Donald Trump

The Trump Doctrine

In 2016, the GOP prefers nationalism to neoconservatism.


Now I'm calling all citizens from all over the world/This is Captain America calling/I bailed you out when you were down on your knees/So will you catch me now, I'm falling

Donald Trump's foreign policy speech today may have been riven with inconsistencies, but it wasn't hard to discern an underlying idea that animated it. Trump is a nationalist, a man who believes—to quote the speech—that "the nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony." Sometimes that instinct serves him well, as when he condemns the wars in Iraq and Libya or when he suggests that the U.S. spends too much on NATO. Sometimes it serves him poorly, as with his border-control fantasies or his obsession with perceived slights to America. (A running theme of his talk today was the string of "humiliations" he thinks have befallen us. Even the president's failure to bring the Olympics to the U.S. got a shout-out.) You can't always predict where this will lead him; half a decade ago, his nose for humiliations had him endorsing the same war in Libya that he now condemns, declaring that failing to kick out Qaddafi would be "a major, major black eye for this country." But wherever he ends up, you can see that nationalist instinct at work.

The main instinct animating Ted Cruz's comments on foreign policy, meanwhile, seems to be What will get me elected president? Early on, this had him trying to triangulate between orthodox right-wing Republican views and the more anti-interventionist outlook of Rand Paul. When Paul's campaign fizzled and Trump's took off, Cruz switched to triangulating between orthodoxy and Trumpism. (If you're a libertarian who's been finding Cruz less likeable as the race goes on, that's one reason why.) Throughout it all, the senator has been both willing to bluster about making the sand glow and reluctant to endorse anything that smacks of nation-building or of a crusade to make the world safe for democracy.

So this is the state of the GOP four months into 2016. On one hand, there are no doves in the race. Even Paul felt he had to trim his sails when discussing ISIS or Iran. On the other hand, the crusader talk of the Bush years hasn't found a big audience either, as Marco Rubio learned to his chagrin. Nationalists who were willing to go along with the neocons in the early years of the War on Terror have now adjusted their attitudes. As far as foreign policy is concerned, Hillary Clinton is closer to the neoconservative vision than either Cruz or Trump is, a fact that speaks volumes about just how many loyalties may suddenly be up for grabs.

NEXT: Don't Tell Us How to Live Our Lives!: A Libertarian Millennial Manifesto!

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  1. Ummmmmm I think ummm Michael Hihn is the worst troll on here.
    His work on the Stossel thread is an atrocity
    Love and kisses and chickenshit bold bold BOLD

    1. Cut him some slack, his grandkid showed him how to use the HTML codes and he’s just excited. The computer room at the nursing home is only open for a couple hours each day anyway.

      1. +1 War Plan Red

        1. Woops. That should have been in response to Quincy.

    2. That’s Almost WA Insurance Commissioner Hihn to you, dipstick.


  2. I’m starting to think that part of the genius of Trump is that his policy positions are so vague and ambiguous that no one really knows what they are. He’s like the political version of the uncertainty principle. No one can ever say for certain what the Donald’s position is and how fast he’s changing that, at the same time. It’s like looking at a fuzzy energy field and you can never be quite certain of it’s shape or if it’s really even there. So what I’m getting at, is that Trump can probably change any one of his positions at any time and no one will be really certain if he’s changed anything at all.

    1. Psst…Trump wants to invade Canada, pass it on.

      1. What? Fuck, I’m changing my vote! Blame Canada! Go Donald!

      2. +2 War Plan Red

      3. To bring Lena Dunham to justice? I approve

        1. What do you call Lena Dunham, Justin Beiber, and Nickleback all lined up against a wall?

          1. un pissoir?

            1. Did he say “lined up against a wall in Quebec”?

          2. A good start?

    2. So he learned something from Obama? Only instead of being a blank slate of hope and change he’s a blank slate of anger and resentment?

      1. he’s a blank slate of anger and resentment making Amerka great again

        I, for one, look forward to getting bored with winning.

        1. Anger and resentment are what made America great- see Revolution, American.

    3. Trump is a wild card. He could very likely be the worst president in history. He could also be one of the best. It’s honestly a toss up. I like those chances better than a completely predictable Hillary, whom I know for sure will be awful. Not voting for either.

  3. Do you still want populist peanut butter in our libertarian chocolate now, Jesse?

    1. Libertarian Chocolate would be a pretty good name for a band.

          1. Still more coherent than some of the tracks on Maggot Brain.

      1. Lots of booty shakin.

    2. PB and chocolate go together like beer and pizza.

      The analogy you are looking for is mint and chocolate.

      1. Are you really calling into question the deliciousness of the Andes Mint?

      2. mint + chocolate = delicious
        peanut butter (or peanuts) + chocolate = delicious
        mint + peanut butter = ?

        Solving by substitution:

        mint + chocolate = peanut butter (or peanuts) + chocolate
        mint = peanut butter (or peanuts)

        mint + peanut butter = 2 X mint = 2 X peanut butter

      1. W.W. is Will Wilkinson, formerly, I believe, of Cato and now of…somewhere else. But you may have already known that.

        1. But you may have already known that.

          I didn’t, actually. Makes sense though.

      2. First, right-wing populism in America has always amounted to white identity politics, which is why the only notable libertarian-leaning politicians to generate real excitement among conservative voters have risen to prominence through alliances with racist and nativist movements. Ron Paul’s racist newsletters were not incidental to his later success, and it comes as little surprise that a man styling himself a “Southern Avenger” numbers among Rand Paul’s top aides. This is what actually-existing right-wing libertarian populism looks like, and that’s what it needs to look like if it is to remain popular, or right-wing. Second, political parties are coalitions of interests, and the Republican Party is the party of the rich, as well as the ideological champion of big business. A principled anti-corporatist, pro-working-class agenda stands as much chance in the GOP as a principled anti-public-sector-union stance in the Democratic Party. It simply makes no sense.

        Wow. New game – The Economist or Salon?

        1. You’ve never read one of The Economist‘s gun control issues before?

          1. Oh shit, I honestly haven’t! I mean, The Economist is not my English magazine of choice because they get on my “Kill All Commies” tits, but it never occurred to me to consider what they would write about firearms in US. Now I’m curious if it’s more or less stupid than what Canadian media does…

    3. Do you still want populist peanut butter in our libertarian chocolate now, Jesse?

      I’d like more libertarian chocolate in our populist peanut butter.

      1. It’s not going to happen…choosy moms ch…aww…I can’t think of an appropriate and witty peanut butter/chocolate metaphor.

        Though the caramel of a meritocratic republicanism would go nicely. You like Rolos, right?

        1. What I really want is an atomic fireball, but that might be misconstrued in a foreign-policy thread.

          1. Go with “the Everlasting Gobstopper.”

          2. Fireball liqueur + apple cider is great. Fireball + apple juice, almost as good.

  4. the nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony

    That’s an actual quote from the speech? That the state is the foundation of happiness and harmony? Context? Because you know who else though the state should be the foundation of happiness and harmony?

    1. Confucius?

    2. Our Ford?

    3. Don’t worry, he totally does not know what that even means. But hey, it sounded good. It’s gonna be yuuuuugggggge!

    4. Machiavelli?

    5. Louis XV?

    6. Those Peace of Westphalia ideas are waaay out of date. I for one welcome our new borderless world and the boons and usufructs accruing therefrom.

      1. These are French people, they live in France, they speak French. These are Swedish people, they live in Sweden, they speak Swedish. These are German people, they live in Germany, they speak German. etc.

        1. And most important, they were expected mind their own internal business and leave each other alone. They didn’t really fuck things up for a couple of centuries plus.

          1. The Peace of Westphalia was always an illusion. Not even a decade later you have the Franco-Dutch war that led to the Nine Years’ War, much less the War of the Spanish Succession which in it’s way, set the stage for the Seven Years’ War 50 years later about the same Protestant vs. Catholic bullshit, in the guise of Freddie 3 vs. Queen M-T that the PoW was supposed to resolve.

            Let’s not even get into the fact that the nation-state, as defined by the trinity of ethnicity, geographic borders, and language, only made sense for a small portion of Europe at a certain point of history. It had, and has, no currency anywhere else in the world (take “China” for example). It has always been a fallacious concept, and, more importantly, one injurious to liberty.

            1. Things always simmered, but I can’t figure out how a counterfactual to Westphalia would have turned out. I vacillate on this one.

              As far as liberty is concerned, did people have more or less of it after Westphalia, or did it matter one way or the other?

              The Chinese certainly never got on with the Westphalian “billiard ball” model, but they’ve never seen anything like liberty either. One could say the same thing about the Middle East, despite the post-Ottoman carve up of the area into “countries”.

              The nation-state may not guarantee personal liberty, but I wonder all the time what organization or lack of organization would do so.

            2. It has always been a fallacious concept, and, more importantly, one injurious to liberty.

              I guess our options are

              (a) anarchy or

              (b) something else.

              I’m curious about what that something else might be.

              1. To some of us, everything is injurious to liberty except…I’ll get back to you on that.

  5. I have that particular comic book. Steve Roger’s manages to thwart Dr. Whozit from being murdered, and he makes enough serum to b u old an army of super soldiers. They win the war, and Roger’s becomes president for life, but then turns into a fascist dictator.

    1. I doubt it could possibly top the time Galactus’s uncle Ben was killed by a robber. (If you haven’t read it, Galactus turns Uncle Ben into a herald, kills the robber, then they have fruit pies.)

      1. That’s still not as cool as the time Squirrel Girl defeated Galactus on the Moon using the power of friendship.

        1. But that was in-continuity, wasn’t it? Or am I confusing that with the time Squirrel Girl defeated Dr. Doom?

  6. Wait, so was Libya smart power at its best or not? I’m having trouble keeping my derping points straight.

  7. I think it might be FUN if Donald Trump wins the Presidency.

  8. Believe it or not, I’m actually less and less pessimistic about a Trump presidency. I mean, realistically, we’re not getting the Libertarian Moment at the presidential level. It ain’t gonna happen this time ’round. Vote your conscience (or not) but when the dust settles it’s going to either be Hillary or The Donald. Cruz isn’t going to get the nod, and, frankly, as he increasingly panders to the socons and hawks I find him less appealing. Trump is either an insane blowhard with no real concept of what he’d actually be able to accomplish as president, in which case at least I can be reasonably sure he won’t press for gun bans or another war, or he’s a cynical manipulator telling the nativists and the dummies what they want to hear right up until he gets the nomination, at which point he’ll move closer to the center. Either way, it results in a presidency that’s just disappointing at worst.

    Hillary, on the other hand, will make Obama look like Calvin Coolidge, and there will be plenty of people in Congress willing to do some horse trading with her just to wring the last bit of magic out of the Clinton legacy.

    1. Since all Democrats, half the Republicans, 99% of the press plus think tanks and every academic who wants to get or keep tenure utterly and implacably despise Trump, President Trump would be kept on a tight political and public opinion leash.

      I worry more about a President liked by my betters than one they hate.

      1. Like how Democrats and the media stopped pretending to care about wars and civil liberties once Barry got elected?

        1. Do you think the media, the Democrats and academia will give Trump the same pass they gave Obama?

          1. Absolutely not. I was agreeing with your point that a president well-liked by our betters in the media is more dangerous.

            1. Thanks for the clarification.

      2. Um… if Trump wins despite being hated by the people you list, why on Earth would they be able to “keep him in check”? The simple fact of his election would demonstrate that their opinion of him doesn’t matter.

        1. The simple fact that Nixon was elected twice didn’t immunize him from the Democrats, the press and half his own party from kicking him out of the Presidency.

          Trump would be in the same fix if he got too far out of line.

    2. I mean, realistically, we’re not getting the Libertarian Moment at the presidential level. It ain’t gonna happen this time ’round.

      Aint gonna happen again, ever. The Libertarian Moment was brought to those who weren’t outright slaves by a Libertarian elite governing class of an agrarian society where the Lockean proviso actually held.

      When the Lockean Proviso no longer holds, and universal suffrage does hold, the best you can do is a nationalist Geolibertarianism.

  9. Trump will win, and the subsequent crony-capitalist plundering will be glorious.

    1. I just want all the leftists who promised to move to Canada, to actually do it. At least then we get something out of it before Trump lays waste to everything.

      1. OK, but then you guys have to take in Cytotoxic!

        1. No problem. As soon as he leaves his parents’ home he becomes an orphan and five minutes after he crosses the border he’s on the way to servitude in somebody’s monocle mine.

          That’s how it works down here

          1. John calls dibs…

  10. Well. At least the Endless Parade of TRUMP has gotten saner.

    Good read, Walker.

  11. Trump is basically that guy at the end of the bar with simple, silver bullet answers to everything that are invariably wrong.

    1. Cliff Clayvin for President?

  12. [insert standard gilmore complaint about how ‘neoconservatism’ is always used as a vague catch-all]

    1. I phrased it pretty carefully so as not to do that. Note that it doesn’t say “Hillary is a neocon” or “in the Bush years, nationalists were neocons.”

  13. America first foreign policy. Americans first domestic policy.

    Government of, by, and for Americans.

    Works for me.

  14. You’re actually trying to piece together Trump’s foreign policy doggerel and give it the sheen of coherency?

    Shame on you.

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