Last week Donald Trump laid out a deeply disturbing view of America’s role in the world.
The Trump Doctrine – if we can call this mass of contradictions a doctrine – embraces isolationism while simultaneously insisting Trump can swiftly destroy the Islamic State. It suggests we should abandon our closest allies, the democracies in NATO and Asia, even as Trump embraces autocrats like Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But what is scariest about the Trump Doctrine is that its author shows no grasp of what he is talking about and no desire to learn, even as he makes clear his belief that he, and he alone, knows everything. The key line in Trump’s dark acceptance speech at the Republican convention went like this: “Nobody knows the system better than I, which is why I alone can fix it.”
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This is the statement of a demagogue who will do tremendous harm to U.S. security if given the chance. Let us count the ways that Trump’s message will, and already has, made America less safe:
First, his apocalyptic speech painted a dark, scary portrait of America that is grist for Russian and Chinese (and Islamic State) propaganda mills that claim the American system is finished as a global model.
Yet Trump has falsely defamed his own country. Contrary to his claims, the U.S. economy is doing well, unemployment is down, and serious urban crime, while undergoing a 2015 uptick in some cities, is down in many urban areas and has been dropping steadily for over a decade.
Second, Trump’s praise for autocrats, and disrespect for his own democracy, further feeds the Russian-Chinese-Islamic State narrative that liberal democracies are headed for history’s dustbin. In a scary foreign policy interview with the New York Times, Trump expressed admiration for only two foreign leaders. The first was Putin, who pulls all the strings in Russia, sends opponents to Siberia (if they are not mysteriously murdered), and is trying to imitate a Russian tsar. “I think Putin and I will get along very well,” he told the Times.
The second was Erdogan, who wants to reclaim the past glories of an Ottoman sultan. He has used a failed coup as an excuse to round up tens of thousands of civilians, including anyone who might ever oppose him, behavior that Trump refused to criticize. Even before the coup attempt, the Turkish leader had silenced leading opposition media by using draconian libel laws that bankrupted critical newspapers. Trump has said he would tighten U.S. libel laws if elected (First Amendment be damned).
Third, Trump promotes an America First isolationism that will convince the world that our country is a spent power. He has undercut key alliances with Europe, Japan and South Korea, which will thrill Russia and China as they try to dominate their neighbors.
Last week Trump said he might not honor the essential pledge to come to the aid of a NATO member under attack if that state had not “fulfilled their obligations to us.” He also suggested he might bring troops home from Japan and South Korea, which would strengthen China’s effort to dominate the region and increase the North Korean threat there.
Trump made clear to the Times that he sees little value in those alliances, especially if they protect countries with whom America has a trade imbalance. In other words, to Trump – a man whose deals often enriched him even as creditors were left hanging – our key security alliances are meaningless if they don’t turn a profit. (He also appears ignorant of the fact the Japan pays heavily for the cost of U.S. bases.)
This is the man who says he will make America safe.
Fourth, this level of ignorance pervades most of Trump’s foreign policy positions. Example: He talks of starting a massive trade war with China but seems to have no appreciation of the cost to America in lost exports and jobs (not to mention the fact that such a war would probably shut down Wal-Mart, which depends on cheap Chinese imports and is where much of Trump’s base shops).
Fifth, in foreign (as well as domestic) policy, Trump makes promises he can’t possibly keep. There won’t be a wall along our southern border paid for by Mexico nor can he deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. Nor will Trump be able to instantly vanquish the Islamic State as he claims.
So I can’t help wondering what a President Trump would tell the U.S. public when he is revealed as a charlatan. Probably he will blame his failure on internal enemies. That’s what Putin does, blaming “traitors” who undermine Mother Russia. That’s what Erdogan does, blaming “traitors,” including the Kurds and a cleric in Pennsylvania, and America.
We know the Donald already has a long enemies list that includes blacks, Hispanics, the media and anyone who crosses him. His angry followers, including the racists and crazies who have been mainstreamed by his campaign, would no doubt vent their anger on these traitors.
The one person Trump is unlikely to blame for the security debacle that will follow his election would be himself.
Trudy Rubin’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.