Ever since the United States was pulled kicking and screaming onto the world stage there have been those who couldn’t quite figure out how to react to the news that the United States was not alone in the world. Donald Trump seems to be one of those people.
You know how you have to correct your kids when they get carried away on some poorly misunderstood point or another?
Yeah. That’s Trump.
He would be president, however, and so nobody to correct him. You see the problem. There is a reason we have a minimum age requirement for the presidency. We hope people will outgrow most of that. Some, like Trump (and Cruz) don’t.
And Americans ought to be reacting with the fear shown by foreign leaders to the possibility of a Trump foreign policy. That is, if what Trump is spewing is coherent enough to be called a foreign policy rather than a series of unrelated knee-jerk reactions to what in many cases aren’t really problems at all, like the idea of rebuilding alliances that aren’t broken – but will be if Trump becomes president.
What is astonishing is Trump’s claim then, that what he is offering is “a new foreign-policy direction for our country — one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy and chaos with peace.”
Au contraire, Mr. Trump: CNN’s Fareed Zakaria calls Trump’s foreign policy speech a mass of contradictions and “populist pandering masquerading as a strategy.” This is painful because it is true, and Zakaria is not the first to notice (the Wall Street Journal being an obvious exception).
Zakaria points out that it is a mistake to assume that because he refrained from vulgarity for 40 minutes that Trump has a coherent foreign policy. Rather, “The speech was in fact an embarrassment, a meandering collection of slogans that were mostly pablum.”
It did not contain his most absurd and unworkable suggestions, building a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, stopping people from sending their own money to relatives in Mexico, banning all Muslims from entering the United States, and a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods. So, in that sense it was an improvement, I suppose.
Pablum, a word you come across in college, but might now become more common, is generally defined as “insipid intellectual fare” as in this example: “pablum for the masses.” Which describes Trump and his “foreign policy” vision to a tee.
The Wall Street Journal tells us their reporter Damian Paletta said Trump outlined a policy that represented a big change from decades of US diplomacy. But is this true?
No, not really.
Historian Meg Jacobs has pointed out that Trump’s Middle East policy is “old GOP policy.” But not real old GOP policy. She reminds us that “While Trump often depicts himself as breaking with every president since Ronald Reagan, his ideas about the Middle East have their origins in the early 1990s.” But Trump’s “enacting energy policy by force” is an old Republican obsession dating back to the energy crisis of the 70s. An “if they won’t give it to us, we’ll take it” kind of outlook.
Zakaria said “The most striking aspect of the speech was its repeated contradictions,” and this has been true of pretty much all Trump’s visions relating to his slogan of making America great again. For example, Trump says China is “raping” us with their trade policy even while he has his own line of clothes made there (and in Mexico, which he accuses of literally raping us with rapists).
The most striking aspect of the speech was its repeated contradictions. We will spend what we need to rebuild our military, he promised, though Washington already spends more than the next seven countries put together. But almost in the same breath he talked about pinching pennies because of the crippling national debt. Trump is against humanitarian inventions, but he implied that we should have intervened to help embattled Christians in the Middle East. Which is it? Trump put America’s closest allies on notice that if they didn’t pay their fair share on defense, a complaint, by the way, Washington has made for at least four decades, he would end America’s security guarantees to them. We have no choice, he exclaimed. Then he assured them that he would be a close and reliable ally. Trump promised to be consistent and yet unpredictable. Is your head spinning yet?
In other words, we should not be surprised at how bad Trump’s foreign policy vision is. It would be more surprising if it were more coherent than the rest of what he says. His grasp of what is going on in the world, and why, seems to be on par – like his speech patterns – with that of a third grader.
The term “loose canon” seems tailor made for Trump. Here we have a candidate who sounds like an isolationist – and even claims he is – unless, that is, somebody has something he wants, like oil we don’t really need because we have wind power, wave power, solar power and all kinds of power that don’t come from oil companies. And as Jacobs says, “it seems a safe bet…that Donald Trump would indeed do what it takes to make America first — by force if necessary.”
Trump’s foreign policy, like all his other policies, are slipshod, haphazard, and terrifying, a reaction to a world Republicans have created in their own heads but which has nothing to do with the world as it actually is. You wouldn’t put your third-grader at the helm, and that is what we’d be doing if we elected Donald Trump as president.
I defy Donald Trump to prove his critics wrong, and in something above a third-grade level, if you please.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.