by Jeffrey A. Rendall
Lost among the avalanche of news coverage concerning the national media fixation with Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s high school social life was President Donald Trump’s remarkable speech to the United Nations, where the American leader rearticulated a “doctrine of patriotism” that guides his approach to foreign policy.
In the course of delivering the address Trump touted his administration’s accomplishments to a world audience, some of which engendered an outburst of amusement from the onlookers. As would be expected this particular moment of ruling class hilarity drew the majority of focus from the liberal American establishment media which took great pleasure in pointing out, “See, the world is laughing at us! Trump is a buffoon!”
For those paying attention – and don’t especially care what the greater world community thinks about our duly elected president – Trump’s speech marked yet another departure from the views of recent American presidents both Democrat and Republican. Instead of plugging the worldly popular concept of “globalism” Trump championed sovereignty and individualism among nations. Not surprisingly, this “it’s okay for us to be us and you to be you” attitude was not well received in liberal and #NeverTrump circles.
Even some in the so-called conservative pundit class took issue with Trump’s approach. Jonah Goldberg commented at National Review, “Every culture is indeed unique, and every custom is rooted in tradition and history. But that does not mean all customs (or policies) are equally worthy of respect or deference. Many nations have traditions of slavery, cruelty to women, and unchecked authoritarianism. No one should forgive such things in the name of celebrating cultural diversity. That doesn’t mean it’s the obligation of the United States to crush these customs at gunpoint. But we are obliged to at least bear witness to evil and to do what we can not to lend aid and comfort to such things, even rhetorically.
“Nor, as the leader of the free world, should we pretend that just because every nation-state is sovereign as a matter of international law that the people of every unfree nation chose to live under despots and dictatorships.
“Trump was right when he said, ‘Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered.’ But we should not confuse necessity and sufficiency. Sovereign and independent nations have also been among the leading vehicles of barbarism and tyranny. And that’s why countries such as North Korea, China, Russia, and Iran were so happy to hear the leader of the free world champion the ‘doctrine of patriotism’ instead of the doctrine of liberty.”
As a well-known #NeverTrumper one expects Goldberg to criticize Trump’s non-traditional approach to foreign policy. As usual Goldberg takes issue with Trump but does so in a reasoned and thoughtful manner. But one can’t help but think Goldberg’s wrong here because Trump’s “doctrine of patriotism” essentially champions liberty without beating war drums.
At the same time many mistook Trump’s words as a plea for isolationism; nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, Trump favors more engagement with foreign nations having already met a few times with “enemy” Russian leader Vladimir Putin and then establishing direct one-on-one communications with cheese-gorging NORK dictator Kim Jong-un. If Trump were truly the isolationist he’s accused of being he’d have America locked behind a big concrete barrier constructed around the entirety of the nation’s boundaries (instead of just on the southern border).
Neoconservatives and liberals believe America accomplishes more by sticking its proverbial nose into everyone else’s business, telling other sovereign nations how to conduct their internal affairs and drawing invisible “red lines” to intimidate the world’s worst rogues into cowering in fear at the prospect of provoking the most powerful military in the world. Post 9/11, George W. Bush staked his presidency on the notion of spreading democracy everywhere as the surest means of guaranteeing peace.
So yes, America’s finest went into Iraq and killed an impressive number of jihadists – and local inhabitants as collateral damage too – while trying to bring democracy to that country, succeeding to some degree. Who will ever forget those purple Iraqi index fingers (in 2005), citizens proudly displaying the fact they’d voted? It was a wonderful moment of good feelings with many believing the experiment had finally worked.
Only it didn’t. Iraq’s internal strife only increased from that point forward with warring religious factions intensifying their efforts to divide and conquer.
Needless to say the Syrian civil war not only tore apart the Middle East region, its horrible side effects also impacted the entire world. Refugees poured into Europe and established “no go” enclaves in big cities that breed hatred and bitterness. Liberal European governments ignored the warning signs and now nationalist movements are taking over the continent. It appears native European peoples appreciate their own cultures and traditions and refuse to accept swift change for the nice-sounding but fake politically correct concepts of “ethnic diversity,” the “world community” and globalism. Why shouldn’t they?
Trump not only believes in the Reagan-esque doctrine of Peace Through Strength (having beefed up the U.S. military), he’s embraced the notion of world cultural “diversity” and sovereignty as the keys to maintaining good relations and fostering peace. This doesn’t mean the United States now tolerates human rights abuses and the other international disorders Goldberg mentioned above; it merely indicates Trump imagines friendship and partnership with all nations is the best way to ensuring happy homelands and contented populations, including here in this country.
America is unique and special; our culture and traditions are worth preserving even if our history isn’t perfect. It’s not hard to understand.
If the world “community” sees America won’t arbitrarily station soldiers inside of foreign borders and anchor warships off of foreign shores it’s more likely to encourage dialogue and diplomacy. Is that so wrong?
The alternative is to keep doing what we’ve been doing for decades, spending trillions of dollars and suffering thousands of U.S. war dead – and for what? Has it made the world a better, safer place? Do foreign peoples now have increased respect for America because they know our country’s leaders were willing to commit “boots on the ground” to trample weaker enemies?
Hardly. Perhaps people in these war-torn regions would be better off policing themselves while working with America as a friend rather than relying on Uncle Sam to come in and do the butt-kicking and skull-smashing for them. Trump appears to think so too.
Travis J. Tritten reported at The Washington Examiner, “President Trump has backed a plan to keep a presence in Syria until Iran leaves, but that does not necessarily mean U.S. military ‘boots on the ground,’ according to James Jeffrey, the president’s special envoy to the war-torn country.
“Arab allies and local proxy forces backed by U.S. air power could replace the roughly 2,000 American troops deployed there now as the administration begins a new push for the ‘removal of all Iranian-commanded forces from the entirety of Syria,’ Jeffrey told reporters in New York this week…
“Jeffrey said the departure of Iranian forces and militias is now one of the administration’s three conditions for leaving. The other two are total defeat of ISIS, which is the military’s stated mission, and supporting the United Nations peace process. ‘The president wants us in Syria until that and the other conditions are met. But I want to be clear here: Us. ‘Us’ is not necessarily American boots on the ground,’ he said. ‘There are many ways that we can be on the ground. We’re certainly on the ground diplomatically. … We have local forces that we have trained in various parts of Syria. Our allies have local forces.’”
Trump’s been fairly criticized for an apparent willingness to put aside his campaign promises and keep American forces stationed in places like Syria and Afghanistan. Trump won the 2016 election in part because he swore he’d steer America away from being everywhere all the time, strongly assuring voters he’d ask capable allies to bear a larger part of the burden to defend themselves.
He’s raised the ire of Europe by insisting its wealthier nations pay their committed share to NATO. Good for him.
If indeed Trump demands Middle Eastern Arab nations (allies) shoulder the soldiering load it’d be in keeping with his campaign platform and still accomplish his stated mission of containing Iran. Obama’s disastrous Iran deal failed to squelch the rogue state’s expansionist tendencies – in fact, the pact provided them with freed-up western assets which the Mullahs in turn used to wage war against Sunni enemies (and the U.S.) in Iraq and Syria.
It’s yet to be seen what “local forces” supplanting American boots in the region actually means, but if the Arab states hope to combat Iran they’ll need to play a bigger role in assuring their own defense. As many conservatives have pointed out America gains little by asking our fighting men and women to fend off enemies on all sides. The Kurds hate the Syrians and the Turks; the Turks hate the Iranians and the Kurds; all of them despise the Islamic State.
Syria’s government has all-but won the country’s civil war. The Russians are there to assist their Syrian allies and maintain a port on the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. supposedly desires to help the Turks (NATO ally) and the Kurds, repel the Iranians and eliminate the final vestiges of ISIS.
Is there a good scenario here? Perhaps, but it won’t be accomplished by the United States military in a leading role. Support those friendlies who need it where advantageous but otherwise stay out. Again, this isn’t isolationism as much as a realistic assessment of what can and can’t be achieved with a larger military presence in the region.
Trump’s trade policies closely align with his “doctrine of patriotism.” Whereas every four years politicians from both parties profusely promise to get tough on international trade villains – such as China – they’ve done little over the decades to cure inconsistencies between other nations’ protectionist schemes and America’s basic belief in free trade.
President Trump’s philosophy isn’t all that complicated; briefly stated, if they’re fair to us we’ll reciprocate. It’s a hard sell to a ruling class elite that favors massive government intervention in the economy and looking the other way when addressing the world’s biggest abusers of the concept of free trade.
Neil Baron is one of those doubters and he wrote at The Hill, “In 2008, Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson, who led the rescue team, had visions of breadlines. But [George W.] Bush avoided a total meltdown by convincing an unwilling Congress to pass a $700 billion bank bailout, even in the face of public outrage against Main Street bailing out Wall Street.
“Paulson describes Bush as a calm leader. Trump is neither calm nor rational. His steel and aluminum tariffs reportedly were launched out anger at Chief of Staff John Kelley’s downgrade of Jared Kushner’s security clearance, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s handling of an investigation of a Trump campaign associate, the absence of consensus from his staff on tariffs, and Hope Hicks’ testimony before Congress regarding Russian meddling.
“Unlike Bush, Trump feeds and exploits public outrage over choosing what’s best for America. For example, he whipped up his base by calling the Trans Pacific Trade Partnership ‘a rape of our country,’ and then abandoned it. We lost trade agreements with nations representing a third of global GDP, and forewent tariff reductions on manufactured, agricultural and technology products and higher labor standards for TPP participants. China quickly filled the vacuum…”
There’s a serious undercurrent of fear among swampy establishment elites regarding Trump’s trade policies, which they use to whip up a hurricane-like frenzy against trying a new strategy to promote American manufacturing and exports. Of course, everyone wishes we could live in a duty-free world where folks sit cross-legged around a circular trade table, pass a peace pipe full of non-intoxicating peyote and agree not to favor their own country’s interests over anyone else’s.
This is stupid, plain and simple. If the elites all supposedly agree China (and certain other nations) is aggressively pursuing unfair trade practices and manipulating its own currency to kill off competitors, why are they so upset when Trump decides to do something about it?
And to claim, as Baron does, that Trump only imposed tariffs because of personal slights is nothing short of willful blindness to everything Trump’s said about the subject since he initiated his campaign. From day one Trump promised he’d be the president who’d actually look foreign leaders in the eye and demand they comply with international law and quit dumping cheap junk in this country to drive Americans out of business.
It isn’t just China either – Trump’s uniform policy applies to everyone near or far. The recently announced NAFTA replacing deal with Mexico – and Canada — proves Trump is an equal opportunity trade partner. Tariffs – or the threat of them – work. It may take time with China but results speak for themselves.
Trump’s “doctrine of patriotism” will similarly accomplish its goal of fostering world peace and prosperity among sovereign nations. Leftists and some conservative dreamers believe all the world’s peoples can be stuffed in one little box and emerge in harmony; reality says it ain’t so.