to be just the sort of person against whom the Biblical prophets might reserve some choice condemnation (nothing like using eminent domain to chase a widow from her home in order to put up a casino).

      Further, I continue to suspect that Trump threw his hat in the GOP ring to pay off some debt to the Clintons--divide the GOP so they get a Shrill Shroooooo shoo-in; and then he sees he actually gets some political traction, and he sells the Clintons down the river. To whom else will he mete out a similar treatment?

      This being said, it is enough for me that Shrill is perhaps even more dishonest, corrupt, and a proven incompetent as SecState. Her idea of "women's health" seems to begin and end with protecting even late-term abortion (America's Moloch?) But surely we could have done a lot better.

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  5. Dip,
    I am always somewhat surprised at the many who decry someone actually saying publicly what normal people say, what normal people think, what normal people feel and are generally among the many who call for straight talking and then when they get it reject it as unsophisticated or bigoted, racist and ignorant.

    How absolutely sophisticated they must be.

    I actually wish that I had a politician that was able to express on my behalf for Australia what Donald Trump did for Americans in his speech tonight.

    A good considered speech that many have thought long overdue by the leader of the free world. Well Done

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  6. "Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster". True. That may partly be due to electing three duds in a row since Bush the Elder. But I assume that not everything comes down to the characteristics of the Chief Ninny. Is there something rotten about the whole of your Establishment?

    It's quite striking that little Mrs Vile has never in her career said anything as intelligent.

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    1. What do you mean "since Bush the elder?" I think at the tome, before fracking allowed us to cut loose the Saudis, what he did made some sense. His domestic policies were so bad that I still wonder if the Democrats pushed him into that tax increase in return for supporting the Gulf War.

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  7. My last comment on anything Trump. I'm no diplomat, but have had to suffer the failures of diplomacy and vision in wearing a uniform for decades of service. I was frankly appalled at what I heard. "Not bad" wasn't good enough for me. His comments about Russia wrt to what it's experienced with terrorism and reaching out to them ignored Ukraine, Georgia, Crimea and the immense pressures the former Baltic States and surrounding countries are facing from Russia. I'm sorry, I didn't see anything coherent. That's just one example. The speech was littered with them. All I heard was a candidate who if elected, would through his understanding of the world, put more of my brothers (and sisters) in harm's way through more ignorance (classical meaning of the word) than the extreme idealogy of the current office holder. I heard little that could be readily tranlsated to national security policy that in turn translates to defense policy that drives how, when, where, why a service member is put to use to further those goals. I take Trump seriously only from the perspective the guy scares the living crap out of me and wonder why you can't see the same thing. I will never vote for a creature like Clinton or a Sanders, but Trump?

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    1. Those are all valid points. I think, however, that the speech shows that, contrary to the caricature put out by his oponents, Trump can think about foreign policy and articulate nuance without giving up the core of his campaign themes. We don't know the details, yet, of course, and we need to hear more. Hillary, for example, has no foreign policy speech and instead hopes we all ignore her execrable record on foreign policy. We don't know yet how he will deal with the growing Chinese and Russian threat, but to say that we are not necessarily bound to be enemies is fine by me. The best way to deal with them, in my opinion, is by fixing our home economy and becoming energy independent and even an exporter, and reestablishing our alliances and presence in Asia.

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    2. Lunarman and Dip:

      While I have immense respect for you, Dip, I am appalled that you would claim this "speech" a huge success! I have to agree in great part with Lunarman.

      I heard nothing coherent or encouraging. Whoever wrote it should be fired and the Teleprompter is not reassuring. These things tell me that Mr. Trump is incapable of proofing a speech, noting inconsistencies and asking for a rewrite, and then deliver it in manner that inspires some confidence. Couldn't he have at least been walked through it ONCE? It was embarrassing.

      The content was his usual populist/nationalist blather and frankly, he scares thinking people. It is concerning that he NOW is appalled by the way certain things have been manage, i.e. the encouraged the Iraq war and the Libyan debacle.

      It is disappointing that you took the "speech" and dressed it up and explained it for him, because I am certain he could not explain it in any detail if his life depended on it.

      No offense, everyone, but Trump is completely unqualified and clearly has still not surrounded himself with those who have a clue.

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    3. "No offense, everyone, but I will now insult you... to which you may not take offense, because I said 'no offense'."
      That said, none taken, because though a little hyperbolic, your points aren't unreasonable at all.. but I'm not dodging offense because of the disclaimer, even though I respectfully disagree. :)

      - reader #1482

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    4. You're pathetic Mr trueblue. If you can't find anything coherent in that speech then the problem is with you, not Mr Trump.

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    5. @ Lunarman: As Dip noted, some of your points are well taken but slow down just a bit and see if we can't agree on a few things here. FIRST: do you have a problem with the Commander in Chief announcing that his foreign policy will be guided first and foremost by putting American interests *first*? That cannot possibly be a bad thing, can it? Especially after almost 8 years of seeing what a policy looks like that does not put America first. Yes, it's a generality, but an important prerequisite for policy formulation. SECOND: do you have any argument with Trump's statement that if the military option is used (as a last resort) he will use it unreservedly with clear aim of victory? I.e., I understand this to mean, no more tying the military's hands when it comes to fighting and defeating the enemy. Surely this is a good thing, right? If American forces are put in harm's way then they must be allowed to fight with all means necessary for victory, right? THIRD: as far as Russia, we have seen what a foreign policy looks like that started out with Hillary's infamous "Reset Button" schtick. Russia, for the forseeable future, is Putin. So any progress in reining in Russia's bellicosity will mean dealing with Putin from a position of strength. Can Trump do this? He certainly has a long track record of negotiating with tough opponents. If we assume an America first policy in dealing with Putin, presumably Trump will quickly figure out if he can negotiate favorable deals with Putin on Ukraine, the Baltic, Crimea, Syria and the Arctic. Given his experience with negotiating, don't you suppose that Trump might increase his leverage by putting in military assets to the Baltic or Poland and Ukraine? Maybe he starts to quietly arm the Kurds in Syria and Iraq as a way to pressure Turkey and Russia (not to mention Iran)?

      Your comments are way too extreme. Let's all calm down and see how he fills in the details from here. It's a long way to November yet.

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  8. Dip, I would be interested in hearing your point of view regarding what Andy McCarthy wrote concerning Trump's speech. The important parts are where Trump supported the ouster of Qadddafi (2011) and Hussein (2002). A short article, well worth the read.

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/434660/donald-trump-foreign-policy-incoherent-shallow

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    1. I'm continually amazed at how all these "cons3rvative" readers of NR can dude themselves into thinking that the writers at NR believe what they're saying. The fact that they'd rather lose to Hillary than vote for Trump speaks volumes about their so called conservative principles.

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    2. So Trump knows how to read a written speech. What does that mean? Did you read his rambling interview with WaPo? I wonder how he did in his background interview with NYTimes? The one were he said he'd have more flexibility with border problem.

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  9. Yes, I have read it. It's a good article with some valid points. You can't, however, blame Trump for the mess made in Libya and Iraq by the current administration. One thing is to overthrow a dictator but the other is not to have a policy afterwards, and that is on Obama-Clinton. Presumably, Trump has evolved and, frankly, what other choice do we now have?

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    1. The Libya "mess" is even more inexplicable and unforgivable inasmuch as the Obami had the "mess" in Iraq as an example of what may likely happen when there is no post-overthrow plan, or an inadequate one at best. Anyone would have been entitled to believe that the Obami would have managed the Libyan enterprise somewhat better.
      It is quite understandable for Trump, at the time, to have supported an overthrow of Qaddafi decision; it is another thing entirely for anyone with a brain to continue to support that decision in light of the "mess" it turned into.
      As someone famously said, "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
      Certainly Trump has his major faults, but to alter his stance re: Iraq and Libya as things have been conducted under Obama, is not one I disagree with.

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    2. This was meant to indicate agreement with your comment, Dip, not to contend with it. That may not have been clear. My bad.

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    3. re: Trump: has anyone seen his birth certificate? :)
      Honestly, I'm starting to view that whole birther thing as a Trump masterstroke. All at once, it gave him *huge* headlines over an issue that mattered not really at all. It was altogether a brilliant sideshow for Trump, perhaps.

      Obama did precisely in Libya what he did in Iraq... that is, do his very best to squander any US foreign policy/military accomplishment. While this might seem like 'just incompetence', after reading more about his foreign policy discussions internally, it sounds a lot like he felt it would set a dangerous precedent for the US to follow through in either Iraq or Libya to a successful state. The danger being: enhanced democratic capitalist stature around the world, the very thing Obama seems most stridently against. I suspect he went into these situations with an intent to undermine the gains made (by either his or his predecessors' actions), *because* he felt they were made illegitimately, ie via force. That's a lot of supposition and mind-reading, for which I apologize, so I only propose it as my hypothesis. Perhaps there will be better clarity well after he's out of office.

      - reader #1482

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    4. I assume you know that the "birther" issue began with Hillary in 2008. It was no doubt stimulated by Obama's claims that he was a foreign student when he wrote his first book, "Dreams" It may also have been a factor in his college career but we will probably never know. The duplicate birth certificate in Hawaii just fed the flames. I have looked at hundreds of birth certificates.

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    5. indeed... not to mention his own grandmother... but boy did Trump ever win on that issue... he didn't need to be the originator, but he certainly was a beneficiary... smart positioning, imo.... because in the end analysis, for 2016, it doesn't matter.... so it really can't possibly hurt him now. Media could try to run it, but nobody woudl care.

      - reader #1482

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  10. "He avoided the great EU mess, probably wisely at this juncture"

    If only Obama would heed such obvious wisdom!

    The bar for foreign policy in this election cycle is *exceedingly* low. It's just telling that in the '08 campaign, when McCain sad he'd be comfortable with US troops being in Iraq for 50 years (or some other large number), the media got away with hijacking his statement to make the claim that he wanted US soldiers dying in combat in Iraq for 50 years, when obviously he was comparing the situation to Japan, Germany, Korea, what/wherever. I say 'got away with' because outside of a few people who were better informed, the media completely convinced the nation that McCain wanted constant war and blood letting. This is what they will attempt to do with anything Trump says on foreign policy. He ought to be cautious and make as few statements as possible outside of direct criticisms of Clinton. The media malignance is not something that can be 'worked around' with congeniality and gracious mannerisms. Fortunately for him, those points don't seem to be Trump's strengths anyways.

    Here's a question... how did the media manage to not succeed in this in '04?

    - reader #1482

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  11. Actually, we didn't win the Cold War; not that we lost, we outlasted it. But instead of being primarily contained within the borders of few nations, it was exported to the rest of the world, including our own nation.

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  12. I have been fascinated at many of the responses from the Right to Trump's speech ("incoherent", "inconsistent", "no real details"). Having actually listened to the speech, I'm curious as to what they're talking about. Case in point: one talking head pointed to Trump's remarks about being "unpredictable" and then said, "How are our allies going to trust us, then?" Srsly? This person didn't realize that Trump was talking about being unpredictable to our enemies, not to our allies?

    Trump is far from my first choice for the GOP nominee, but I'll vote for him, if he's nominated. And personally, I think he'll win in an 1980-style landslide. I really don't think leaders in either party realize how truly pissed their respective electorates are.

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  13. Immediately upon finishing our host's post then, seeing his replies fortifying my original thoughts "no need for me to add anything or attempt an assist."

    But.

    We should all keep in mind re Trump's speech - this is still just the Primarys Season - who besides Incumbents bother speaking on foreign policy until after the nomination process has been decided?

    I personally agree with our host (as well I think with what I suspect might be his "quibbles" ... as well as some others of my own).

    But I'd add too, I do not much expect foreign policy writ large, to be much discussed until after the nominees are decided and only then begin "the real" debates.

    Of course this electoral episode is, on so many levels, oh, I guess I'll go simply with "unusual" ... heck, I might even go so far as letting Pat Buchanan speak for me:

    http://buchanan.org/blog/last-america-first-125165

    ***

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  14. What makes Trump great is quite simple, he's not the typical politician blaming the other political party for the mess we're in.

    He's saying what HONEST people already know, that both political parties fucked up the Middle East. They've created a nightmare for all, for decades to come.

    Time to vote for some sanity for a change. Trump 2016-24

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  15. Someone really ought to ask Shrillary Shroooooooo the O [mal-]administration's rationale for backing the Syrian rebels, who were ideological and often strategic allies of Qaida and other such types who cheered the 9/11 attacks and then started wailing that it was the JOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOZ who done it as soon as the daisy cutter bombs forced their brave Sheikh to start running for cover.

    It seems to me that the O administration was trying to say that if an "idiot" like Bush II could kick out a nasty Ba'athi or similar Arab dictator, the suave, cool, faux-siphticated O and Shrill team could do it better. Very feminist meme--anything you can do, I can do better.

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    1. Indeed Kepha, indeed.

      And if only to put an even sharper point on your, "[A]sk Shrillary Shroooooooo the O [mal-]administration's rationale for backing the Syrian rebels, who were ideological and often strategic allies of Qaida and other such types who cheered the 9/11 attacks[.]"

      The "moderate Syrian rebels/freedom fighters" were/are in fact, never "just allies" to AQ.

      Jubhat al Nusra to mention only the most glaring, egregious example. And, prior to "officially declared" ISIL/ISIS/Daesh (back at the time of Benghazi (pre-Mosul June of 2014) there was Ansar al Shariah in Libya which was in fact, self-acknowleged/declared to be arm-in-arm with AQIM as well as AQAP.

      ...

      Why just today as ancillary I noted

      http://warontherocks.com/2016/04/before-we-head-to-libya-again-learning-the-wrong-lessons-from-a-failed-intervention/

      ***

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    2. Thanks for the link, anonymous.

      I'm glad that the O admitted the Libyan intervention to be a mistake, but I'd sure like to understand the rationale for moving against a Qaddafi regime that, by the time, was essentially tamed (at least as far as international affairs goes).

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