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.