Thursday, May 5, 2016

What is Missing from Trump's Foreign Policy?

The foreign policy failures of the Obama years have been legion.  And Secretary of State Hillary Clinton played a guiding hand in many of these plans.  Four Americans dead in Benghazi is just the tip of a very big iceberg.

1) The US, the world's only superpower, has been powerless to stop the slaughter of over 100,000 people in the Syrian Civil war which has resulted in the greatest refugee crisis to face the world since World War II.

2) ISIS / ISIL was created in the Obama term, at least partly due to Obama's precipitate withdrawal from Iraq in 2011.

3) Obama recently admitted in an interview with Chris Wallace that his "worst mistake" in office lay in not preparing for the chaos that would engulf Libya after the death of Qadaffi.  His exact words: "Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya."

4) The Iranian nuclear deal, which Obama views as his chief accomplishment, remains a huge question mark.  Only time will tell whether it help build a lasting peace or whether it simply rewards bad behavior and funds expanded terrorism in the middle east?

As a result of all this one might suppose that this would give the Republican challenger a massive opportunity to exploit in 2016.  So where does Trump stand in terms of foreign policy?  How would Trump be as Commander in Chief of the world's most potent military?

Trump declares that he would employ force only as a last resort.  He said, "I will never sent our finest into battle unless necessary, and I mean absolutely necessary, and will only do so if we have a plan for victory with a capital V."  Certainly there is a deep longing for victory that resonates for many Americans.  For the last fifteen years or so the OPAD loop which has characterized the American military experience and ends in "D" for Decisive Victory seems to have been broken (See...

Trump boasts repeatedly that he opposed the Iraq War.  We can anticipate that he will use Hillary's Senate vote to authorize the 2003 invasion in the Fall campaign.  The belief that the invasion of Iraq was a disastrous mistake has become a central article of faith among most media and the US electorate.  It propelled Barack Obama to the White House in 2008.  Even Jeb Bush felt compelled to denounce his own brother's Iraq War during the 2016 campaign.
Would Trump Invade?
Trump is correct to point out the tragic price we paid in the Iraq War.  In America Invades we wrote, "US troops’ combat role in Iraq finally ended on August 31, 2010, about seven and a half years after our invasion. Our losses included 4,427 Americans killed and 34,275 injured. Figures for Iraqi casualties in the period have been a subject of much debate, but over one hundred thousand Iraqis have also been killed."  (Source: America Invades, Kelly / Laycock, 2014,  Trump is also right to point out the economic cost of the Iraq War which cost trillions of dollars.

Unquestionably, many costly mistakes were made during the course of the Iraq War.  But Trump is incredibly naive if he believes that a policy of inaction with regard to Iraq in 2003 would have been without cost (For much more on Iraq see...

We know, therefore, that had Trump been elected President in 2000 rather than Bush Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Iraq.  Trump would presumably have been OK with Saddam's support for terrorism, his Scud attacks on Israel in the First Gulf War, his terrorization of his own people and his attempt to assassinate a former US President (George H.W. Bush).   He would have been OK with Saddam using chemical weapons on the Iranians and the Kurds.

Trump sounded a dovish tone in his maiden foreign policy speech.  He declared “Unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct..A superpower understands that caution and restraint are really truly signs of strength."

Today Trump addresses a war weary nation -- a nation where many fear that America has been playing its strong hand like a sucker.  So many are today tempted to hire the author of The Art of Deal to renegotiate our deal with the world.

Trump is correct to insist that NATO members should step up and pay their fair share of the defense tab for Europe.  America cannot afford to be the world's policeman.  But he moves to dangerously isolationist ground when he goes on to describe the NATO alliance as "outdated".  For over seventy years American forces have helped preserve a general peace in Europe that was only interrupted by the breakup of Yugoslavia.

Trump actually boasts about being an "unpredictable" President.  Are US allies really hoping for an unpredictable America?  Are financial markets hoping for more uncertainty?

Instead of being the world's policeman Trump seems to want America to become a global "Rent-a Cop".  Not a steady security guard but rather an unpredictable drunk who falls asleep on the job and shoots out your lobby's television set by mistake!  Our armed forces will act at mercenaries for American corporate interests and for those countries willing to pick up the tab.

Occupied: A Prophecy of a Trump White House?

If you want to see what a Trump Presidency would mean to the world just take a look at the Norwegian miniseries Occupied (  This series presupposes that the US has pulled out of NATO and adopted a policy of isolationism or America First-ism -- the presumed policy of Donald Trump.  Without giving any spoilers, I can affirm that the world of Occupied is much darker than our own.  The message of Occupied is chilling: If America were to abandon NATO, things would not go well for small countries like Norway that border the Russian behemoth.

What is missing from Donald Trump's foreign policy?  Why is his approach to foreign policy disturbing?  The issue is not his inability to pronounce "Tanzania".  In one word it is...VALUES.

For over two hundred years Americans have stood for something beyond mere economic self interest.  We have had our share of triumphs, tragedies and follies.  Americans fought in two World Wars defeating the Kaiser, Hitler and Imperial Japan.  Americans helped to win the cold against Communism while avoiding the outbreak of a third World War.   Woodrow Wilson could be a bit of a bore with his fourteen points which Clemenceau pointed out were four more than the Creator; but he articulated a uniquely American vision for the world. Our armies in World War II helped liberate the Nazi concentration camps.  We are not a perfect people and we have not always lived up to our ideals but, overall, Americans have stood for freedom, self determination and human rights.  We have been a beacon to the world.
Lincoln Statue, Spokane, WA
Abraham Lincoln, the founder of the Republican party, declared that America was "the last best hope for mankind".  It would be a monumental tragedy if America in the 21st century were to abandon its long cherished values.

You can purchase signed copies of America Invades
or regular copies on

Coming in the Fall of 2016...


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