Reading Donald Trump’s foreign policy interview with David E. Sanger and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times did nothing to inspire my confidence in the Republican nominee. I am tempted to say that Trump’s knowledge of foreign policy is that of a fourth grader, but that would be insulting to your average fourth grader.
Trump’s foreign policy, such as it is, rewards our enemies and punishes our friends. It is one thing to want our NATO allies to pay a greater share of dues to the organization, but that’s the sort of thing that is done behind the scenes. You know diplomacy. Telling our NATO allies, “Congratulations, you will be defending yourself,” is music to Vladimir Putin’s ears. For that matter when Trump asks, “What are we getting out of this?” where it concerns protecting Japan from North Korean missiles is also music to the ears of not only North Korea, but of China which has its own centuries long rivalry with Japan. Such talk would petrify both Japan and South Korea alike.
Trump takes Hillary Clinton to task for being unprepared to walk away from the negotiating table. That is a perfectly legitimate criticism where it concerns the Iran nuclear deal, but for Trump to take that position with Japan, Germany, South Korea and Saudi Arabia (notwithstanding their dubious ways they align against Iran) tells me he cannot discern friend from foe. The Obama Administration has spent 7½ years treating our allies with contempt and our enemies with kid gloves. Trump would adopt Obama’s policy and put it on steroids.
Nor am I encouraged about Trump’s admiration for Turkish President Erdogan (another thing he and Obama share in common). With regard to last week’s failed coup, Trump said of Erdogan, “I give great credit to him for being able to turn that around.” I doubt Trump is aware of how coups have traditionally worked in Turkey. When a civilian government becomes too Islamist, the military steps in, restores order, ensures a return to secular civilian rule. Given Trump’s anti-Muslim tendencies one would think Trump would admire the Turkish military for this trait. But Trump views Erdogan as a strong horse and thus has his admiration despite his admonition to the West nearly a decade ago that “there is no moderate or immoderate Islam, there is only Islam and that’s it.”
When questioned about Erdogan’s massive arrests of civilians and arbitrary replacement of the judiciary, all Trump could say is, “When the world looks at how bad the United States is, and then we go and talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.” That statement is reminiscent of when President Obama declared following the fraudulent Iranian “elections” in 2009, “It is not productive, given the history of US-Iranian relations to be seen as meddling – the US president, meddling in Iranian elections.” But even Obama has never uttered the phrase “When the world look how bad the United States is”. Trump is engaging in the sort of anti-American denunciation that would make Noam Chomsky proud. If this country is as bad as Trump’s suggests it is then why does he need to build a wall along Mexico? If we were truly this bad then no one would want to immigrate here – legally or illegally.
When Trump pointed out that he was a fan of the Kurds, Sanger pointed out that Erdogan was most certainly not. Sanger then asked how he would resolve longstanding tensions between the Turks and the Kurds, Trump replied, “Meetings.” Well, good luck in getting Erdogan to the table especially if Trump goes through with his Muslim immigration and travel ban.
Haberman pressed Trump on how he would renegotiate NAFTA. Apart from quoting his stump speech, the best he could say was “you’ve got to be fair to the country.” If Trump’s idea of fairness is that U.S. capital cannot be invested outside the country without his permission then we have truly become a banana republic. Let’s also consider that NAFTA was originally known as the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. If Trump wants to put the kibosh on NAFTA then what of our largest trading partner? I wonder if Trump is even aware that Canada is a party to NAFTA.
No Trump interview would be complete without at least one fib. When Sanger told Trump he had been complimentary of Putin he said, “No! No, I haven’t.” Recall that Trump said of Putin last December on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country.” If that isn’t complimentary of Putin then what it is it? Trump then twice told Sanger that Putin had been complimentary of him. Why does Trump take so much pride that Putin has praised him? Why does he delight in being praised by tyrants? Is it because he aspires to not only be a tyrant, but the best tyrant of all?
Of course, Trump is not alone when it comes to bad foreign policy. Hillary Clinton’s has put bad foreign policy into practice during her tenure as Secretary of State. Yet it was Trump who praised Hillary’s performance as “above and beyond everybody else” in August 2013. So in Trump’s mind, Hillary was “above and beyond everybody else” as Secretary of State after Benghazi.
Say what you will about Ted Cruz. He has never described Hillary Clinton’s performance as Secretary of State as “above and beyond everybody else.”