Donald Trump has outlined what The Washington Post describes as “an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs.” Speaking to the paper’s editorial board on Monday, Trump questioned the sacrosanctity of the US’s global military commitments, and asked why Washington is so insistent on leading a potential third world war against Russia.
Trump, in an interview summarized by the Washington Post, “said [that] he advocates a light footprint in the world,” and that “in spite of unrest abroad…the United states must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure.”
When asked about his views on the NATO alliance, Trump explained that while he sees “NATO as a good thing to have,” he doesn’t understand, for example, why the United States has to lead the alliance into dangerous adventurism, which in the case of Ukraine has led to the risk of a direct military confrontation with Russia.
Focusing on the situation in Ukraine, where Washington and Brussels have blamed Russia for the country’s civil war, Trump asked why the countries more directly affected aren’t doing more to try and resolve the conflict.
“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we are doing all of the lifting, they’re not doing anything. Why is it that Germany is not dealing with NATO on Ukraine?…Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war, okay, with Russia?”
More broadly, the Republican frontrunner questioned the economic logic behind Washington’s military commitments across the globe. “NATO is costing us a fortune and yes, we’re protecting Europe, but we’re spending a lot of money.”
The same, he said, is true of US involvement in Korea. “South Korea is [a] very rich, great industrial country, and yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do. We’re constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games –we’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”
Worldwide, Trump suggested, “if you look at Germany, if you look at Saudi Arabia, if you look at Japan, if you look at South Korea – I mean we spend billions of dollars on Saudi Arabia, and they have nothing but money. And I say, why?…When you look at the kind of money that our country is losing, we can’t afford to do this. Certainly we can’t afford to do it anymore.”
Ultimately, the candidate emphasized that while he would not pull the US out of the NATO alliance, at the same time, “the distribution of costs has to be changed.”
Is Trump Being Genuine?
Some analyses, including a commentary by Sputnik, have questioned the true extent of Mr. Trump’s support for non-interventionism, pointing to a list of foreign policy advisers he provided to The Washington Post during his Monday interview.
This team, Sputnik’s commentary said, “includes a string of individuals deeply invested in the military industrial complex.” Subsequently, it concluded, “Trump may claim that he seeks to reign in US adventurism, but based on the records of his chosen advisers, a Trump presidency would likely mean business as usual.”
If this is the case, the question that arises is why the neoconservative elements of the Republican Party are so infuriated with Trump that they are willing to sink their own party’s chances in 2016 in order to stop him.
In op-ed published Monday, paleo-conservative commentator Pat Buchanan pointed to a string of plots by the neocons to steal the nomination from Trump, and failing that, to torpedo his candidacy in the November election.
“Last week came reports of another closed conclave of the ‘Never Trump’ cabal at the Army and Navy Club in DC,” Buchanan wrote. “Apparently, William Kristol [the co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, a think tank whose members held top positions in the George W. Bush administration], circulated a memo detailing how to rob Trump of the nomination, even if he finishes first in states, votes, and delegates.”
“Should Trump win on the first ballot, Kristol’s fallback position is to create a third party and recruit a conservative to run as its nominee. Purpose: Have this rump party siphon off enough conservative votes to sink Trump and give the presidency to Hillary Clinton, whose policies are more congenial to the neocons and Kristol’s Weekly Standard.”
Ultimately, Buchanan suggested, “if the oligarchs, neocons, and Trump-loathers, having failed to stop him in Cleveland, collude to destroy the GOP ticket in the falls, they have a chance of succeeding,” but only at the cost of a serious rupture in the Republican Party, and their own slide into obscurity and irrelevance, one which would last long beyond the 2016 election cycle.
Over the past two months, Buchanan’s commentary has been echoed by other conservatives, including libertarian Republicans, and by the neocons themselves, who have gone so far as to hysterically suggest that a Trump presidency would mark “the end of the West as we know it.”
It is entirely possible that Trump, were he to win his party’s nomination and go on to win the presidency, would adopt a foreign policy just as militaristic and adventurous as that of his predecessors. However, if that is the case, why is it that top neoconservative Republican strategists feel so threatened by his foreign policy proposals that they are willing to jump ship and support the Democrats? Is it all just a political act?