Journalists and foreign policy experts criticized the “unintelligble” foreign policy positions Donald Trump described during interviews with The New York Times and The Washington Post, and called the GOP presidential front-runner's “ignorance” “breathtaking,” saying he has “no understanding of the post-war international order that was created by the United States.”
Trump Outlines Foreign Policy With The New York Times And The Washington Post
NY Times: Trump's Foreign Policies “Reflect Little Consideration For Potential Consequences.” The New York Times reported on March 26 that Donald Trump said in an interview with the Times that as president, “he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies,” he “would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals” and he would be willing to renegotiate “many fundamental treaties with American allies.” The Times' David Sanger and Maggie Haberman wrote that Trump's positions “reflect little consideration for potential consequences”:
Donald J. Trump, the Republican presidential front-runner, said that if elected, he might halt purchases of oil from Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies unless they commit ground troops to the fight against the Islamic State or “substantially reimburse” the United States for combating the militant group, which threatens their stability.
“If Saudi Arabia was without the cloak of American protection,” Mr. Trump said during a 100-minute interview on foreign policy, spread over two phone calls on Friday, “I don't think it would be around.”
He also said he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals rather than depend on the American nuclear umbrella for their protection against North Korea and China. If the United States “keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they're going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it,” Mr. Trump said.
And he said he would be willing to withdraw United States forces from both Japan and South Korea if they did not substantially increase their contributions to the costs of housing and feeding those troops. “Not happily, but the answer is yes,” he said.
Mr. Trump also said he would seek to renegotiate many fundamental treaties with American allies, possibly including a 56-year-old security pact with Japan, which he described as one-sided.
In Mr. Trump's worldview, the United States has become a diluted power, and the main mechanism by which he would re-establish its central role in the world is economic bargaining. He approached almost every current international conflict through the prism of a negotiation, even when he was imprecise about the strategic goals he sought. He again faulted the Obama administration's handling of the negotiations with Iran last year -- “It would have been so much better if they had walked away a few times,” he said -- but offered only one new idea about how he would change its content: Ban Iran's trade with North Korea.
Mr. Trump struck similar themes when he discussed the future of NATO, which he called “unfair, economically, to us,” and said he was open to an alternative organization focused on counterterrorism. He argued that the best way to halt China's placement of military airfields and antiaircraft batteries on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea was to threaten its access to American markets.
Mr. Trump explained his thoughts in concrete and easily digestible terms, but they appeared to reflect little consideration for potential consequences. [The New York Times, 3/26/16]
Wash. Post: Trump's Foreign Policy Positions Are "Unabashedly Noninterventionist." The Washington Post reported on March 21 that in a meeting with the paper's editorial board, Trump laid out his “unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs,” including a plan to “significantly diminish” U.S. involvement in NATO, and questioned “the value of massive military investments in Asia”:
Donald Trump outlined an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday, telling The Washington Post's editorial board that he questions the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has formed the backbone of Western security policies since the Cold War.
The meeting at The Post covered a range of issues, including media libel laws, violence at his rallies, climate change, NATO and the U.S. presence in Asia.
Speaking ahead of a major address on foreign policy later Monday in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said he advocates a light footprint in the world. In spite of unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure.
Trump said that U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can't afford to do this anymore,” Trump said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we're protecting Europe with NATO, but we're spending a lot of money.”
Trump sounded a similar note in discussing the U.S. presence in the Pacific. He questioned the value of massive military investments in Asia and wondered aloud whether the United States still was capable of being an effective peacekeeping force there.
“South Korea is very rich, great industrial country, and yet we're not reimbursed fairly for what we do,” Trump said. “We're constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games -- we're reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”
Asked whether the United States benefits from its involvement in the region, Trump replied, “Personally, I don't think so.” He added, “I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country, and we are a poor country now. We're a debtor nation. [The Washington Post, 3/21/16]
Journalists Slam Trump's “Completely Uneducated” Foreign Policy Positions
The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg: Trump Has “No Understanding Of The Post-War International Order That Was Created By The United States.” On the March 27 edition of CBS' Face the Nation, The Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg criticized Trump for having “no understanding of the post-war international order that was created by the United States” and added that it is “really remarkable to imagine that someone who shows so little interest in understanding why the world is organized the way it is organized is this close to the presidency of the world's only superpower”:
JOHN DICKERSON (HOST): Jeffrey, I want to switch now to you. Donald Trump gave two interviews this week, one to the Washington Post editorial board and then two sets of interviews with The New York Times, particularly on foreign policy. On the New York Times conversation, what did you glean from his foreign policy worldview?
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: I gleaned that he has no understanding of the post-war international order that was created by the United States, that he has no understanding of why we maintain alliances with such treaty partners as Japan and South Korea, Britain, NATO, and the importance of maintaining those stable relationships with other democracies, shows that he has no idea of nuclear doctrine. I mean, other than that, it was cool. It was really remarkable to imagine that someone who shows so little interest in understanding why the world is organized the way it is organized is this close to the presidency of the world's only superpower. [CBS, Face the Nation, 3/27/16]
NBC's Andrea Mitchell: Trump Is “Completely Uneducated About Any Part Of The World.” On the March 27 edition of NBC's Meet the Press, chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell said that Trump “is completely uneducated about any part of the world.” Mitchell explained that Trump's foreign policy proposals, including his acceptance of the possibility that “Japan and South Korea go nuclear,” would go against “American policy for decades since World War II.” Mitchell also pointed out that Trump “would stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia if they don't pay more for their defense” even though the U.S. is “not energy independent”:
CHUCK TODD (HOST): Obviously a bizarre week, Andrea, in so many ways. But I want to go -- because what I think could have been the story of the week was this unbelievable editorial board interview that Donald Trump did with The Washington Post. Let me play a longer excerpt of it and get you to respond.
By the way, just so folks know, when we excerpted it, so then everybody around the room introduced themselves, subject got changed.
ANDREA MITCHELL: Exactly. He cannot stick to a subject. It is remarkable. And when he doesn't know something, he just changes the subject, makes it all about himself.
TODD: On national security it's a very noticeable -- especially to your ears and mine.
MITCHELL: Absolutely. And this was a week where he could have gone after President Obama, arguably. There's a lot happening and the president has some vulnerabilities. So does Hillary Clinton. But instead he's all over the lot. And then The New York Times, David Sanger, Maggie Haberman, do an interview with him, a 90-minute interview and it's in today's paper and online. And the transcript, if you read the transcript online, he would cancel defense treaties with Japan and South Korea against North Korea. He doesn't mind, he would be OK if Japan and South Korea go nuclear. American policy for decades since World War II has been trying to keep nukes out of that arena. He would stop importing oil from Saudi Arabia if they don't pay more for their defense. We need oil. We are not energy independent. We rely on oil still --
MITCHELL: For our daily needs. He is completely all over the lot on Iran. He believes -- he complained that Iran isn't buying our planes. It had to be pointed out to him that Iran is still under sanctions and cannot buy American planes. He thinks North Korea and Iran are the biggest trading partners when North Korea's biggest trading partner is China. He is completely uneducated about any part of the world. [NBC, Meet the Press, 3/27/16]
New York Daily News: Trump's “Foreign Policy Ideas” Are “Baffling.” The New York Daily News' Dennis Slattery wrote on March 26 that in Trump's foreign policy interviews with the Times, he “appeared more adept at dodging serious questions than providing specifics.” Slattery called Trump's “foreign policy ideas” “baffling”:
Donald Trump says he's been intentionally vague about his foreign policy positions.
The pompous tycoon told the New York Times he has avoided being too specific about his views on global affairs during the primary cycle because he “wouldn't want [adversaries] to know what my real thinking is.”
The flamboyant Republican front-runner said he would use better trade deals to negotiate with China regarding tensions in the South China Sea, but he declined to be more specific about his strategy.
The business mogul appeared more adept at dodging serious questions than providing specifics in the rambling 100 minute-long interview. [New York Daily News, 3/26/16]
Wash. Post's Eugene Robinson: “Trump's Shocking Ignorance” On Foreign Policy “Laid Bare” By Interview. Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote on March 24 that Trump's “breathtaking” ignorance on foreign policy matters is “truly frighten[ing].” Robinson said Trump was particularly “vague and vapid” “on foreign affairs,” and asserted, “The Republican Party is likely to nominate for president a man who appears to know next to nothing about the issues that would confront him in the job”:
Donald Trump's ignorance of government policy, both foreign and domestic, is breathtaking. The Republican Party is likely to nominate for president a man who appears to know next to nothing about the issues that would confront him in the job.
Such a sweeping condemnation may sound unfair. I wouldn't be surprised if Trump were already busy tweeting that I'm a “dummy” or something. But if you read the transcript of Trump's hour-long meeting with the editorial board of The Post, which took place Monday, I don't see how you can come to any other conclusion.
I should note that I'm not a member of the board and therefore did not attend. But The Post published a full transcript , and it is one of the most chilling documents I've read in a long time.
On foreign affairs, Trump was even more vague and vapid. Asked about the future of NATO, he was skeptical of the Cold War's most vital alliance. He complained that we devote “hundreds of billions of dollars to supporting other countries that are, in theory, wealthier than we are.”
Called on that figure, he dialed it back to mere “billions.” His proposed solution was to “structure a much different deal . . . a much better deal.” I can't help but imagine German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President François Hollande being treated like minor partners in building some luxury condos or a new golf course.
Asked about Russian aggression in Ukraine, Trump said that “other people” should be doing more. Asked about China's bullying actions in the South China Sea, he seemed to indicate he would be prepared to punish the Chinese with a trade war -- but later took it back and said he wanted to be unpredictable. [The Washington Post, 3/24/16]
CNN's Tara Setmayer: Trump's Foreign Policy Positions Show He “Is Wholly Unqualified To Handle The Real Issues Facing America.” CNN political commentator Tara Setmayer called Trump's meeting with the Washington Post editorial board “disastrous,” and said “his answers to very serious questions were unintelligible”:
TARA SETMAYER: Look, all of this, what Donald Trump is doing, he's deflecting from the fact that he is wholly unqualified to handle the real issues facing America. We just had an awful terrorist attack happen in Brussels. Americans died there. People died there. And what is Donald Trump doing? He is up late at night tweeting about insults about women. He also had a disastrous Washington Post editorial board meeting on Monday that's kind of gotten buried in this whole conversation where he was -- his answers to very serious questions were unintelligible, and people need to really pay attention and look at the future of the country. You want to put it in the hands of someone who's a misogynist and who can't get past their impulses to lash out on not only women, but other people? That's scary. [CNN, New Day, 3/25/16]
CNN's David Gregory: “There's A Lot” In Trump's "World View That Is Not Very Well-Defined." On the March 28 edition of CNN's New Day, CNN political analyst David Gregory said “There's a lot” in Trump's “world view that is not very well-defined, including how he would approach some of these very difficult decisions.” Gregory also pointed out that Trump has “been rather cozy in his respect for authoritarianism” in China and Russia:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (HOST): How do you define the Trump doctrine?
DAVID GREGORY: Well, we've actually seen it before. I mean, it goes back to parts of the 19th century and early 20th century. It is an isolationist foreign policy, one in which he thinks that America is getting ripped off in the international order. He does not believe in the liberal world order that frankly was responsible for beating Nazi Germany and winning the Cold War. He thinks that he can create new deals that are more favorable to the United States economically. There's a lot in his world view that is not very well-defined, including how he would approach some of these very difficult decisions. He's also been rather cozy in his respect for authoritarianism, whether it's in China or in other parts of the world, even in Russia. [CNN, New Day, 3/28/16]
The Atlantic's Steve Clemons: Trump's Proposals Show “A Real Ineptitude And Naivety About How Foreign Policy Works.” On the March 27 edition of MSNBC Live, The Atlantic correspondent Steve Clemons slammed Trump's foreign policy “ineptitude and naivety,” criticizing his threat to cut oil purchases from Saudi Arabia for ignoring the “history we have with the Saudis” and “the decades of alliance” between the United States and Saudi Arabia. Clemons ultimately called out Trump for having “no knowledge” of the U.S.-Saudi relationship:
ALEX WITT (HOST): [Trump] said he would support cutting oil purchases from Saudi Arabia unless the Saudis commit ground troops to fight ISIS. Is this a workable proposal?
STEVE CLEMONS: No it's not. I think the Saudis are already out there, but it basically -- what he doesn't seem to have an awareness of throughout this article is the generations, the decades of alliance that we have had often covertly with the Saudis who have been both banker and oil provider in many of the foreign policy deals the United States has done and to walk away -- first to have no knowledge of it, but secondly to think that you can move a nation like Saudi Arabia by manipulating oil purchases to get them to do something shows a real ineptitude and naivety about how foreign policy works and what capital you build with the country over time. So whether you like the Saudis or dislike the Saudis, the fact is we have a history with the Saudis and a mostly cooperative relationship with them that he seems to have no knowledge of whatsoever. [MNSBC, MSNBC Live, 3/27/16]
Daily Beast's Jonathan Alter: Evidenced By His “Dangerous-Sounding” Foreign Policy Interview, “There Are Serious Consequences To A Donald Trump Presidency.” On the March 27 edition of MSNBC Live, Daily Beast columnist Jonathan Alter slammed Trump's “dangerous-sounding” interview with the Times, writing, “There are serious consequences to a Donald Trump presidency” and his lack of knowledge “about major parts of American history” threaten, among other things, “more than four million American jobs,” according to some estimates:
ALEX WITT (HOST): Trump describes his foreign policy worldview as “America First,” saying “we have been disrespected, mocked, and ripped off for many, many years. We will not be ripped off any more. We're going to be friendly with everybody, but we're not going to be taking advantage of by anybody.” So how is that different than isolationism which he takes care to say he does not support. How is that going to fly with Republican voters?
JONATHAN ALTER: Well I think it will fly well with Republican voters, and I think it will be attractive to some people in a general election, but Hillary will point out some of the downside of being isolationist. And “America First” was the major isolationist organization in the United States in the 1930s and early 1940s before Pearl Harbor. I'm not sure Donald Trump knows that. He might have been bullying kids during history class in high school or lording it over them at Fordham in college when he should have been reading history. If he had known anything about major parts of American history, he would know not to use that phrase “America First.” Because what happened, Alex, was that those isolationists who were members of America First, they were proven horribly wrong. They wanted to appease Adolf Hitler by saying no, it's none of our business what goes on in Europe. Let's just stay here in the United States and not worry about it. And we know what happened with that policy. So it is a kind of isolationism. The reason he says he is not isolationist is that he would retaliate big time any time somebody insulted him, which would happen probably on day two of his presidency. This was a very dangerous-sounding interview. He talked about basically nuclearizing Asia by letting other Asian countries develop nuclear weapons.
WITT: Japan and South Korea, specifically
ALTER: This is not a good idea. He talked about essentially abandoning Saudi Arabia. If we think things are unstable in the Middle East right now, wait until Saudi Arabia gets cut loose. then suddenly our oil supplies are disrupted and all kinds of other bad things happen. If we have a trade war. there are Wall Street estimates that are reliable that it would cost more than four million American jobs. We would have unemployment going well past 10 percent. There are serious consequences to a Donald Trump presidency. It's hard to see what all of them were in that interview, because you had to really look closely. But they were there. The warning signs were there in that session with The New York Times. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 3/27/16]
Newsday's Ellis Henican: “When It Comes To Foreign Policy, Donald Trump, He's Just Saying Stuff.” On the March 28 edition of MSNBC's First Look, Newsday columnist Ellis Henican ripped Trump's lack of foreign policy expertise, saying “I'm not sure that ... he's really thought about it that much,” and that “he's just saying stuff.” Henican further added that he and others are still “waiting for the list” of Trump's “best and brightest” foreign policy advisers:
BETTY NGUYEN (HOST): [Trump's interview] leads some to wonder, can he back up some of the claims that he says while he's out there on the campaign trail?
ELLIS HENICAN: Betty, I think when it comes to foreign policy Donald Trump, he's just saying stuff.
HENICAN: I'm not sure that he's pro-nuclear, or anti-nuclear, or he's really thought about it that much. I mean, this is a new realm for him, don't forget. And I just think he's just -- he's just saying stuff.
NGUYEN: Well, I mean, but a lot of people are really voting, and will be voting, on what he says, so is this a businessman who thinks, OK, I'm going to comment, I'm going to elect people, I'm going to nominate people, I'm going to get people around me who are smart and who know how to handle this?
HENICAN: You know, I wish. I mean, that would be a good answer. But then we saw this group of folks that he gathered as his, I guess, sort of foreign policy advisers, and even a lot of Republicans are kind of scratching their head, like where did all these guys come from? It's not like, so far at least, we've gotten the best and the brightest of the foreign policy establishment.
NGUYEN: But that's what he's touting, that he's going to have the best and the brightest.
HENICAN: I keep hearing that. But I gotta tell you, we're all still sort of waiting for the list. [MSNBC, First Look, 3/28/16]
CNN's Christiane Amanpour: Trump's Foreign Policy “Doesn't Make Sense When He Talks About” NATO, And He “Puts On Its Head Decades Of The United States And Its Pacific Allies' Security Relationship.” On the March 28 edition of CNN's CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, CNN anchor and chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour explained how Trump was wrong about the U.S. relationship with NATO and Asian allies:
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: [Donald Trump] always comes back to the dollars and cents. So, America's broke, therefore, America's weak. These are not true, right, so everybody else has to pony up. This is a businessman's view of the world, presumably. But it doesn't make sense when he talks about, for instance, NATO. NATO is not obsolete. Yes, NATO was created 60-plus years ago in response to the Soviet threat. But still, NATO is the organizing principle by which American and the Western democracies' security is taken care of. And NATO is not just about the United States putting money in. It's about all the other countries putting in their two percent of GDP as well. Now, they don't all, that's true, and America wants them to put more than they do right now. But a good number, nearly half of the NATO countries, put their two percent of GDP in. And the other countries do certain things that America doesn't do. Now, America, because it is the most powerful military in the world, does a lot of the heavy lifting. You know, you have a military operation and America will do the troop lifting, for instance. Or it will do, you know, many of those kinds of things. But many of the other countries, whether it's in Afghanistan or elsewhere, pick up a huge lot of the burden as well.
BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): What about his point on nukes, how he said specifically he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals so they can protect themselves from North Korea and China?
AMANPOUR: Well again, that puts on its head decades of the United States and its Pacific allies' security relationship, and this is one of the first times we've heard a serious candidate, if not the first time, who will probably be the nominee for the Republican Party, put that forward, and it's not a Republican sort of point of view that I've ever heard in previous elections. This poor me, America's weak kind of thing is not the way Republicans generally see their view, and Americans' view in the world. So one of the reasons why Japan does not have a nuclear arsenal is because of the horror that Japan committed during the Second World War. So Japan has been kind of forced to be a pacifist, pretty much, state. It has a military but it's not an offensive military capability. And so there was a tradeoff. OK, you trade that off. And if there's a problem, we'll come to your rescue. But in the meantime, you'll help us keep the peace in many other ways in that region. So that's one of the reasons why Japan doesn't have nukes. And then of course, well, when it comes to ISIS and all the other things, you need allies to be able to go and help you. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Brooke Baldwin, 3/28/16]
NYT Editorial Board: Trump's “Disturbing” Foreign Policy Views Are “Contradictory And Shockingly Ignorant.” On March 28, the New York Times editorial board criticized Trump's “disturbing” foreign policy views as “contradictory and shockingly ignorant.” The board wrote that Trump described “a completely unhinged view of international engagement that denigrates Muslims and other foreigners and international organizations”:
Donald Trump might use nuclear weapons to go after Islamic State terrorists. Or maybe not. In a recent spate of interviews, including with The Times, he was unable or unwilling to clarify his disturbing views on this and other critical national security issues, which sometimes shift from one minute to the next.
Mr. Trump is confronting most of these issues for the first time, and many of his thoughts are contradictory and shockingly ignorant. In speaking with The Times, for instance, he complained that one problem with the Iran nuclear deal is that American businesses are now losing out to Europe on lucrative deals with Iran. He did not know that that is because Congress has insisted on keeping American sanctions in place.
Mr. Trump claims he is not an isolationist and wants to “make America great again.” It is hard to see how he achieves that when he describes a completely unhinged view of international engagement that denigrates Muslims and other foreigners and international organizations, including the United Nations. Mostly, his vision of cooperation with allies depends largely on how much they would pay the United States for protection. [The New York Times, 3/28/16]
Foreign Policy Experts Agree: “Trump's Foreign Policy Is A Disaster”
Daniel Drezner: Trump “Did Not Offer Much In The Way Of Clarity” On His Foreign Policy Positions. In a March 22 post, Tufts University international politics professor and Washington Post PostEverything blog contributor Daniel Drezner criticized Trump for “contradicting” himself on world affairs, asking “why should any person, foreign or American, trust anything you say about foreign policy?” (emphasis original):
Are you fully aware that people record your words and can tell when you contradict yourself? This is from the close of your AIPAC speech:
You see, what President Obama gets wrong about deal making is that he constantly applies pressure to our friends and rewards our enemies. That pattern, practiced by the President and his administration, including former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has repeated itself over and over and has done nothing but embolden those who hate America.
OK, so you're opposed to pressuring America's friends and don't want to reward America's enemies. Fair enough! But can you then explain the following things you said to The Washington Post's editorial board?
Well if you look at Germany, if you look at Saudi Arabia, if you look at Japan, if you look at South Korea -- I mean we spend billions of dollars on Saudi Arabia, and they have nothing but money. And I say, why? Now I would go in and I would structure a much different deal with them, and it would be a much better deal. When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can't afford to do this. Certainly we can't afford to do it anymore....
I think the distribution of costs has to be changed. I think NATO as a concept is good, but it is not as good as it was when it first evolved. And I think we bear the, you know, not only financially, we bear the biggest brunt of it. Obama has been stronger on the Ukraine than all the other countries put together, and those other countries right next door to the Ukraine. And I just say we have, I'm not even knocking it, I'm just saying I don't think it's fair, we're not treated fair. I don't think we're treated fair, Charles, anywhere. If you look everything we have. You know, South Korea is very rich. Great industrial country. And yet we're not reimbursed fairly for what we do. We're constantly, you know, sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games, doing other. We're reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.
Germany, Saudi Arabia, Japan, and South Korea have been America's friends for decades. When you talk about renegotiating deals with these countries -- not to mention our NAFTA partner Mexico -- aren't you promising to apply even greater pressure to America's friends than President Obama? And maybe, just maybe, does your past praise of Vladimir Putin offer succor to one of America's geopolitical rivals? Can you see how you're contradicting yourself?
What is the point of asking you any substantive questions about foreign policy? You said to the Post's editorial board that any discrepancies could be cleared up with a brief phone call. But consider your myriad flip-flops on the H1-B visa question. Or consider that your AIPAC speech flatly contradicted what you said last month in an MSNBC town hall. What could you say in a brief phone call -- besides “I don't know what I'm talking about” -- that would clarify these inconsistencies? Why should any person, foreign or American, trust anything you say about foreign policy? [The Washington Post, 3/22/16]
Council On Foreign Relations' Max Boot: Trump “Represents The No. 1 Security Threat To The United States Today.” On March 27, the Council on Foreign Relations' Max Boot argued that “Trump is the most radical and most ignorant major-party presidential candidate in our history”:
Some have dismissed my assertion that Donald Trump represents the No. 1 security threat to the United States today as “hyperbole.” It's not. It's simply reality--because Trump is the most radical and most ignorant major-party presidential candidate in our history. Examples both characteristics were on ample display during his latest foreign policy interview with the New York Times.
All you have to know about Trump is that he proudly asserts that his foreign policy is “America First.” When Ted Cruz used the same description, one could imagine it was a dog whistle because this Princeton and Harvard Law graduate presumably knows that “America First” was the isolationist, Nazi-sympathizing movement led by Charles Lindbergh before World War II. In Trump's case it's no doubt an accurate reflection of his quasi-isolationist philosophy and also of his almost limitless ignorance. He probably hasn't heard of the original “America First,” and now seems eager to repeat all of its errors. For example he called NATO--the most successful alliance in history and one that is still vital to America's defense--“obsolete.” Spoken like a true, if unconscious, disciple of Lindbergh.
Trump thinks that lack of predictability is a virtue while ignoring the need for predictability in international affairs. In the Times interview, asked for policy specifics regarding China policy, he said, “There's such, total predictability of this country, and it's one of the reasons we do so poorly. You know, I'd rather not say that. I would like to see what they're doing.” One suspects that his praise of unpredictability is merely a tactic so that he doesn't have to provide answers that he doesn't have. But if he's serious, he is trying to emulate Richard Nixon's “madman” theory. Nixon thought that by suggesting he was capable of anything, even irrational acts, he would coerce North Vietnam into ending its aggression against South Vietnam. It didn't work then, and won't work now.
In sum, it is hard to come away from his Times interview--which comes just a week after his interview with the Washington Post editorial board, which was just as bizarre--without concluding that Trump is singularly unqualified to be commander-in-chief. Handing him the nuclear codes would be the riskiest and most irresponsible act imaginable. With Trump in command, our enemies would have a field day--Moscow and Beijing must be licking their chops at his desire to abandon U.S. allies in Europe and Asia--and our friends would face mortal threats. If that isn't the single biggest threat to U.S. security, I don't know what is. [Commentary, 3/27/16]
McCain Institute's Erik Brattberg: Trump's “Doctrine” Is A “Radical Departure” From U.S. Foreign Policy. In a March 24 CNBC.com piece, McCain Institute senior fellow Erik Brattberg argued that Trump's “scapegoating of allies and isolationist rhetoric” amounts to “lousy foreign policy for the United States”:
Make no mistake: Donald Trump's foreign policy doctrine marks a radical departure from the bipartisan consensus view held in Washington since the end of the Second World War. While Trump has so far offered few foreign policy details -- other than the familiar statements about building a Mexican border wall and imposing extreme tariffs on Chinese trade -- a recent interview in the Washington Post shed new light on how The Donald views the world and America's role in it.
Trump's foreign policy in general, and his views of Europe and NATO in particular, mark a radical departure from generations of previous U.S. presidents and would mark a return to the isolationist policies of the 1930s.
While the scapegoating of allies and isolationist rhetoric may make for good soundbites on the campaign trail, it is a lousy foreign policy for the United States to pursue -- particularly when geopolitical turbulence and instability is on the rise across the globe. Rather than withdrawing from the world, better U.S. leadership and deepened engagement with its allies and partners is needed to tackle these complex 21st century challenges. NATO should be at the very heart of these efforts. [CNBC.com, 3/24/16]
This post has been updated to include additional examples.