How should we describe Donald Trump’s foreign policy?
Even before the election of Trump, during the debates we could see that Trumps foreign policy was one of his differing points with many of the other candidates. Not only did he state our track record of wars overseas were costly and disastrous, he called out the brother of George W Bush, Jeb Bush and said his foreign policy decisions were a disaster. This indicates that he would lean towards more of an isolationist policy. Even more striking, he is one of the very few American politicians to say he would work with Russia and Putin for global peace. debating, insisted that he would work with Putin to achieve peace. The most telling general statement was made on his inauguration speech where he broke the general US Doctrine of intervention. He said:
“We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow (CNN).”
Rex Tillerson who Trump has put as Secretary of State also himself while speaking against sanctions on Russia (possibly due to his close financial ties with Russian oil giants), still supports some extremely violent foreign policy realities such as Saudi Arabia’s war with Yemen. It is hard to tell if he will align with Trumps claims of non-interventionism, or will take matters in his own hand and probably commit to the typical internationalist interventionist perspective.
His defense secretary, James Mattis adds another dynamic to the puzzle that is figuring out what Donald Trump’s foreign policy really is. This war veteran not only is strongly anti-Russia and pro-NATO but hawkish overall. He spoke a few years ago about his experiences and the pleasure he got in Afghanistan, stating:
“You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them. Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight.”
It seems at least in relative terms he wants to be isolationist, but his rhetoric on “exterminating Radical Islam” and “killing terrorist families” seems at odds with his previous positions. It seems that judging for his willingness to work with the Russians and his disagreement with the general offensive realism foreign policy of his predecessors, he would be classified more accurately in liberalism. However, judging by the actions and appointments, he has taken militarily in his first week of office, he is showing both continuity with the Obama Administration and discontinuity. This seems to be the result of the fact that the executive branch itself is not the only force in shaping US Foreign Policy decisions. Trump has said that he will take a different approach in terms of Foreign Policy, but just judging from his words alone it is hard to tell what might change in our international policy.