Trump's Foreign Policy: America First. Hillary's: America Last.
“Dangerously incoherent.” “Bizarre rants.” “Outright lies.” “Temperamentally unfit.” “Not someone who should ever have the nuclear codes.” Such were the phrases employed by presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in describing her Republican opponent Donald Trump’s foreign-policy vision for the United States, in a speech delivered earlier this month. Throughout the speech, Secretary Clinton echoed nearly every neoconservative criticism of Trump that at times it almost seemed as if someone in her bloated staff had merely copied and pasted an article right out of the Weekly Standard onto the teleprompter. Be that as it may, the speech was predictably well received from a national press bitterly hostile to Mr. Trump’s unorthodox candidacy. After his own high-profile foreign-policy address at the Center For the National Interest in April, the New York Times editorial board—a paragon of foreign-policy wisdom—offered a scathing review, accusing Trump of peddling “outright falsehoods, often based on wrong assumptions.” Yet, in a world after the Paris, San Bernardino and Orlando attacks, are Trump’s assumptions all that wrong? More broadly, is his foreign-policy vision as “dangerously incoherent” as Secretary Clinton would lead us to believe?
Viewed through a lens where successful foreign policy is predicated on preserving and extending national power, Trump’s proposals are serious, sensible and undergirded by the belief that the safety, security and economic well-being of American citizens should take precedence over all other considerations, even when this belief conflicts with altruistic impulses like accepting refugees from the war zones of the Middle East or using military force to ease the sufferings of civilians in those same war zones. Continuing to spend exorbitant amounts through the European Reassurance Initiative to defend a continent that is more than capable of taking on a greater share of the security burden to deter whatever foe to the east it faces while signing trade accords that pay lip service to the ingenuity of the American worker only advances the financial interests of global elites. The ones who suffer are the increasingly shrinking American middle class.
Take, for example, Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on noncitizen Muslims from war-ravaged countries in the Middle East from entering the United States that was first announced in December after the Paris and San Bernardino massacres. Trump later reiterated this position in a speech the day after the attack in Orlando. In spite of the hyperbolic comparisons to George Wallace, Mr. Trump has never once stipulated that his proposal would be one meant for “now, tomorrow, and forever.” Moreover, from a national security perspective his proposal is pragmatically sound. At least four of the Paris attackers fought with the ISIS in Syria before returning to Europe to carry out their attacks. And a phony Syrian passport that had made its way through Turkey, Greece, Croatia, Hungary and France was discovered near the body of one of the attackers who had blown himself up outside of the Stade de France. With that in mind, and with CIA Director John Brennan testifying last week that ISIS was looking at refugee flows as a possible means for terrorist infiltration, how dangerous or bizarre is it for the United States to temporarily halt allowing in anyone from Syria and other regions of conflict until effective screening measures adjusted to the realities of this new threat are implemented? That the San Bernardino and Orlando attacks involved U.S. citizens Syed Farook and Omar Mateen is irrelevant. There are obvious shortcomings in the Obama administration’s approach in combating the domestic terrorism threat. There is ample reason to worry that Obama’s refugee policy only increases that threat. In a worst-case scenario, someone with all the right identification papers and with no recorded history of radicalization could clear the current screening process with the intent to do Americans harm. Furthermore, Mr. Trump should not have to be subjected to lectures from President Obama or Secretary Clinton about how dangerous his proposals or allegedly inflammatory rhetoric are when it was their policies in the Arab world that were conducive to both fostering the migrant crisis and exacerbating the threat that transnational terrorism poses in the first place.