With an impressive group of foreign policy advisors led by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and including Dr. Walid Phares and former Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Mr. Trump called for a strengthened military and economy in order to lead the country into “an American-first” policy, while indicting President Obama for weakening the nation’s image around the world.
Republican front-runner and presumptive party nominee Donald Trump delivered a solid foreign policy speech at the historic Mayflower Hotel just eight minutes away from the White House. Mr. Trump’s speech on foreign policy brought the substance, depth of knowledge and vision needed – expected — from someone aiming to be the next Commander-in-Chief. Mr. Trump said that his administration would replace randomness with purpose in order to shake the rust off America’s foreign policy. He promised an administration that put the interest of America first in all decisions. He outlined five problems with American foreign policy under the current administration under Obama / Clinton:
First, American resources are overextended and our military is weakened.
Second, American allies are not paying their fair share and must contribute to the security burden we bear for them now.
Third, American allies think they can’t depend on us. Mr. Trump said that Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and under a Trump administration he promised that it will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. “He’s [Obama] treated Iran with tender love and care...at the expense of Israel...and the United States itself.”
Fourth, American rivals no longer respect us. Mr. Trump said, “They don’t take us seriously any more.” In Cuba and then Saudi Arabia, no leader of any significance met President Obama’s plane when he flew to those countries. China is allowed to continue to walk over our trade deals and steals American secrets with cyber attacks.
Finally, America no longer has a clear understanding of our foreign policy goals.
As a businessman he approaches politics, trade and policy from a unique perspective – one not mired in the “America-can-come-last” approach that seems to emanate from Foggy Bottom. Trump presents an image of a strong leader who is unpredictable. That works in the favor of the America. Our allies will know we mean what we say and our enemies will be in constant fear of what a U.S. response would look like if we are crossed. To date, the current administration has issued threats, “red lines” and warnings that have all gone unheeded by our adversaries. I doubt Donald Trump will follow in that well-worn eight-year path.
He seems to understand that major issues aren’t contained in their own silo, but that each affects the other – trade affects treaties which affect defense and so on. Current U.S. foreign policy is an antiquated financial drain on the U.S. economy as America spends billions protecting nations who could pay for it themselves, supports the lion’s share of NATO expenses, and well over a quarter of the United Nations peacekeeping budget all with U.S. dollars, and on top of this America suffers from ridiculous trade imbalances that cost the nation billions.
With an impressive group of foreign policy advisors led by Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and including Dr. Walid Phares and former Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, Mr. Trump called for a strengthened military and economy in order to lead the country into “an America-first” policy, while indicting President Obama for weakening the nation’s image around the world.
Mr. Trump, whose vision generally called for a strong and resolute America to lead the world, outlined the following points:
First, containing the spread of radical Islam at home and abroad, to include the use of military force, but also through ideological persuasion akin to the Cold War battle against communism. Regarding ISIL, Trump said their days are numbered and he won’t tell them where or how. He emphasized that we must be unpredictable.
Second, Mr. Trump said that America must rebuild our military and our economy. Our nuclear weapons arsenal needs modernization and renewal. Our navy and air force have withered and active duty army personnel numbers have dwindled. “Our military dominance must be unquestioned by anybody and everybody.” He went on to say that, America must revisit trade policies and treaties in order to make America strong financially again.
Develop a foreign policy based on American core national security interests. He outlined the following goals:
In the middle east he said he would focus on defeating terrorist and promoting regional stability.
He talked about easing and improving tensions with Russia and China from a position of strength will help with the battle against radical Islam.
Finally, he said a discussion of rebalancing American financial commitments to the UN and NATO had to be considered.
Trump’s foreign policy speech today was politically astute and substantively bold, displaying an understanding of the unique challenges faced by the United States following eight years of military and national security degradation under the current leadership. Mr. Trump’s approach to many of the issues reflects his strategies learned from decades in the business world – such as keeping your intentions quiet and under wraps in order to achieve your long term goals.
Specifically, he agreed with sending U.S. special operations forces to fight ISIL, but said that he wouldn’t have made it political by announcing it. Such forces and operations require the cloak of the clandestine in order to operate effectively and Mr. Trump realizes that fact. In my book “Gray Work: Confessions of an American Paramilitary Spy” we advised the current administration and the U.S. House Anti-terrorism Caucus as far back as 2011 of the need to engage the growing Islamist threat in Syria with special operation troops. The advice was ignored and ISIL metastasized not only in the Levant, but has executed attacks in Europe and has cells in England and North America.
His speech made clear that he would follow in the path that Ronald Reagan trod—namely, rebuilding the military after a disastrous eight years, yet doing so without committing those in uniform to nation-building fantasies that they cannot possibly fulfill. Nor did Mr. Trump advocate America’s involvement in every conflict around the globe; he explicitly rejected the notion that the United States was the world’s policeman.
The U.S. post-Cold War strategy was designed to deal with the challenges facing America today while avoiding another rivalry where our global interests are challenged by a hostile peer competitor – the cold war with the former Soviet Union. Mr. Trump’s refinement of that post-Cold War strategy is aimed at this very thing, while elevating the threat posed by militant Islam and addressing the evolving and future strategic environment posed by Russia and China.
These are not small changes — small compared to the out-sized rhetoric of the 2016 campaign — and will over-time be quite consequential. The current administration made many risky bets that have not paid out and that is why the U.S. foreign policy has to be reconsidered.
As you move up the ladder from rhetoric, to policy, to strategy, the higher the level, small changes can be significant, like a 1-degree shift in the vector of an air-craft carrier over a 4,000-mile voyage. But Mr. Trump’s approach to U.S. foreign policy is not only a shift, but a course correction that is long overdue that will impact the U.S. economy, our positioning when negotiating treaties and trade deals, as well as our national security.