Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump says he is being intentionally vague on foreign policy.
“I don’t want them to know what I’m thinking, does that make sense?” Trump said in Oklahoma last week. “I want people to be guessing… I don’t want people to figure it out. I don’t want people to know what my plan is, I have plans. I have plans.”
But if Trump’s 2000 campaign book, The America We Deserve is any indication, then we already known exactly what his foreign policy would be. Trump devotes an entire chapter is his book to it.
In it, Trump proposes a number of policies, among them are striking North Korea, Iraq, and Iran if they build nuclear bombs and getting tough on China (he doesn’t really say how). Trump proposes taking U.S. troops out of Europe and not sending troops to intervene in humanitarian disasters unless there’s a clear threat to the United States.
Here are the highlights:
Trump was against nuclear nonproliferation treaties, saying only the U.S. would obey it:
We’re flirting with the same kind of mistake now in debating the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. All the major powers may sign such a treaty, but no one will obey it but us. I oppose such agreements for the same reason I oppose gun controls— when weapons are banned, only the outlaws have them.
Trump praised President Ronald Reagan for his role in ending the Cold War.
Many of my friends still wince at the mention of Reagan. They can’t face the fact that he proved them wrong about a lot of things. Here was a man dismissed as an amateur and practically a public menace—remember when Reagan was “the cowboy” about to get us into nuclear war?— who was bold enough to announce that the communist world could not only be contained but also defeated. These days they like to ascribe his achievements to luck. But that’s nonsense. Nobody’s luck is that good. No, Reagan won because he believed in America, and believed in toughing it out, even when under fire from his critics. He had the nerve to craft his policies toward dominance, always with his eye out for the right deal. Reagan recognized in Gorbachev a man willing to shake things up— primarily because Gorbachev was smart enough to see that his country was already well down the tubes. Anybody who believes that the Berlin Wall would have come down if Móndale were elected in 1984 doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously.
Trump saw the rise of China as the U.S.’s biggest “long-term challenge.”
Our biggest long-term challenge will be China. Obviously China isn’t the miserable place it was under Chairman Mao. But the massacre at Tiananmen Square was only ten years ago and, despite the world’s outrage, the Chinese people still have few political rights to speak of. China is a different place today and we should all be grateful for that. The Chinese people certainly are. Chinese government leaders, though they concede little, desperately want us to invest in their country. Though we have the upper hand, we’re way too eager to please the Chinese. We see them as a potential market and we tend to curry favor with them even at the expense of our own national interests. Our China policy under Presidents Clinton and Bush has been aimed at changing the Chinese regime by incentives both economic and political. The intention has been good, but it’s clear to me that the Chinese have been getting far too easy a ride.
Trump was big on taking on China, saying we should use our economic influence to get them to change the country’s restrictive human rights policies. He was, however, short of prescriptions on how to do this.
We have to make it absolutely clear that we’re willing to trade with China, but not to trade away our principles, and that under no circumstances will we keep our markets open to countries that steal from us. If that means losing some big contracts to the French or Germans or whomever, so be it. American foreign policy needs to open the doors for American trade, and not the other way around. Principles and national self-interest here speak with the same voice. There are some things more important than profits, and one of them is our own national security. Let’s make money in China, but let’s do it the smart way.
Trump said American foreign policy was obsessed with crisis, going from one small crisis to the next, citing Kosovo, Iraq, and Osama bin Laden.
Instead of one looming crisis hanging over us, we face a bewildering series of smaller crises, flash points, standoffs, and hot spots. We’re not playing the chess game to end all chess games anymore. We’re playing tournament chess— one master against many rivals. One day we’re all assured that Iraq is under control, the UN inspectors have done their work, everything’s fine, not to worry. The next day the bombing begins. One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan. He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.
Trump said North Korea was the biggest short term problem. He blasted the Clinton administration’s nuclear deal with North Korea in 1994.
China is our biggest long-term challenge, but in the short term the biggest menace is North Korea. North Korea exports exactly one thing to the rest of the world— trouble. Just about anywhere America is threatened— by terrorists, by the spread of nuclear weapons and missile technology, you name it— we can count on the folks in Pyongyang to have a hand in it. This is no secret. So you have to wonder why our policy toward North Korea is so weak-minded.
Trump said he would have bombed North Korea to stop them from getting a nuclear bomb.
What would I do in North Korea? Fair question. It’s easy to point out the problem, but what should we do to solve it? Am I ready to bomb this reactor? You’re damned right. When the Israelis bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor they were condemned by the world community. But they did what they had to do to survive. The Korean nuclear capability is a direct threat to the United States. As an experienced negotiator, I can tell you that negotiation with these madmen will be fruitless once they have the ability to lob a nuclear missile into Chicago, Los Angeles, or New York. I don’t advocate a thermonuclear war, but if negotiations fail, I advocate a surgical strike against these outlaws before they pose a real threat.
Trump praised President George Herbert Walker Bush for the Gulf War, but said he wished he had finished the job. Trump said this was an example of using American power.
We can learn something here from George Bush and see how good a president he was. He wasn’t afraid to use American power when he figured out that Saddam Hussein posed a direct threat to American interests in the East. I only wish, however, that he had spent three more days and properly finished the job. It is this kind of will and determination to use our strength strategically that America needs again in dealing with the North Koreans.
Trump cited Saddam Hussein building nuclear and chemical weapon facilities as an example of a threat that we might need to take out.
I’m no warmonger. But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.
The Trump doctrine advocated both deal making and surgical preemptive strikes on people building nuclear weapons.
Am I being contradictory here, by presenting myself as a deal-maker and then recommending preemptive strikes? I don’t think so. There’s nothing really comparable to unleashing a squadron of bombers, but in the world of business sometimes you have to make quick, secret, decisive moves in order to gain a negotiating advantage . I’ve done so a number of times, in getting around the objections of would-be landmarks preservation people, in gaining the advantage in trying to secure air rights or a piece of property.
Trump was very pro-Israel.
Why do we have this special relationship? It is not out of charity, guilt, or what some who would attack these bonds have called the political pressure of “ethnic lobbies.” We have been there for Israel, as for England, because Israel is there for us. Israel is a stable democratic ally in a region filled with instability and dictatorship. It is an “unsinkable aircraft carrier” for America’s interests and values, from the United Nations to the Mediterranean.
Trump thought America’s policy toward Russia was “timid.”
What I don’t understand is why American policymakers are always so timid in dealing with Russia on issues that directly involve our survival. Kosovo was a perfect case in point: Russia was holding out its hand for billions of dollars in IMF loans (to go along with the billions in aid the U.S. has given) the same week that it was issuing threats and warnings regarding our conduct in the Balkans. Imagine if you were at a bank and, while your loan officer was reviewing your application for funds, you took the opportunity to berate him on some unrelated matter. That’s basically what Russia was doing. A lot of countries do the same thing. They rely on our generosity on the one hand, while undermining us on the other. We need to tell Russia and other recipients that if they want our dime they had better do our dance, at least in matters regarding our national security. These people need us much more than we need them. We have leverage, and we are crazy not to use it to better advantage.
Trump did not want to end the Cuban embargo or normalize relations. He thought the Castro regime was on the ropes and a tougher policy was needed.
I was asked to write my views on Castro for the Miami Herald in June of 1999. I said, in part, that I understood the arguments for lifting the Cuban embargo. The cold war is over, Castro is on the ropes. Pumping money into his economy would benefit the long-suffering masses. This is the way, some people argue , to “open up” Cuba: export democracy; this is how to promote entrepreneurship and independence from the state. Each of those arguments is bogus. Cuba will be freed by ideas, not by rapacious businessmen lining Castro’s pockets and propping up his oppressive regime.
Trump didn’t think the U.S. had a role in deploying troops for humanitarian reasons.
Fact one: We don’t have a dog in most of the world’s dogfights. That’s not to say our hearts don’t go out to people whose countries are being ravaged by war. Far from it. Our hearts do go out to them, and so does a lot of U.S. humanitarian aid. But we have no business, and certainly no right, to intervene in conflicts just because we don’t like to see innocent people being killed or dislocated. Just after we started bombing the European capital of Belgrade, a poll came out saying that a majority of Americans thought it was our “right” to get into this longstanding and bloody dispute. I disagree.
Trump only wanted to intervene in conflicts if there was a direct threat to the U.S.
My rules of engagement are pretty simple. If we are going to intervene in a conflict it had better pose a direct threat to our interest— one definition of “direct” being a threat so obvious that most Americans will know where the hot spot is on the globe and will quickly understand why we are getting involved. The threat should be so direct that our leaders, including our president, should be able to make the case clearly and concisely, which has certainly not been the case regarding the terrible events in Yugoslavia.
Trump wanted to take U.S. troops out of Europe.
Pulling back from Europe would save this country millions of dollars annually. The cost of stationing NATO troops in Europe is enormous, and these are clearly funds that can be put to better use. Our allies don’t seem to appreciate our presence anyway. We pay for the defense of France yet they vote against us at the United Nations and choose the side of the North Koreans, the Libyans, and other rogue nations.
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