Editor’s Note: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered the following speech on foreign policy at an event hosted by the National Interest on Wednesday, April 27.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you, and thank you to the Center for the National Interest for honoring me with this invitation.
I would like to talk today about how to develop a new foreign policy direction for our country – one that replaces randomness with purpose, ideology with strategy, and chaos with peace.
It is time to shake the rust off of America’s foreign policy. It's time to invite new voices and new visions into the fold.
The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make. America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration. But to chart our path forward, we must first briefly look back.
We have a lot to be proud of. In the 1940s we saved the world. The Greatest Generation beat back the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists. Then we saved the world again, this time from totalitarian Communism. The Cold War lasted for decades, but we won. Democrats and Republicans working together got Mr. Gorbachev to heed the words of President Reagan when he said: “tear down this wall.” History will not forget what we did.
Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign policy disaster after another. We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos, and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper.
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. We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill the void, much to their unjust enrichment.
Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster. No vision, no purpose, no direction, no strategy.
Today, I want to identify five main weaknesses in our foreign policy.
First, Our Resources Are Overextended
President Obama has weakened our military by weakening our economy. He’s crippled us with wasteful spending, massive debt, low growth, a huge trade deficit and open borders. Our manufacturing trade deficit with the world is now approaching $1 trillion a year. We’re rebuilding other countries while weakening our own. Ending the theft of American jobs will give us the resources we need to rebuild our military and regain our financial independence and strength. I am the only person running for the Presidency who understands this problem and knows how to fix it.
Secondly, our allies are not paying their fair share.
Our allies must contribute toward the financial, political and human costs of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us. In NATO, for instance, only 4 of 28 other member countries, besides America, are spending the minimum required 2 percent of GDP on defense.
We have spent trillions of dollars over time – on planes, missiles, ships, equipment – building up our military to provide a strong defense for Europe and Asia. The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense – and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. The whole world will be safer if our allies do their part to support our common defense and security. A Trump administration will lead a free world that is properly armed and funded.
Thirdly, our friends are beginning to think they can’t depend on us.
We’ve had a president who dislikes our friends and bows to our enemies. He negotiated a disastrous deal with Iran, and then we watched them ignore its terms, even before the ink was dry. Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and, under a Trump administration, will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. All of this without even mentioning the humiliation of the United States with Iran’s treatment of our ten captured sailors.
In negotiation, you must be willing to walk. The Iran deal, like so many of our worst agreements, is the result of not being willing to leave the table. When the other side knows you’re not going to walk, it becomes absolutely impossible to win. At the same time, your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.
President Obama gutted our missile defense program, then abandoned our missile defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic. He supported the ouster of a friendly regime in Egypt that had a longstanding peace treaty with Israel – and then helped bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power in its place.
Israel, our great friend and the one true democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticized by an administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel – a force for justice and peace – for acting as an impediment to peace in the region. President Obama has not been a friend to Israel. He has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power in the Middle East – all at the expense of Israel, our other allies in the region and, critically, the United States.
We’ve picked fights with our oldest friends, and now they’re starting to look elsewhere for help.
Fourth, our rivals no longer respect us.
In fact, they are just as confused as our allies, but an even bigger problem is that they don’t take us seriously any more. When President Obama landed in Cuba on Air Force One, no leader was there to meet or greet him – perhaps an incident without precedent in the long and prestigious history of Air Force One. Then, amazingly, the same thing happened in Saudi Arabia -- it's called no respect. Do you remember when the President made a long and expensive trip to Copenhagen, Denmark to get the Olympics for our country, and, after this unprecedented effort, it was announced that the United States came in fourth place? He should have known the result before making such an embarrassing commitment.
The list of humiliations goes on and on. President Obama watches helplessly as North Korea increases its aggression and expands even further with its nuclear reach. Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade rules – or apply the leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea. He has even allowed China to steal government secrets with cyber attacks and engage in industrial espionage against the United States and its companies.
We’ve let our rivals and challengers think they can get away with anything. If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job.
Finally, America no longer has a clear understanding of our foreign policy goals.
Since the end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union, we’ve lacked a coherent foreign policy. One day we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians, the next day we are watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls apart.
We're a humanitarian nation. But the legacy of the Obama-Clinton interventions will be weakness, confusion, and disarray. We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before. We left Christians subject to intense persecution and even genocide. Our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS. And we’re in a war against radical Islam, but President Obama won’t even name the enemy! Hillary Clinton also refuses to say the words “radical Islam,” even as she pushes for a massive increase in refugees. After Secretary Clinton’s failed intervention in Libya, Islamic terrorists in Benghazi took down our consulate and killed our ambassador and three brave Americans. Then, instead of taking charge that night, Hillary Clinton decided to go home and sleep! Incredible. Clinton blames it all on a video, an excuse that was a total lie. Our ambassador was murdered and our Secretary of State misled the nation – and by the way, she was not awake to take that call at 3 o'clock in the morning. And now ISIS is making millions of dollars a week selling Libyan oil.