Politics

The Trump Doctrine

GOP front-runner lays out 'America First' vision in approach to foreign policy

Republican front-runner Donald Trump laid out his foreign policy doctrine Wednesday, promising to implement an “America First” approach that will endure for several generations.

Speaking at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., Trump suggested that America’s foreign policy had gone astray after the end of the Cold War.

He promised a foreign policy “that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace. It’s time to shake the rust off of America’s foreign policy. It’s time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold, something we have to do.”

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Trump said he would favor talented experts with new ideas over those with great resumes whose ideas have failed. Above all, Trump said, he would return to a “timeless principle” that he argued the country has abandoned.

“My foreign policy will always put the interest of the American people and American security above all else,” he said. “It has to be first. Has to be. That will be the foundation of every single decision that I will make. ”

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The highly anticipated speech offered the most detailed window yet into Trump’s thinking on an issue that has roiled America’s allies and enemies alike, and that sometimes has caused heartburn among members of his own party’s foreign policy Establishment.

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The conservative-leaning Center for the National Interest, which advocates a realist approach to international relations, hosted the address. Significantly, former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad introduced Trump.

The real estate tycoon tied foreign policy to trade, immigration, and economic might. The country cannot be strong, he argued, without major reforms in those areas. He said that a weakened military and economy, open borders, and massive trade deficits with America’s trading partners undermine the country’s foreign policy goals.

“We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own,” he said.

Trump expressed great skepticism at international organizations that impede the country’s ability to manage its own affairs, a clear reference to free trade agreements. He explicitly called the North American Free Trade Agreement a “total disaster” for the country.

“We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,” he said.

Trump reiterated his support for reevaluating long-standing security arrangements, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He said that as president, he would call separate summits of NATO and Asian allies to discuss both greater financial commitments from allied nations and updating the structure and missions of those organizations.

America’s allies have come to view the United States as weak and forgiving, Trump said. He noted that other than the U.S., only four of the 28 NATO nations are living up to the commitment to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. He said those other 24 nations must pay their fair share.

“If not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these counties defend themselves,” he said. “We have no choice.”

At the same time, Trump said, the U.S. has become an unreliable ally under Obama. He cited Israel, which he argued has been “snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity.” He said Obama’s “tender love and care” of Iran has made it a great power at the expense of Israel, America’s Arab allies, and the United States itself.

“We picked fights with our oldest friends, and now they’re beginning to look elsewhere for help,” he said.

Trump called for “a new rational American foreign policy” that takes the world as it is and not as American policymakers would like it to be. He said foolishness and arrogance have replaced logic, and added that it was a mistake to encourage the ouster of Middle East dictators who brought stability. He said efforts to promote Western-style democracy in countries with no experience or interest in it has made a mess of the region.

“We’re getting out of the nation-building business,” he said.

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Trump said that the vacuum has allowed ISIS to flourish. He vowed that ISIS will be “gone very, very quickly” if he becomes president.

“Their days are numbered,” he said. “I won’t tell them where, and I won’t tell them how. We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.”

Trump said he wants good relations with both Russia and China but warned he would not allow either to take advantage of the United States. He said he would use economic leverage to press China to rein in North Korea.

“Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth,” he said.

Trump also lobbed an unspecified threat at American companies that seek cheap labor overseas.

“There will be consequences for the companies that leave the United States only to exploit it later,” he said.

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