Following Through


For an administration that lurches from crisis to crisis, sowing chaos throughout the settled international order and threatening us all with imminent Armageddon, the Trump foreign policy is awfully predictable. Exhibit 1, candidate Trump’s speech of April 27, 2016. You might not agree with it, but you can’t say he didn’t warn you.

He begins with a brief tour of history, and where things went wrong:

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.

He lists five problems with the existing policy:

First, Our Resources Are Overextended

… Our manufacturing trade deficit with the world is now approaching $1 trillion a year. We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own.

Ending the theft of American jobs will give us the resources we need to rebuild our military and regain our financial independence and strength.

Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share.

Our allies must contribute toward the financial, political and human costs of our tremendous security burden. …

The whole world will be safer if our allies do their part to support our common defense and security.

Thirdly, our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.

… Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and, under a Trump Administration, will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. …

Israel, our great friend and the one true Democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticized by an Administration that lacks moral clarity.

Fourth, our rivals no longer respect us.

… President Obama watches helplessly as North Korea increases its aggression and expands even further with its nuclear reach.

Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade rules – or apply the leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea.

He has even allowed China to steal government secrets with cyber attacks and engage in industrial espionage against the United States and its companies.

Finally, America no longer has a clear understanding of our foreign policy goals.

Then he summarizes his proposed approach:

This will change when I am president.

To all our friends and allies, I say America is going to be strong again. America is going to be a reliable friend and ally again.

We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests, and the shared interests of our allies.

We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.

And gives some details:

First, we need a long-term plan to halt the spread and reach of radical Islam.

… In this we’re going to be working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence. …

We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies. …

And then there’s ISIS. I have a simple message for them. Their days are numbered. I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as, a nation, be more unpredictable. But they’re going to be gone. And soon.

Secondly, we have to rebuild our military and our economy.

… We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest investment we can make. We will develop, build and purchase the best equipment known to mankind. Our military dominance must be unquestioned.

But we will look for savings and spend our money wisely. In this time of mounting debt, not one dollar can be wasted.

We are also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again – and to put Americans first again. This will ensure that our own workers, right here in America, get the jobs and higher pay that will grow our tax revenue and increase our economic might as a nation.

Finally, we must develop a foreign policy based on American interests.


In the Middle East, our goals must be to defeat terrorists and promote regional stability, not radical change. We need to be clear-sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies.

And we must only be generous to those that prove they are our friends. …

I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia – from a position of strength – is possible. Common sense says this cycle of hostility must end. Some say the Russians won’t be reasonable. I intend to find out. If we can’t make a good deal for America, then we will quickly walk from the table.

Fixing our relations with China is another important step towards a prosperous century. China respects strength, and by letting them take advantage of us economically, we have lost all of their respect. We have a massive trade deficit with China, a deficit we must find a way, quickly, to balance.

A strong and smart America is an America that will find a better friend in China. We can both benefit or we can both go our separate ways. …

I will also be prepared to deploy America’s economic resources. Financial leverage and sanctions can be very persuasive – but we need to use them selectively and with determination. Our power will be used if others do not play by the rules.

Our friends and enemies must know that if I draw a line in the sand, I will enforce it. …

Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions. Instead of trying to spread “universal values” that not everyone shares, 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.

And so it has come to pass.

Except possibly the last point. After all, who would want to play with that unpredictable buffoon Donald Trump?

Published in Foreign Policy
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There are 13 comments.

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  1. JoelB Member

    To the lunatics, the sane man appears crazy. Good post.

    • #1
  2. Columbo Member

    President Donald Trump certainly “blows up” the previous “central casting” profile of America’s President.

    He is no nonsense and driven to pursue his goals and agenda. All of which were clearly stated (as the OP expertly enumerates) and directed towards his theme to Make America Great Again. Regardless of whose sensibilities that may offend.

    And to your last note of “it has come to pass” except for possibly “reinvigorate Western values and institutions”, I would place most of any blame for that not coming to pass on the European forerunners to Western Civilization having neither the courage or stomach to confront today’s opposition to the Christian-based Western values and extol the eminent, and evident, superiority of such civilization. These wimps have run for the hills and surrendered to political correctness over sustainability.

    • #2
  3. I Walton Member
    I Walton

    See Victor David Hansen article from Aug 21,  “Was the pre Trump World Normal or Abnormal”.  

    Unconventional in style, no doubt about it,  but primarily going back to  basics, nothing radical but much that is vitally necessary.  In my view if anything too moderate.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge

    Great post!

    • #4
  5. John Park Member
    John Park

    I concur @stad

    • #5
  6. Henry Racette Member
    Henry Racette


    • #6
  7. cdor Member

    Wow who is the guy that gave that speech? I’d sure vote for him. Oh, wait. That was Trump! Let’s see, first he went to Saudi Arabia and spoke quite frankly with those Arabs of the Sunni Muslim faith. He told them publicly and to their faces, that radical Islam must be stopped. Second, our military has now received a tremendous boost in financial support and, as importantly, a tremendous boost in command leadership from Mattis. Our economy is doing very well, producing jobs and better wages. And finally he has moved our embassy to Jerusalem, the chosen and eons old capitol of Israel. He has met with Putin in an attempt to find a common ground with a country that Trump feels should not be our enemy. He held a news conference after the private meeting. Much to the apparent chagrin of our news media, the Democrats, and many on our own side who have vowed to constantly harangue him, Trump actually resisted employing his World Wide Wrestling take down move, and instead behaved amiably and with moderation. He has met with the Chinese leader, spoken of him with praise, yet walked away from the table with no deal and proceeded to drop the hammer. Lots of issues are in flux, but for a mere 1 1/2 years in office I would say great job sir, Mr. President. and thanks for posting this campaign speech @genferei. What happens when we elect a non politician? Gee whiz, maybe he does what he said he would do.

    • #7
  8. Simon Templar Inactive
    Simon Templar

    Winning the Peace baby!

    • #8
  9. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat

    So much to do, so little time…

    • #9
  10. Valiuth Inactive

    So which part in the speech predicted groveling before Putin? And declaring the North Korean nuclear threat over after one meeting with Kim Jong Un? 

    Do our allies think they can depend more on us when the president openly question living up to the NATO gurantees? 

    Trump’s only consistent foreign policy is his continued ignorant interpretation of trade deficits, and abusing our allies while sucking up to our enemies, especially Russia. 

    • #10
  11. Jim Beck Inactive
    Jim Beck

    Morning Valiuth,

    I worry less about what Trump says because in the background his government is squeezing our opponents on from many directions.  We have Bolton and Pompeo who I do not think of as fools, who are working the negotiation.  We are in a trade war with China in which China is placed in a unstable position; this might cause China to be more helpful concerning North Korea.  China’s stock market has fallen 40%, their position is less strong.  The North Korean leadership can imagine with Trump that they might get displaced or might get a treaty; there are real choices which might cause a real change.  Of course in might fall apart, but it will not fall apart because Trump said that North Korea is not longer a nuclear threat, any more than Reagan’s “evil empire” speech was going to cause war.

    Concerning Putin, again Trump’s words may be the issue to CNN, but his government’s actions are the real issue.  Strengthening our military, and NATO, arming some aspects of Ukraine, and controlling the price of oil so as to limit Russia’s leverage.  Trump in comparison did not “look in (Putin’s) eyes”, or try a “reset” and then act weak, so your criticism in which you do not compare him to previous presidents seems without much substance.

    • #11
  12. Jager Coolidge

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    Do our allies think they can depend more on us when the president openly question living up to the NATO gurantees? 

    I don’t know what our “allies” think. So far Trump has demanded that they actually meet there financial obligations under NATO.  They need to contribute to there own defense. When NATO decided to bomb Libya they started running our of munitions. We had to supply them with millions in support to fight Libya. 

    Trump has also questioned adding new small countries to NATO. Once they are in, we have the obligation to live up to the treaty. It is not an irrational question to ask “why would we commit to war under Article 5 for this tiny county” before they become a member. Rand Paul asked the same question. 

    • #12
  13. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp

    “Ending the theft of American jobs”.

    “We are also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again – and to put Americans first again.”

    Here are some differences between me–a supporter of Trump’s conservative policies–and the true Trump enthusiast.

    1. “Ending the theft of American jobs”.  The implicit assumption is that jobs are wealth.  The aim of the economy is to “create jobs” and this requires  the intervention of government.  It is the philosophy, based on the idea that laborers are a distinct social class deserving of special privileges and requiring state control of production, that underlies Marxism, and has been successfully used by governments following that belief to create 100% employment, in the Soviet Union, Cuba, N. Korea, Maoist China, etc.
      1. I believe that consumption goods are the purpose of production, not jobs; this was a great principle laid down by Adam Smith.  Consumption goods are wealth.  I think that in the ideal society, all jobs would be eliminated, and all income would be returns to capital, not labor.  All humans would dedicate all of their time to pursuit of higher purposes.
      2. Trump enthusiasts accept the economic theory that jobs are wealth, that they are a form of property that can be “stolen”.
    2. “…put America first again”.  This is a famous rhetorical trick.  The implicit assumption is that anyone who opposes the speaker must seek to do what is bad, in this case, “put American second, or lower.”  When a politician uses that trick,
      1. I
        1. do not believe the implicit assumption.
        2. do not want to support that politician; I am suspicious of any person who tries to gain power over my life by deceiving me.
      2. the Trump enthusiast
        1. does believe the implicit assumption
        2. does want to support the politician.
    3. “to make our economy strong again”.  This is another rhetorical trick.  The implicit assumption is that anyone who will oppose the unidentified economic policies must want the economy to be “weak”, which must be bad, whatever it means, which is undefined.
      1. When a politician uses that trick, I
        1. do not believe the implicit assumption: I do not in fact want to make the economy “weak”.
        2. do not assume whatever ideas the politician seeks to conceal under the cover of that meaningless phrase are good policies.  I want to find out, and I do find out, what those policies are before supporting the politician.
      2. The Trump enthusiast
        1. does believe the implicit assumption: anyone who opposes giving the politician the unidentified powers over his life must want the economy to be weak.
        2. does assume that the unnamed policies are good policies
    • #13
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