Editorial boards are criticizing the vision that Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump outlined in a foreign policy address, calling it “ultimately dangerous” and “full of platitudes and contradictions.”
Donald Trump Outlines Foreign Policy Vision In Speech
Trump Claims His Foreign Policy Will Put “America First.” According to an April 27 New York Times piece, Trump gave a speech on his vision for foreign policy, criticizing President Obama and Hillary Clinton for what he described as “missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals":
Donald J. Trump, exuding confidence after his resounding primary victories in the East, promised a foreign policy on Wednesday that he said would put “America first.” He castigated President Obama and Hillary Clinton, a former secretary of state and a possible opponent in the general election, for what he described as a string of missteps that have disillusioned the nation’s allies and emboldened its rivals.
Mr. Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, pledged a major buildup of the military, the swift destruction of the Islamic State and the rejection of trade deals that he said tied the nation’s hands. But he also pointedly rejected the nation-building of the George W. Bush administration, reminding his audience that he had opposed the Iraq war. [The New York Times, 4/27/16]
Editorial Boards Slam Trump’s “Dangerous” Worldview
USA Today: “Trump Vividly Portrayed A World That Does Not Exist.” In an April 27 editorial, USA Today compared Trump’s speech to reality television, whose “correlation to actual reality is tenuous.” The editorial board wrote that “Trump vividly portrayed a world that does not exist” and that in his worldview, “things happen because he says they will”:
As with The Apprentice, the show that helped him become a household name, the Republican front-runner sought to provide appealing fare for a certain class of people. In this case, the primary audience was voters opposed to trade, resentful of immigrants, distrustful of foreign governments, and wistful for a time when America wielded more power in a simpler world.
In reaching out to this group, Trump vividly portrayed a world that does not exist: America’s allies would be more respectful after being lectured to, while its enemies would be dealt with by bluster. China would fall into line after enduring unspecified economic pressure. And troubled regions of the world would be stabilized through U.S. disengagement.
Inexplicably, Trump declared that “America First” would be the overarching theme of his administration. A non-interventionist approach might have its merits in certain situations. But the America First movement got its name espousing an isolationist approach at exactly the wrong moment, urging the United States to stay out of World War II as Adolf Hitler was rampaging through Europe.
In Trump’s worldview, things happen because he says they will. He made a number of proclamations to this effect. His unspecified plan to defeat the Islamic State terrorist group echoed Richard Nixon's secret plan in 1968 to win the Vietnam War. ISIL “will be gone if I’m elected president," Trump vowed, " And they'll be gone quickly. They will be gone very, very quickly.”
Things might happen that way on TV. But not in reality. Or perhaps we should say real reality. [USA Today, 4/27/16]
NY Times: Trump’s Speech “Did Not Exhibit Much Grasp Of The Complexity Of The World.” In an April 27 editorial, the New York Times criticized Trump’s speech, explaining that it “did not exhibit much grasp of the complexity of the world, understanding of the balance or exercise of power, or even a careful reading of history.” The editorial board wrote that Trump “did not display any willingness to learn or to correct his past errors,” which is “inexcusable” for the next president:
After landslide Republican primary victories, Donald Trump delivered a speech on Wednesday in Washington intended to clarify his foreign policy positions. That was needed, because his views on America’s role in the world have until now been expressed in tweets, interviews and remarks at rallies that have alarmed nearly every foreign ally of the United States.
No one’s fears are likely to be allayed by this speech, which was clearly worked up by his new campaign advisers and read from a teleprompter. It did not exhibit much grasp of the complexity of the world, understanding of the balance or exercise of power, or even a careful reading of history.
When one has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And when one’s experience is limited to real estate deals, everything looks like a lease negotiation. Hearing Mr. Trump describe his approach to foreign relations, one imagines a group of nations sitting at a table with him at its head, rather like a scene from “The Apprentice,” with him demanding more money, more troops and policy changes in exchange for American protection, trade and friendship. And if he doesn’t get what he wants? “In negotiation, you must be willing to walk,” Mr. Trump said.
This unilateral approach makes for good television, but this is the real world, in which other nations have agendas, too.
Mr. Trump says he knows how to negotiate, and to him that seems to mean putting forward maximal positions that he can then walk back. That won’t work in foreign policy. Mr. Trump did not display any willingness to learn or to correct his past errors. For someone who claims he is ready to lead the free world, that is inexcusable. [The New York Times, 4/27/16]
Sacramento Bee: Trump’s Speech Was “Rambling, Vague And Incoherent.” In an April 27 editorial, headlined “Donald Trump shows dangerously incoherent foreign policy,” the Sacramento Bee characterized Trump’s speech as “full of platitudes and contradiction.” The editorial board explained that “voters looking for reassurances about Trump as commander in chief can’t feel that much more comfortable” after his speech:
Donald Trump, the clear Republican front-runner, accused President Barack Obama of a “reckless, rudderless and aimless” foreign policy that has weakened America.
Then, he gave a rambling, vague and incoherent speech Wednesday full of platitudes and contradictions, and suggested he would undermine international alliances that have helped keep America safe since World War II.
It was billed as a major foreign policy address, but voters looking for reassurances about Trump as commander in chief can’t feel that much more comfortable. Our longtime allies certainly won’t be confident.
There are unmistakable isolationist tendencies in a Trump doctrine, along with nationalism and protectionism. While he pledged to have a bipartisan foreign policy, his vision conflicts with a political consensus in support of alliances such as NATO.
Trump rightly said that it’s a dangerous world. But it will be made safer through American leadership, not by pulling back. [The Sacramento Bee, 4/27/16]
New York Daily News: Trump’s Foreign Policy Views Were “Incoherent, Internally Inconsistent, And Ultimately Dangerous.” In an April 28 editorial, the New York Daily News criticized Trump’s foreign policy vision, writing, “His nostrums for the world stage were incoherent, internally inconsistent, and ultimately dangerous,” and stating that Trump “maintained his standing as a vacuous ignoramus”:
Fresh off a 5-0 primary romp, Donald Trump — self-described GOP “presumptive frontrunner” — unveiled what was supposed to be a “serious” foreign-policy address, quite unlike his typical off-the-top-of-the-head ramblings.
Feel free to start laughing, and then to plunge into depression that, despite best efforts, this man who could become commander in chief maintained his standing as a vacuous ignoramus.
Trump’s 40-minute speech lived down to expectations, and then some. His nostrums for the world stage were incoherent, internally inconsistent and ultimately dangerous.
Trump declared that “We must, as a nation, be more unpredictable.” He was talking about the fight against ISIS, but the phrase was both meaningless and a perfect encapsulation of just about all things Trump.
“America first,” Trump asserted, will be his “major and overriding” guiding principle, as if he had discharged intellectual lightning new to the Oval Office.
At the same time, he also pledged that America “will always help to save lives and, indeed, humanity itself.”
Humanity itself? Never accuse the Donald of dreaming small. Then again, strike from the membership list of humanity the millions of refugees who have fled the wars in Syria and Iraq, whom Trump would abandon. [New York Daily News, 4/28/16]
Wash. Post: In His Speech, Trump’s “Proposals Were Loose, Frequently Contradictory And Embedded In A Bucket Of Falsehoods.” In an April 28 editorial,The Washington Post criticized Trump’s speech, writing that “his proposals were loose, frequently contradictory and embedded in a bucket of falsehoods.” The editorial board explained that based on his speech, “the United States under a President Trump” would be a “to the peril of itself, and the rest of the world”:
WHAT WAS supposed to be a rare set-piece speech by Donald Trump on foreign policy Wednesday resembled a pastiche of his off-the-cuff postulations from the campaign trail, cobbled together under the slogan “America First.” Like the previous rhetoric, his proposals were loose, frequently contradictory and embedded in a bucket of falsehoods. Of these, the biggest was Mr. Trump’s claim that he could somehow reverse the historical tides that have created a globalized economy and remedy the complex security challenges of the 21st century with a simple “plan for victory with a capital V.”
Among other things, Mr. Trump promised to “quickly” eliminate the U.S. trade deficit with China, force U.S. allies to pay for their own defense, and end “this horrible cycle of hostility” with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. He did this while excoriating President Obama as a leader who “picked fights with our oldest friends” and “bows to our enemies.”
Those weren’t the only contradictions. Mr. Trump said the United States had “no choice” but to abandon defense commitments to allies because of the allegedly weakened state of the U.S. economy. But minutes later the candidate was lamenting the shrinkage in the U.S. armed forces and declaring, “We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. It is the cheapest single investment we can make.” What’s more, he said, “your friends need to know that you will stick by the agreements that you have with them.”
One line in Mr. Trump’s speech did have the ring of truth. Having elsewhere stressed the need for consistency and reliability in U.S. foreign policy, he blurted: “We must as a nation be more unpredictable.” It’s a good bet that the United States under a President Trump would be just that — to the peril of itself, and the rest of the world. [The Washington Post, 4/28/16]
This piece has been updated to include additional examples