Monday, 17 October 2016

Donald Trump and Foreign Policy

I could vote for Donald Trump and I shall consider a future post to validate my reason for this, but whenever I consider the role America plays in the world, I am predisposed to view it through the prism of foreign affairs; such is the importance I place on world and international order. Those familiar with my past though still active blog, American Interests, will recall its central premise:
“ … for all intents and purposes, present “World Order” is stable and predictable in part due to the economic, technological, military and diplomatic superpower that is, The United States. Amongst the masses, it seems largely unacknowledged that it is in the world's greatest interests that the U.S. continues to exact its present worldly economic, political, cultural and military influence, one that extends to leadership in scientific and technological research and the production of innovative technological products. Our democratic way of life, our economies and our national security, are irrevocably tied to a secure world order - an order to which present-day United States, even with its notable imperfections, is at the heart, as the pre-eminent driver of internationalism … America must remain strong.” 
From the same source see also: Like it or not, we still need America

Accordingly, I have concerns about Donald Trump but not for the common rationale associated with misogynist antics – not that I condone the latter.

Trump has made it known that he would re-negotiate the U.S. alliance with Japan, South Korea and NATO – he has not specifically named my homeland Australia, but is on the record that the U.S. has no interest in being in Asia militarily. A Trump victory would see existing U.S. allies have to plan for a withdrawal of security guarantees that have stood the test of modern time and even markets would react adversely at the prospect on protectionism policies. Many Americans, and this group includes Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders supporters, would welcome an isolationist America with significantly reduced military and economic engagement but they do not grasp the consequences of their desire.

Going back to Donald Trump, he describes “Opposition to America’s alliance arrangements, opposition to free trade, and support for authoritarianism, particularly in Russia as his, “three core beliefs’.

We know America cannot solve all the problems of the globe, but Trump completely rejects that his country should be the world’s police officer, indeed Obama has a similar viewpoint but the former goes much further by suggesting that the U.S. does not even need to be involved in enforcing international law and order in its present definition. Trump has also questioned nuclear non-proliferation, mutual self-defence treaties and overseas military bases. Trump’s view cannot be further from Clinton’s who remains committed to the current system who recently said:
“are we going to lead the world with strength and in accordance with our values … I intend to be a leader … both here and around the world, to make decisions that will further peace … stand up to bullies” (Russia), “whether they’re abroad or at home”. 
As for Clinton, those hoping for a continuation of the existing Obama order will be disappointed.

Obama has demonstrated a degree of Trump like isolationism, through lukewarm responses to regional issues which have left a security vacuum, and when that happens the “bad guys” are always there to fill the void. While America stuttered, Putin attacked the Ukraine and has since launched a reckless campaign in Syria, attacked Georgia and annexed Crimea - some 18 months before the outbreak of WW2, Germany on March 12, 1938, annexed Austria and so it went.

While the globe is nowhere near as violent as it was a century ago at the height of WW1, we live in a moment of increasing uncertainty in a time of Obama crafted American self-doubt. Hope for a benign multi polar world is shallow, America can stay in insolation as Trump advocates or rise to the challenge to secure both the international order and security it first created and the world still desperately needs.

As a further adjunct to my argument, we need also consider the foreign policy questions that Trump especially, has failed to address during the campaign.
  • China has been increasingly aggressive over territorial claims in the South China Sea and assuming de facto control of key maritime passageways in the face of international law violation. How are we (America) going to prevent China from dominating the region?
  • What are the priorities for Syria? Ending the civil war, curtailing Russian influence and aggression or fighting Islamic State? Moreover, who are America’s allies in the process – Under Obama this is unknown.
  • The Middle East is a mess; it always was but is getting worse. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, the Syrian humpty dumpty, Israeli Palestinian tensions, how will America address this?
  • On economic matters, America and its population need entitlement programs but how will they tie in with defence and diplomacy? International verses the domestic.
  • Both Clinton but especially Trump has distanced themselves from the Trans Pacific Partnership, which runs contrary to Obama’s hinge to Asia, but what other tools are they advocating?
  • What is the end state of America’s secret war? What secret war you ask? Since 9/11 America has waged an undeclared war mostly via drone strikes and special ops in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and even the Philippines, a war that has killed over 4,000 individuals.
  • How will the U.S. deal with the failed socialist experiment that is Venezuela? No Government money, no food in supermarkets, no medicine in pharmacies…the total collapse of Venezuela is imminent.
  • How will we address the minefield that was Obama’s (even by his own admission) greatest foreign policy failure, Libya? I would add Syria
  • As forces are drawn down in Afghanistan how will the U.S. address the likely return of the Taliban, or the establishment of Al Qaeda or Islamic State safe havens within the nation?
  • Julia Ioffe, a New York Times writer raised a most pertinent question: How do you explain the necessity of American engagement with the world in terms that matter to people who don’t think about foreign policy? We in the bubble of wonkdom take certain things for granted, like why America should care what Vladimir Putin does in Donetsk or Aleppo. But I have yet to hear a compelling, coherent explanation for why anyone in the Rust Belt (or the world at large) should care about the South China Sea. Why is it worth it for Bob and Mary in Des Moines to have some of their tax dollars go into funding Syrian rebels, into funding USAID, or into NATO?
  • Rebuilding internationalism is the central challenge for the next president and it has to be built from the ground up with domestic support from within. In the words of Bruce Jones at Foreign Policy:
“… He or she will have to recover an older argument about America’s role in the world, not an argument based on exceptionalism, but one about global peace the underpinning of an international economy – a role that America need not and should not do alone, but a role that cannot be done without America.”
This and all the above should be but one foreign policy goal and plainly, Trump is not the one to deliver, addressing these issues in silence or not at all will be punishing.

© 2016 Ottavio Marasco. All rights reserved.

Further Reading and Sources:

(Source: CSIS - Centre for Strategic and International Studies: U.S. Wars in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – what are the end states? Working Draft August, 2016 )

(Source: Brookings Institution: Bruce Jones Vice President and Director - Foreign Policy Senior Fellow - Foreign Policy, Project on International Order and Strategy: America’s role in a turbulent World: )

(Source: The Sydney Morning Herald: Peter Hartcher political editor and international editor: United States would be a rogue superpower under Trump: )

(Source: FP: Foreign Policy Magazine: By FP contributers: The .. essential Foreign-Policy Questions Clinton and Trump need to Answer: )

(Source: The Atlantic: Uri Friedman Staff Writer: How Geography explains Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton: )

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