Donald Trump

Trump's Foreign Policy Contradictions

The presumptive Republican presidential nominee wants a bigger military but says he'll use it less.

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Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president—a development that no one, including Trump, foresaw a year ago—it may be a good time to consider what he might do if he beats Hillary Clinton this fall. The "major foreign policy address" that the billionaire developer gave last week suggests he is trying to figure that out along with the rest of us.

Trump's main foreign policy strength is his willingness to tell the truth about the disastrous interventions championed by Republicans as well as Democrats during the last few decades. He has long been critical of the war in Iraq (not quite since the invasion, but almost), and he sees the same pattern playing out in Libya, Syria, and Egypt: The U.S. heedlessly topples a secular dictator, promoting instability and Islamic terrorism.

"Each of these actions [has] helped to throw the region into chaos and [given] ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper," Trump says. "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."

Although Trump is frequently mocked as a foreign policy naif, that analysis displays more wisdom than anything Hillary Clinton has said in her long history of supporting arrogant meddling around the world. I do not know whether a President Trump would keep his promise that "we are getting out of the nation-building business" (you may recall that George W. Bush said something similar in 2000), but his wariness of such projects seems sincere.

Likewise Trump's criticism of wealthy allies who expect the United States to defend them instead of using their own ample resources to do so—a point Trump has been making at least since his 2000 book The America We Deserve. Last week he complained that "only four of 28 other [NATO] countries, besides America, are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense."

Unfortunately, Trump also believes the United States does not allocate enough money to the military, even though it outstrips the next seven biggest spenders combined. "We will spend what we need to rebuild our military," he says, criticizing post-2010 cuts that followed dramatic increases during the Bush administration.

Trump's commitment to expanding the so-called defense budget is hard to reconcile with his avowed aversion to foreign intervention, his argument that European and Asian allies should pay for their own defense, and his complaint that "we failed to develop a new vision for a new time" after the Cold War. Why would a president who thinks the military should do less want a bigger military?

It might have something to do with Trump's secret plan to defeat ISIS. "Their days are numbered," he says. "I won't tell them where and I won't tell them how." Naturally, he won't tell us either, because "we must as, a nation, be more unpredictable."

Trump also wants to defeat foreigners who are only trying to sell us stuff. "We have a massive trade deficit with China, a deficit we must find a way, quickly, to balance," he said last week. On Sunday he declared that "we can't continue to allow China to rape our country."

That Trump perceives peaceful commerce as a kind of violence is at least as troubling as his view that foreigners who work in our fields, yards, and restaurant kitchens without official permission represent a threat to national security. His notion that a trade "balance" with the world or any particular country is both readily achievable and desirable harks back to the misguided mercantilism that Adam Smith debunked in 1776.

Trump argues that stopping Americans from buying the goods they want will boost the economy, providing tax revenue for his military buildup. And since the purpose of that buildup remains mysterious, we may yet get an actual shooting war along with the trade war Trump seems determined to start.

© Copyright 2016 by Creators Syndicate Inc.

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  2. A big military isn’t necessarily a contradiction with wanting to use it less.

    If they can cut wasteful spending and build a mean lean fighting machine, perhaps that will deter others from challenging the US.

    I don;’t agree with Trump on China. We don’t need to eliminate the trade deficit, just ensure that the trade is being done fairly (no dumping, etc). Comparative advantage says we are better at somethings, they are better at others. Let them do the low wage stuff.

    1. Yeah, but what’s the point of having this superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?

      1. Madeleine, its time for your meds

    2. just ensure that the trade is being done fairly (no dumping, etc).

      What’s wrong with dumping? I don’t know about you, but I have no problem with foreign governments subsidizing their exports. It means cheaper stuff for you and me and everyone else.

      1. Some subsidize trade by being Communist Dictatorships who put a bullet in the head of any worker who wants a raise.

        It does not cost the decision makers in the Communist Dictatorship because the losses are dumped on the workers

        1. Speaking of meds…

        2. Yes but the bad part of that is the bullet in the head, not the getting cheap stuff.

    3. A big military isn’t necessarily a contradiction with wanting to use it less.

      Yes it does. This is Pournelle’s Iron Law.

      A lean mean fighting machine that doesn’t engage in combat and deters foes is a propaganda machine. You either use a bureaucracy, strangle it, or it will continually grow in a self-serving (and contradictory) manner.

      1. Exactly. The military is one big bureaucracy. A bureaucracy that is authorized and justified by the Constitution, but a bureaucracy nonetheless, and should be treated as such.

  3. Why would a president who thinks the military should do less want a bigger military?

    Peace through strength. Weakness is provocative.

    I doubt that Progressitarians are really on board with these ideas, but these are hardly new or radical ideas. A grown up would see that, and not reflexively spout “Trump is craaaazy” in response to these policies.

    Now that the fat lady has song Trump’s coronation song, Reason might want to up it’s game on Trump articles. Or, just continue with the Trump is crazy, Trump is racist, Trump is a Nazi drum beat that has worked oh so well for the last year.

  4. According to James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, and other foreign-policy experts, To secure peace is to prepare for war.

  5. We get it. Trump is for it unless he’s against it maybe until it’s good enough to be great then it isn’t and he’s examining the chance that it won’t be.

    Duh!

  6. OT because links seem to be dying down: every sperm is sacred, says Swede

    “On April 1st this year a change in the law was introduced that makes it possible for single women to have assisted reproduction. But it soon emerged that there is currently an acute sperm shortage in Sweden. However this makes no sense to me. How come semen seems to be lying around everywhere, from pub toilets to subway stations — but there isn’t enough of it being stored at Swedish hospitals?

    I don’t understand why more men don’t donate their sperm. In my experience men seem generally pretty free when it comes to releasing it. Having sex without a condom with a range of people after a night out seems to be no problem. Nor does masturbating at a bar or in a quiet subway carriage, something I have unfortunately had to witness.”

    Let’s add Swedes to the list of immigrants we shouldn’t let into this country because they apparently ejaculate *everywhere.*

    1. Yay, more children raised without fathers!

      1. “It would certainly be attractive for some men to mix business with pleasure in this way. But most people I have spoken to have said it is not really a matter of compensation. The most common reason among my friends is that they just never get round to it. Except they do get round to it don’t they? As I mentioned before, our neighbourhoods are drowning in cum. It’s just it never gets to the hospitals. It’s not fashionable to donate sperm and that must be changed.”

        Swedish neighborhoods are *drowning in cum.*

        Drowning.

    2. I don’t understand why more men don’t donate their sperm.

      If they had cute Swedish nurses making the donation process hands-free, I think they’d have more participation.

    3. Nor does masturbating at a bar or in a quiet subway carriage, something I have unfortunately had to witness.

      Is that wrong? Am I not supposed to do that?

    4. Re: Irish, Target-Bathroom Rapist,

      […] Let’s add Swedes to the list of immigrants we shouldn’t let into this country because they apparently ejaculate *everywhere.*

      “Just what do you think is inside those Swedish meatballs?”

      Eeeeeew!

    5. Let’s add Swedes to the list of immigrants we shouldn’t let into this country because they apparently ejaculate *everywhere.*

      I see, for some people, racial/national supremacist material practically writes itself.

      1. Not sure if you’re joking, but I was.

    6. every sperm is sacred

      Which is why I have built a shrine to honor the legion of stiff socks I have accumulated over the past twenty years.

      1. You have enough space to store those? I wish I had a mansion.

  7. “Why would a president who thinks the military should do less want a bigger military?”

    That’s not a contradiction. I could want a gun and also be against shooting random people.

    1. Yeah, but you would face consequences for your actions. When people with power gain a greater capacity to do violence, they’re going to use it.

    2. That’s not a contradiction. I could want a gun and also be against shooting random people.

      1. You’re not explicitly a statist.

      2. The military is not a handgun. Once you’ve made the original purchase the gun stops costing you money until you use it. Aircraft Carriers OTOH, not so much.

      The only way it’s not a contradiction is if you imagine some pure-logic, counterfactual world where politicians don’t lie and statists don’t state.

      1. That is just completely wrong. The worst wars the US has gotten into have been when we had the smallest and least prepared military. And the times when we have had a large military have generally been peaceful. There is no correlation between a weak military and seeking peace. Peace through strength has generally worked in the past.

        And your logic boils down to “if we just disarm ourselves enough we won’t go to war.” That hasn’t worked once in the entire history of mankind. But hey, I am sure it might this time.

        1. Re: John,

          The worst wars the US has gotten into have been when we had the smallest and least prepared military.

          You mean Vietnam or Iraq were far less worse than the War of 1812? I don’t understand.

          And the times when we have had a large military have generally been peaceful.

          You mean like the last 16 years were peaceful? Or when 1919 through 1940 were peaceful?

          1. No you I mean these things known as World War I, II and Korea. Those all three were much worse wars than Iraq or Vietnam.

            I know you are part of one of the superior Latin races Mexican, but man you don’t seem to know much about history. Come on, its MexiCAN not MexiCAN’T.

        2. I must be missing something, like the part where mc said we should “disarm”, which implies giving up our fighting capacity in toto. Or maybe the part where mc said that war won’t happen if we cut the military.

          1. If building a bigger military makes it more likely for us to go to war, then having a smaller one necessarily makes it less likely. One cannot be true without the other being true.

        3. The worst wars in this country’s history were started by other countries (and one rogue confederation of states which may or may not constitute a country depending on the arguer).

          Maybe we should do away with other countries?

          1. Sure they were. But having a weak military doesn’t seem to have stopped them from doing that. And that is the point.

  8. Unfortunately, Trump also believes the United States does not allocate enough money to the military, even though it outstrips the next seven biggest spenders combined.

    He said he wants to spend money in more weapons of mass awesomeness.

  9. Just stop with the reasonable and rational arguments and discussions already. There’s nothing reasonable or rational any more. Everybody’s operating on the pure lizard-brain* “gimme free shit” mode of Larry the Looter in the middle of an Oakland Raiders Superbowl victory celebration. There’s shit there and it’s free for whoever can steal it so you better grab what you can while you can and fuck all the whiny crybabies who insist “But that’s my stuff you’re stealling!”. If they didn’t want their shit stolen they should have brought more guns to the party.

    *My apologies to any actual lizard-brained individuals offended by the comparison of the American electorate to a rational reptile with a brain as large and nearly well-developed as a small peanut. It’s just the term that’s used and in no way is intended as a slight on your superior reasoning abilities.

    1. Honestly Jerry, I think dispensing with thought and rational arguments is going to be right in your wheel house. You have just never been to keen on that whole thinking thing.

  10. Trump’s commitment to expanding the so-called defense budget is hard to reconcile with his avowed aversion to foreign intervention, his argument that European and Asian allies should pay for their own defense, and his complaint that “we failed to develop a new vision for a new time” after the Cold War. Why would a president who thinks the military should do less want a bigger military?

    Well, here’s the thing that most straights (read non-military) overlook. The US (especially the Air Force) has been on a wartime footing since 1991 wrt it’s equipment. It is being held together with bubblegum and dental floss. I’m sure the Army is in the same boat. While I personally believe we could reduce the size of our military by at least 50% (given corresponding reductions in commitments), at least a fair portion of that equipment needs to be replaced. This is what happens when it’s squandered on open-ended actions with no hope of resolution.

    1. Well said, Franko-Danko. The biggest gripes you hear from the units and their leadership (up to about O-6 level) are related to training and sustainment. They’re simply told, year after year, to “do more with less,” a philosophy that simply won’t jive in the long term unless the U.S. starts scaling back on it’s commitments abroad. Would that someone had the stones to actually tell Europe (among other places, the EU is just the first that came to mind) to get stuffed and start footing the bill for its own defense.

  11. Bruce Bartlett ?@BruceBartlett 2h2 hours ago
    Hillary Clinton may be a moderate Republican from the 1970s on policy, but that’s okay. That’s what the country needs.

    Bruce Bartlett ?@BruceBartlett 2h2 hours ago
    When highly-paid idiots in the media say the Trump phenomenon was impossible to predict, remember this. http://ow.ly/4npvhQ

    Bruce Bartlett ?@BruceBartlett 11h11 hours ago
    Looks like Carly Fiorina destroyed another thriving enterprise. She is truly the kiss of death.

    https://twitter.com/BruceBartlett

    1. Hillary Clinton may be a moderate Republican from the 1970s on policy, but that’s okay.

      You mean like Nixon? And Spiro Agnew?

      Take your Thorazine.You’re not helping anyone by being schizophrenic.

    1. “Irish”

      LOL, I am well known for my Trump fandom

      1. OK. You can present an argument in good faith (unlike the others). I give you that.

        1. How would you know what an argument made in good faith looks like?

  12. I saw it coming 😉

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