PostHeaderIcon Trump’s Worldview

A really good analysis of Trump’s worldview is now available at, “Trump’s 19th Century Foreign Policy.” The correlation with modern libertarian thought on such matters is remarkable. On the off chance that he could actually be elected POTUS, it is well worth reading and pondering:

One of the most common misconceptions about Donald Trump is that he is opportunistic and makes up his views as he goes along. But a careful reading of some of Trump’s statements over three decades shows that he has a remarkably coherent and consistent worldview, one that is unlikely to change much if he’s elected president. It is also a worldview that makes a great leap backward in history, embracing antiquated notions of power that haven’t been prevalent since prior to World War II.

It is easy to poke fun at many of Trump’s foreign-policy notions—the promises to “take” Iraq’s oil, to extract a kind of imperial “tribute” from U.S. military allies like South Korea, his eagerness to emulate the Great Wall of China along the border with Mexico, and his embrace of old-style strongmen like Vladimir Putin. But many of these views would have found favor in pre-World War II—and even, in some cases, 19th century—America.

In sum, Trump believes that America gets a raw deal from the liberal international order it helped to create and has led since World War II. He has three key arguments that he returns to time and again over the past 30 years. He is deeply unhappy with America’s military alliances and feels the United States is overcommitted around the world. He feels that America is disadvantaged by the global economy. And he is sympathetic to authoritarian strongmen. Trump seeks nothing less than ending the U.S.-led liberal order and freeing America from its international commitments.

Trump has been airing such views on U.S. foreign policy for some time. He even spent $100,000 on a full-page ad in the New York Times in 1987 that had a message remarkably similar to what he is saying today.

The critique that follows is perhaps colored a bit by the alternative worldview of the author, Thomas Wright, a fellow and director of the Project on International Order and Strategy at The Brookings Institution. Yet, he seems fair in that he allows that Trump’s views are coherent and consistent, while comparing them with those of Charles Lindbergh and Robert Taft.

The article conclude with:

The Republican primary of 2016 is shaping up to be the most important party primary since 1940. Lindbergh did not run, of course. But Taft was in with a strong chance. Only the fact that the field was badly divided created an unexpected opening for Wendell Willkie, an internationalist, to emerge as the nominee at the convention. Some of Roosevelt’s advisers were so relieved at Willkie’s nomination that they advised their boss he no longer had to run for an unprecedented—and controversial—third term.

The reason we must revisit 1940 is that Republicans have struggled to find a new north star after Iraq. Except for Rand Paul—whose own brand of libertarian isolationism, unlike Trump’s, didn’t sit well with voters—the establishment candidates were not sure whether they still supported Bush 43’s strategy or opposed it. Most tried to muddle through with a critique of President Barack Obama. Marco Rubio stuck to the ambitious Bush 43 approach but found a declining market. Some, like Ted Cruz, tried to deal with the shift in sentiment by cozying up to pro-American dictators and abandoning support for democracy promotion. Cruz even used the isolationist term America First to describe his foreign policy. But Cruz seems to have thought little and said even less about America’s global role outside the Middle East. Ironically for someone with the reputation of being exceptionally smart, he lacks Trump’s detail and substance.

It is in this vacuum that the long-dormant Taftian foreign policy has made an unexpected comeback in the hands of Trump. What happens next is anybody’s guess. It is hard to see how the Republican foreign policy establishment, which is steeped in American primacy and a U.S.-led international order, endorses an isolationist strain of thinking that has long been presumed dead. A split seems more likely than reconciliation.

In any event, if Hillary Clinton secures the Democratic nomination, as expected, and Trump maintains his huge lead over the GOP field, a Clinton-Trump race would present two starkly different views about America’s global role. For the first time since World War II, Americans will be asked to give their view on the most fundamental question of U.S. foreign policy: Do they want a U.S.-led liberal order or not? Internationalists will have to explain all over again why the United States flourishes and benefits from a healthy international system. Taft and Lindbergh lost before, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the messenger this time.

Regardless of what one thinks of Trump, if the foreign policy views of the Paul family ever struck a chord, it is worth the effort to read the whole thing. ◄Dave►

2 Responses to “Trump’s Worldview”

  • Chris says:

    His views are probably pretty much in line with Obama’s albeit for different reasons. Obama’s view of our world presence hasn’t worked out very well. It’s more complex than it costs us money to be there. Well not really. We would have the troops and weapons anyway whether we had them lining our shores or on a base in Korea. The host countries I would hope at least provide the land the bases are on close to free of charge. If Trump were any kind of business man he would realize the benefit of having a warehouse on the west coast when your company is based on the east coast but you want to ship nation wide. Then there’s the unknown factors. How would lack of a strong military presence in Korea and Japan effect the actions of China for example? Or what might Putin do in Eastern Europe without NATO? Expansionism would become the word of the day. With expansion comes power.

    No, the view of Donald Trump is actually a globalist view. In the end it would let the major power in a region control that region. The world would become three or four superpowers operating in their own spheres. For a while anyway.

    • No, the view of Donald Trump is actually a globalist view.

      I don’t know Chris he appears to me to be more anti-globalist to me. I could be wrong but I think that is his appeal to most who like or support him.

      I suppose an argument could be made about him being genuine.
      That being said I have seen nothing so far in his past videos (like 10 years back) that make him supporting what I consider a global world.

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