Donald Trump gave a grown-up foreign policy speech yesterday, which was of course immediately dismissed as contradictory and insubstantial. And yet, much of his address made sense. Most significant, perhaps, is that Trump buttoned up his bluster, used a Teleprompter and stayed on script, showing that he can indeed polish up his image. Good for him – he didn’t call Putin a thug, or criticize Angela Merkel’s face. Notwithstanding his unusual restraint, Trump was blasted for inconsistencies in his address. The New York Times, for instance, mocks “Mr. Trump’s Strange World View.” This, from the same people who pretend that the “Obama Doctrine” exists.
Trump was critized for the following: “Saying he will strengthen the military but also vowing not to send troops into harm’s way unless “there is no alternative.” I see no contradiction here. If you believe that strength begets peace, and that Ronald Reagan was able to crush the Soviet Union by sparking an arms race – Trump’s approach makes sense. The point of having the strongest military on earth is that you gain advantage over your enemies. Obama has never understood that. When you draw a line in the sand, it has impact only if your foes believe you will back it up, and that you have the resources to do so. If you falter, that emboldens your adversaries, as we have seen.
Promising to be “unpredictable” but also consistent. I think what Trump was suggesting is that the constant broadcasting of military build-ups or initiatives has undermined their effectiveness. Every time we undertake a new offensive in Syria or in Afghanistan, the details are published everywhere. What purpose does that serve, other than to give ISIS or other parties plenty of time to regroup and protect their positions?
Trump says he will use “leverage” over the Chinese to make them rein in North Korea, a promise The Times ridicules. And yet, Obama has arguably given the Chinese free rein on many issues in exchange for their questionable collaboration in fighting climate change. The business community has pressed government for two decades to look the other way as they attempt to capitalize on the growth of a giant new market and take advantage of cheap Chinese labor. The U.S. has ignored China’s ongoing theft of trade secrets and cyber intrusions, human rights violations and military belligerence. Today, the Chinese have serious problems – a slowing economy, peaking workforce and towering debt. We can and should drive our agenda more forcefully than the Obama White House appears willing to do.
The Times takes Trump to task for saying that ISIS is making millions of dollars selling Libyan oil, a claim for which they say there is no proof. And yet, there are reports today of illicit sales of oil in Eastern Libya, a region dominated by tribal groups opposed to the central government in Tripoli, including ISIS. Specifically, a tanker carrying 650,000 barrels of oil recently departed the region, bound for Malta. Is The Times certain that cargo has no connection to ISIS? Here’s the link to the story
One of the strongest arguments to be made against Hillary Clinton in November is that her foreign policy adventures were remarkably unsuccessful. The Obama White House shut her out of most of the hot spots, and ignored her urging to engage in Syria, but she can claim custody of the deterioration of our relations with Russia, and cannot point to any real diplomatic breakthroughs. Meanwhile, the president she served now heads to Hiroshima in a farewell gesture to Americans who worried he might have missed a stop on his insufferable apology tour.