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Coming off a string of victories in the so-called Acela state primaries two weeks ago, GOP presidential candidate presumptive Donald J. Trump made what he described as a major foreign policy speech. Critics have blasted the effort as being short on details and long on generalities but, as ever, one’s perspective pretty much depends on what one expects or wants to hear. I admire Trump for two reasons. First is his uncompromising stance on illegal immigrants, which I fully support, and second is his willingness to challenge Republican orthodoxy on foreign policy by condemning the Iraq War and opposing nation building and military intervention overseas.
I wanted to hear two things on foreign policy: that Donald Trump is indeed committed to military non-intervention in other countries except in those rare instances where vital national interests are at stake and also that the United States would pursue a course of positive engagement with Vladimir Putin and Russia. I was not disappointed.
Trump actually used the words “peace” and “peaceful” a number of times, something that has been missing from GOP rhetoric for many years. He said that he would “view the world through the clear lens of American interests,” something that he went on to describe as “America First,” adding “Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction…war and aggression will not be my first instinct.” Paraphrasing John Quincy Adams, Trump concluded that “The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies.”
Trump observed that there has been a fixation with policies that are both “foolish and arrogant” that have “led to one foreign policy disaster after another” in places like Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. “It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a western democracy. We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed: civil war.”
This is all good common sense, lambasting the twin plagues of military intervention and democracy promotion, the two false idols that have respectively driven the foreign policies of the GOP and the Democrats. Trump’s comments in those specific areas could have been made by Ron Paul.
Trump went on to observe that “our actions in Iraq, Libya and Syria have helped unleash ISIS.” I would have added that the power vacuums that we have created actually gave birth to ISIS. Regarding Russia and China, he said “We desire to live peacefully and in friendship with Russia and China. We have serious differences with these two nations and must regard them with open eyes. But we are not bound to be adversaries. We should seek common ground based on shared interests…I believe an easing of tensions and improved relations with Russia…is possible.”
On the negative side, Trump took obligatory swipes at Iran and the nuclear agreement negotiated by the Obama Administration, but he did not say that he would seek to terminate the arrangement and the only line he drew was that “Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon,” far less vitriolic than the neocon and conventional Republican demand that Tehran not have the “capability” to do so, which is a threshold that has already been passed and which many have viewed as a carte blanche justification of an immediate attack by the U.S.
Regarding Israel, Trump engaged in the usual American politician speak regarding “the one true democracy in the Middle East” that also serves as a “force for justice and peace.” He also has stated that he would be “neutral” in negotiating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and turned around to endorse continued expansion of Israeli settlements on Arab land. Hopefully he knows better about what is going on in the Middle East or will have advisers who know better and are not afraid to speak the truth. At least he didn’t invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to move in down the hall in the White House on Inauguration Day, which Hillary Clinton has de facto done.
And speaking of Hillary, comparing her record and promises with the Trump speech demonstrates the differences between the two. David Stockman has noted that Hillary “wants to use government to make government great again” while The Donald wants “to use government to make America great again.” Hillary is indeed the favorite candidate of the Welfare-Warfare State Leviathan, a monster that seeks to dominate overseas while simultaneously stripping Americans of their liberties at home.
Hillary’s record is one of unmitigated belligerency. She enthusiastically supported her President-husband’s devastation of the Balkans in the 1990s, a “police action” in which she repeatedly lied about being “under fire” when she arrived on a visit. And she also signed on to the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003 carried out by the George W. Bush Administration.
As Secretary of State, Hillary was the driving force behind “surges” of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in demanding the attacks on Libya and the overthrow of its leader and in the arming of jihadis in Syria to bring about regime change. Bombing Libya was indeed a Hillary project, initiated at her insistence in spite of misgivings by President Barack Obama. The Libyan fiasco led to government arsenals being looted with the weapons making their way to arm local militias and also to Islamic militants in Central Africa. It is widely believed that the four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012 were killed while arranging for weapons transfers to the “moderate rebels” in Syria. If success as a diplomat is measured by the ability to destabilize entire regions, Hillary certainly takes center stage as the finest Secretary of State since Madeleine Albright, who famously declared that killing half a million Iraqi children through sanctions was “worth it.” Albright is currently regarded as Hillary’s closest foreign policy adviser.
Like several of the other women who have surrounded the president as top level advisers, Hillary is an enthusiastic advocate of the “R2P” doctrine, “responsibility to protect.” That means that the Washington can intervene in a foreign country even if that nation’s government in no way threatens the United States. The intervention is based on humanitarian grounds, allegedly to protect the local citizens against their own leaders, but it ironically and inevitably winds up killing mostly civilians in far greater numbers than would have otherwise been the case if there had been no military action. Libya and Syria are perfect examples of R2P on steroids.
Hillary has a team of strongly pro-Israel foreign policy advisers and she has frequently expressed her hostility towards Iran, which she has threatened to “obliterate.” One of her campaign videos includes “Iran seeks the destruction of Israel, Iran is a leading sponsor of terror in the region, Iran is flouting international law with its ballistic missile tests and its threats against our allies and partners.” None of the assertions are actually true.
Regarding the threat from Russia, Hillary has inevitably likened President Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler. She and her neocon acolyte Victoria Nuland were the driving forces behind cranking up the unrest in Ukraine, which eventually exploded into yet another pastel revolution that quickly became mired in corruption before dissolving into something approaching anarchy, which prevails to this day. She nevertheless wants to provide lethal arms to Kiev and also wants to expedite both Ukraine and Georgia joining NATO, even though it is a given that such action would provoke a major crisis with a nuclear armed and militarily quite capable Russia.
Hillary sees the conflict in Syria as an additional opportunity to confront Moscow, just like in the heady days of the Cold War, so she advocates a no-fly zone as a way for American and Russian flyboys to go head to head and is firm in her demand to replace Bashar al-Assad no matter what. She is one tough lady and she wants to make sure than everyone knows it. And of course her role model is Benjamin Netanyahu, who, she has promised, will be invited to join her in Washington as soon as her administration begins work in January.
So if one is concerned with foreign policy the choice between Donald and Hillary is no choice at all. Hillary may have the resume but it is essentially a bad one. If Trump does even a little of what he pledges to do he is a much better deal for the American people, as well as for most of the world, than is Hillary Clinton.