Shadow Government

Trump Defeats Straw Man

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump outlined his “American First” foreign policy vision in a major speech yesterday, offering a stinging rebuke — possibly the definitive refutation — of a position no one holds.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a campaign rally at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Trump is preparing for the Indiana Primary on May 3.   (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)
INDIANAPOLIS, IN - APRIL 27: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump addresses the crowd during a campaign rally at the Indiana Farmers Coliseum on April 27, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Trump is preparing for the Indiana Primary on May 3. (Photo by John Sommers II/Getty Images)

Republican frontrunner Donald Trump outlined his “America First” foreign policy vision in a major speech yesterday, offering a stinging rebuke — possibly the definitive refutation — of a position no one holds.

“I am mortified that my ‘America Second’ doctrine has been so thoroughly and publicly dismantled,” said Trump’s Straw Man, when asked for comment after the speech.

Trump promised that his foreign policy would be “based upon American interests, and the shared interests of our allies,” in contrast to the view that U.S. foreign policy should not be based on U.S. interests — a view that no candidate or elected official in either party, at any level of government, currently advocates.

“The world is most peaceful, and most prosperous, when America is strongest,” said Trump, who seemed to be distancing himself from the party’s notorious “neoconservatives” by not plagiarizing Florida Senator Marco Rubio word-for-word. Rubio said in January, “I believe the world is a safer and a better place when America is the strongest power in the world.” Trump emphasized the world is “most prosperous” while Rubio only said “better,” a notable departure.

Trump, who used the speech to demonstrate his mastery of the presidential skill of reading a teleprompter, warned against the “false song of globalism” and foreswore any attempt to “spread ‘universal values’ that not everyone shares,” echoing a common refrain among self-described “realists” and advocates of “restraint” in the aftermath of the Iraq War.

“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,” said Trump. The prime ministers of Germany and Japan were unavailable for comment.

While Trump and his opponents agree that American security is paramount, they appear to disagree on means. Trump dismissed efforts to foster a liberal order abroad, on the grounds that it is too costly and impractical.

For example, Trump drew a strong contrast between “Western values and institutions” and “universal values,” suggesting that electoral democracy, majority rule, representative institutions, and accountable governance were inappropriate outside of the West, and that encouraging them should play no role in U.S. foreign policy.

Trump later received briefings on the political situations in India, Mongolia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Mauritius, South Korea, and Taiwan. Later briefings were scheduled to review the Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, Indonesia, Tunisia, Nauru, Samoa, and Vanuatu.

Internationalists have continued to argue that liberal order would be feasible because the 21st century saw the high tide of liberalism, compared to all of recorded history. They have also maintained that upholding liberal order is not an exercise of charity or globalism, because liberal order served as the outer perimeter of American security — arguments Trump failed to engage in his speech yesterday.

Trump departed from foreign policy experts in some areas. For example, he promised to carry out a “philosophical struggle” against jihadists — one in which the United States would not struggle to advance democracy or human rights as an alternative to jihadist totalitarianism.

Trump left unlcear how he would carry on a philosophical struggle without a guiding philosophy. Some speculated that Trump — who has sometimes been accused of sympathy with white nationalism or even neofascism — simply has a different guiding philosophy than liberalism in mind.

Photo credit: JOHN SOMMERS II/Getty Images

Paul D. Miller is the associate director of the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin. He previously served as director for Afghanistan and Pakistan on the National Security Council staff for Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. @pauldmiller2

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