Trump’s America First Policy: Remarkably Sophisticated


By ilana mercer

“Unsophisticated rambling,” “simplistic,” “reckless.”

The verdict about Donald J. Trump’s foreign policy, unveiled after his five-for-five victory in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Rhode Island and Connecticut, was handed down by vested interests: members of the military-media-think tank complex.

People like Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. People Dwight Eisenhower counseled against, in his farewell address to the nation: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

Naturally, Albright wants U.S. foreign policy to remain complex, convoluted; based not on bedrock American principles, but on bureaucratically friendly talking points, imbibed in the “best” schools of government, put to practice by the likes of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Like so many D.C. insiders who move seamlessly between government and the flush-with-funds think-tank industry, Albright has worked for CFR. (Yearly revenue: $61.0 million. Mission: Not America First.)

Neo-Wilsonian foreign policy is big business. Wait for the Brookings Institution, RAND Corporation and the Center for American Progress to pile on Trump’s “unsophisticated,” America-centric foreign policy—especially now that the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee has signaled his intention to get the U.S. “out of the nation-building business.”

Like an invasive Kudzu, these anti-American forces are everywhere. What Trump’s advocating translates into a reduced profile for them: less demand for their neo-Wilsonian schemes, promulgated in focused blindness by think tank types and by most tele-tarts.

Reduced demand for American agitation abroad will mean fewer “media references per year,” less “monthly traffic” to monetize on websites, less influence in the halls of power and, ultimately, reduced revenues.

We might even see fewer color-coded revolutions around the world.

Trump’s promised change to American foreign policy can’t sit well with the International Republican Institute (IRI), the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Freedom House. These have been described by the press as “Washington-based group[s] that promote democracy and open elections.”

More like Alinskyite agitators.

The IRI and the NDI are excrescences of the Republican and Democratic Parties, respectively. As Trump supporters know, on the foreign-policy front, not much distinguishes America’s duopoly. Republicans and Democrats work in tandem, Saul-Alinsky style, to bring about volcanic transformation in societies that desperately need stability. Or as Trump put it, “We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed.”

CNN is right to fret that the Trump foreign policy address delivers “little in the way of a recognizable foreign strategy.”

Fear not, CNN. Trump’s promise to pursue “peace and prosperity, not war”—the candidate’s commitment that, “unlike other candidates, war and aggression will not be [his] first instinct”—is recognizable to those whose loved ones have returned in body bags, from the blighted and benighted territories into which Trump adversaries want to keep tunneling.

Evidently, victims of liberal interventionism and neoconservative global democratic crusades think putting Americans first is a wildly sophisticated idea.

Ordinary, patriotic Americans have been hoodwinked by these sophisticates into sacrificing their children to Madeleine Albright’s Moloch. It would appear these Trump supporters and America’s soldiers no longer wish to throw beautiful young lives to the think-tank industry’s God of War.

“Trump’s foreign policy platform would dismantle the post-World War II architecture so lovingly built up by the War Party and its congressional Myrmidons,” posits Justin Raimondo, editor at Antiwar.com. “This is why he’s made all the right enemies … Trump’s triumph would mark the end of the neocons as a viable political force on the Right.”

Amen Selah.

It’s by no means axiomatic, moreover, that “defense treaties and overseas bases that emerged after World War II still serve U.S. interests,” confessed policy analyst Rosa Brooks.

As with any bureaucracy, NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is good for those it employs; bad for The People who must pay for it and tolerate its self-perpetuating policies and sinecured politicians forever after.

NATO, conceded the Washington Post, was “formed to fight the Soviet Union. … The USSR evaporated a quarter-century ago.” Like a zombie, this segment of the international superstate “has lurched along, taking on new roles. “

The establishment, Left and Right, equates what governments do with what the people need.

Take CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. In ways intellectual, the anchor is impoverished. She is, however, never poor. Amanpour’s net worth is $12.5 Million. She’s lived, loved and worked among the upper echelons her entire life, including in her birth place of Iran. Terribly privileged, Amanpour is more authentically “Shahs of Sunset” than an ordinary American.

The CNN personality has ridiculed Trump’s “poor me America” routine. She disputes his tack about a weakened America whose exploiters should “pony up.” Simply put, said Trump, “Our allies are not paying their fair share.” “We have spent trillions over time … provid[ing] a strong defense for Europe and Asia”:

The countries we are defending must pay for the cost of this defense, and, if not, the U.S. must be prepared to let these countries defend themselves. We have no choice.

When Trump challenged America’s continued membership in NATO, shysters like Amanpour, Ted Cruz too, cupped hands to claim the charity of the gullible American people. They “argued” that we need to continue to give over two percent of GDP to keep this welfare-warfare elephantiasis going.

Their error—Amanpour’s error—is to collapse the distinction between America (overall, relatively wealthy) and individual Americans, legions of whom are dirt poor and desperate.

But businessman Trump makes no such mistake. He can’t help but put Americans first.

The Donald’s foreign policy coup de grâce: “Under a Trump Administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of foreign countries.”

“Our foreign policy goals must be based on America’s core national security interests,” he asserted, as he “pledged to … focus on stability in the [Middle East and the region], not on nation-building.” Recognizing the differences America has with China and Russia, he also vowed to ‘seek common ground based on shared interests.'”

“My goal is to establish a foreign policy that will endure for several generations centered on prioritizing America first.”

Remarkably, our foreign-policy maze-bright rats see this Trump stance as unsophisticated. To the contrary: Trump’s foreign policy evinces a sophisticated understanding of the role of government in the lives of a free people.

The duty of the “night-watchman state of classical-liberal theory” is primarily to its own. The classical liberal government’s duty is to its own citizens, first. As Americans, we have a solemn, negative, leave-them-alone duty not to violate the rights of foreigners everywhere to life, liberty and property.

We have no duty to uphold their rights. Why so? Because (ostensibly) upholding the negative rights of the world’s citizens involves compromising the negative liberties of Americans—inalienable American lives, liberties and livelihoods.

By promising to “never send our finest into battle, unless necessary,” Trump demonstrates a visceral, critical understanding that an American president is obligated to defend—he dare not squander!—the lives of Americans. He thus comes closest to fulfilling the executive duties of an American leader.

***

ILANA MERCER is a paelolibertarian writer, author of Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her forthcoming book (June 2016): The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed. For 15 years, She penned WND’s popular, paleolibertarian, weekly column, “Return to Reason,” which was begun in Canada, circa 1999. Ilana also contributes to “The Unz Review,” America’s smartest webzine, to the spectacular British Libertarian Alliance (every bit as smart), and to Quarterly Review (the celebrated British journal founded in 1809 by Walter Scott, Robert Southey and George Canning), where she is contributing editor. For years, Ilana’s “Paleolibertarian Column” was a regular feature on Russia Today and in Junge Freiheit, a German weekly of excellence. Ilana’s online homes are www.ilanamercer.com & www.barelyablog.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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3 comments

  • The one post I’d recently been hoping to see appear on this site.

    From it, I’ve already managed to put together a few pieces of the American jig-saw that’s been concerning me for months, if not years.

    I’m pleased to report that my snail, Oliver, is now beginning to recover from his recent sickness.

    I’m not – and have never been – anti-American. That’s not to say her shortcomings haven’t been noted when it came to her domestic or foreign policies – being a J E Powell follower, I could hardly not be aware of them.

    For instance, the American attitude to the Suez crisis baffled me then and does to this day. For many people, America acted against her own best interests when she attacked her former allies. From that one incident followed a great deal of bitter and lasting animosity – mainly from the UK and France of course. It certainly gave Arab nationalists all the confidence they would ever need to exert world-wide monetary, religious and social influence. Influence they would never have gained so firmly or quickly under their own steam. An influence now obviously unwanted by most people and one that is going to end badly.

    Anyway Ilana, once again please do accept my sincere thanks for the effort and time you must have spent in setting down your thoughts. No hyperbole from our American cousin, right down to that which matters most. You should write the book.

    Printed off already for future reference… and I’m still in love:- )

  • “He can’t help but put Americans first.” That’s indeed what he ought to be doing, given the office he is running for.

    But “America first” and “Americans first” are two quite different things.

  • Let’s put the assumptions in this article under critical scrutiny.

    Ms. Mercer argues that Trump’s foreign policy is a fundamental departure from neo-Wilsonian orthodoxy in Washington, D.C. She states that:

    [quote]”Trump’s foreign policy evinces a sophisticated understanding of the role of government in the lives of a free people.”[unquote]

    It does no such thing. Apart from anything else, Trump has no foreign policy, as such. There is no foreign policy platform on his campaign website (www.donaldjtrump.com). All we have is a speech he gave on foreign policy, which sets out what he thinks in very broad brush strokes: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/press-releases/donald-j.-trump-foreign-policy-speech

    That speech is not a radical departure from the existing philosophy. It reads to me more like a populist making all the right noises while affirming the status quo, something that has always been a feature of American politics. Trumpism is just repackaged liberal internationalism. Trump is hawking his Trump Cola to the masses, but on tasting it, the astute drinker quickly comprehends that it is just the usual over-priced sugar water re-branded.

    Some keys paragraphs from the speech and my comments follow. In extracting these quotes, I appreciate that there will be some loss of context. It’s not my intention to misrepresent Trump.

    [quote]”The direction I will outline today will also return us to a timeless principle. My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else. That will be the foundation of every decision that I will make.”[unquote]

    This is what all politicians say. Would you really expect Trump to say: ‘Let’s put the interests of Israelis and the security of Israel on an equal footing with the welfare of Americans!” Yet that is exactly what he thinks, even if he doesn’t consciously recognise this implication in his own thoughts.

    [quote]”America First will be the major and overriding theme of my administration.”[unquote]

    I think, if anything, this should be a red flag. Use of slogans such as ‘America First’ is an indication of shallow populism. It’s an indication of a dearth of ideas, not new ones. It suggests a politician who learnt his politics at a business school somewhere. It palpably projects an attitude of telling people what they want to hear in that moment.

    [quote]”We have a lot to be proud of. In the 1940s we saved the world. The Greatest Generation beat back the Nazis and the Japanese Imperialists.

    “Then we saved the world again, this time from totalitarian Communism. The Cold War lasted for decades, but we won.”[unquote]

    A very serious red flag here. A glaring red flag. In fact, I can see a little man in the distance jumping up and down while furiously waving a red flag in the hope of grabbing somebody’s attention.

    Trump buys into the mythology of the Second World War and the Cold War. I am not being naive here: I fully appreciate that Western politicians must not explicitly disturb this mythology is they are to be elected, but Trump needn’t have made these statements. Yet he did, and this is a major red flag because it indicates an interventionist mentality. Trump thinks the United States should police and regulate the rest of the world, just like the Washington neo-Wilsonians.

    [quote]”Unfortunately, after the Cold War, our foreign policy veered badly off course. We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense.

    “Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign policy disaster after another.

    “We went from mistakes in Iraq to Egypt to Libya, to President Obama’s line in the sand in Syria. Each of these actions have helped to throw the region into chaos, and gave ISIS the space it needs to grow and prosper.”[unquote]

    This part starts off promisingly, and later in the speech, Trump states unequivocally that he opposed the Iraq, though it seems to me that’s an easy position to take now.

    [quote]”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, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill the void, much to their unjust enrichment.”[unquote]

    This part is probably the most promising in the whole speech. Trump here seems to be explicitly renouncing the ‘liberal’ (i.e. democracy- and nation-building) part of interventionism, and thus is renouncing neo-Wilsonianism, but the rest of his speech belies this impression. This is just an island of wisdom amidst muscular verbiage about America maintaining its role as world regulator, just more effectively (i.e. more discreetly) than under Obama.

    [quote]”Our allies must contribute toward the financial, political and human costs of our tremendous security burden. But many of them are simply not doing so. They look at the United States as weak and forgiving and feel no obligation to honor their agreements with us.”[unquote]

    This paragraph is telling. Trump thinks there is a “security burden”. Again, in my estimation, he is just another interventionist.

    [quote]”A Trump Administration will lead a free world that is properly armed and funded.”[unquote]

    More redux Cold War-era rhetoric.

    [quote]”President Obama gutted our missile defense program, then abandoned our missile defense plans with Poland and the Czech Republic.”[unquote]

    And more. Why does Trump want a missile defence capacity in eastern Europe?

    [quote]”Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon and, under a Trump Administration, will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon.”[unquote]

    For some reason, Trump doesn’t like Iran. I wonder why that might be?

    Here we go….

    [quote]”Israel, our great friend and the one true Democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticized by an Administration that lacks moral clarity. Just a few days ago, Vice President Biden again criticized Israel – a force for justice and peace – for acting as an impediment to peace in the region.”[unquote]

    Need I say more?

    It gets worse…

    [quote]”President Obama has not been a friend to Israel. He has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power in the Middle East – all at the expense of Israel, our other allies in the region and, critically, the United States.”[unquote]

    Is it Make America Great Again or Secure Greater Israel….???? Make up your mind, Mr Trump sir! No doubt Trump would argue that it can be both and that these objectives are not mutually-exclusive, but as Neil Lock points out above, making America ‘great’ again (if that were even possible or necessary), isn’t the same as looking after Americans.

    Back to Trump…

    [quote]”President Obama watches helplessly as North Korea increases its aggression and expands even further with its nuclear reach.

    “Our president has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade rules – or apply the leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea.”[unquote]

    More redux Cold War-era rhetoric from Big Man Trump. His claim about China is flatly false. Much as I would like to agree with Trump, the reality is that the Chinese economy is only responsible for a relatively small proportion of American job losses. Most of the losses are probably down to legacy issues from the economic and financial crisis of the Noughties and also shifts in technology which are making many jobs redundant.

    Regarding North Korea, while I don’t like Obama, I have to ask: what does Trump suppose could have been done differently? Does Trump actually think he knows more than all those Ivy League-educated foreign policy advisers in Washington, including – no doubt – legions of area experts with intimate knowledge of East Asia? Is Trump some kind of prodigious polymath now? Does Trump actually believe that Obama personally controls foreign policy? Really?? Of course, Trump doesn’t believe these things, but he thinks white Americans are stupid and do believe all this.

    [quote]”He has even allowed China to steal government secrets with cyber attacks and engage in industrial espionage against the United States and its companies.”[unquote]

    This is utter nonsense. Obama has ‘allowed’ no such thing. Foreign espionage, subversion and sabotage will continue under a Trump or Clinton presidency, or the presidency of just about anybody. Trump talks rubbish.

    Trump then moves on to what will change “when I am president”.

    [quote]”We’re going to finally have a coherent foreign policy based upon American interests, and the shared interests of our allies.

    We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.”[unquote]

    The explicit renunciation of ‘nation-building’ is obviously laudable and cannot be ignored, however on the other side of the balance sheet, Trump doesn’t appear to be really saying anything new. What does “creating stability in the world” really mean other than….nation-building? After all, this is what the Washington, D.C. policy elite have always done, it’s just that they have executed this philosophic approach in different guises.

    [quote]”Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge.

    We need a new, rational American foreign policy, informed by the best minds and supported by both parties, as well as by our close allies.”[unquote]

    I think this is nonsense. You can’t have a ‘rational’ foreign policy. That’s an oxymoron. A foreign policy is, by definition, deeply political. Trump himself demonstrates this throughout his speech.

    On the other hand, Trump does say some encouraging things in the speech:

    [quote]”However, unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct. You cannot have a foreign policy without diplomacy. A superpower understands that caution and restraint are signs of strength.

    Although not in government service, I was totally against the War in Iraq, saying for many years that it would destabilize the Middle East. Sadly, I was correct, and the biggest beneficiary was Iran, who is systematically taking over Iraq and gaining access to their rich oil reserves – something it has wanted to do for decades. And now, to top it all off, we have ISIS.”[unquote]

    There are several good paragraphs like this. However, note that Trump still refers to the USA as a superpower, suggesting that although he sometimes makes the right noises, he is still running on rails installed by the neo-Wilsonians.

    I also like this:

    [quote]”That is why I will also look for talented experts with new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.

    Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions. Instead of trying to spread “universal values” that not everyone shares, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions.”[unquote]

    And this:

    [quote]”We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism.

    The nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony. I am skeptical of international unions that tie us up and bring America down, and will never enter America into any agreement that reduces our ability to control our own affairs.

    NAFTA, as an example, has been a total disaster for the U.S. and has emptied our states of our manufacturing and our jobs. Never again. Only the reverse will happen. We will keep our jobs and bring in new ones. Their will be consequences for companies that leave the U.S. only to exploit it later.

    Under a Trump Administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of foreign countries.”[unquote]

    However, you will note that Trump does not renounce supranational institutions such as NATO and NAFTA. Certainly in the case of NATO, he affirms their existence and legitimacy and seeks to re-focus their roles.

    I am suspicious of Trump. I don’t think he represents a fundamental shift anywhere, and I think we can see this if we try to diagnose what is really wrong with U.S. foreign policy. My non-expert view, from a British angle, on the real problem with American foreign policy is as follows:

    First, American influence is too global and far-reaching. It was intended that America should be a republic, not an imperial power. The difference is important and the intentions of the Founding Fathers and early civic leaders are important to weigh in and consider because these men were liberals in the classical mould and understood the implications of over-reaching government. America should confine itself mostly to the American continent, including the western Atlantic and eastern Pacific, and only intervene elsewhere if vital domestic interests are involved or large numbers of American citizens are imperilled.

    Second, the Israeli lobby has far too much influence in Washington, D.C. and in the U.S. military at planning and policy level. Much of America’s foreign policy, and by extension that of her allies (including, especially, Britain) seems to be about defending Israel by fragmenting and weakening its neighbours in the Middle East.

    Third, the U.S. arms and defence industry is, if anything, too large and should be diminished in size considerably.

    Fourth, the link between domestic and foreign policy has not been recognised. The best foreign policy for the United States would be a strong domestic economy built on productivity and selective free trade, without external energy dependency (which is not to say on the latter point that America should be ‘energy independent’, a separate issue and a different argument entirely, with its own problems and dilemmas).

    As far as I can see, Trump’s understanding only extends to point 4 above. On the other points, if anything a Trump presidency would make things WORSE. He wants America to be a global, interventionist power. He wants to defend Israel (watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o58F_lqi-Fs). And he wants to give the defence industry a boost.

    None of this is to say I dislike Trump or ‘oppose’ him. This is a critique, not an attack. And there are some good things that Trump says in the speech, as I outline above. There is a lot to say in favour of Trump’s personal style and approach to things, in particular his refreshing focus on core issues, but I think most of it is just talk rather than walk. Trump himself must know that the presidency is complex and formal presidential power is heavily constrained. If Trump intends to be an activist president, he will be reliant on soft power, which means influencing people in order to get anything done. He has the right background to excel at this, but he will also find numerous obstacles are in his way should he decide to break away from the neo-Wilsonian consensus. He may be underestimating the limitations of power in what remains a republican system. Nevertheless, if Trump were a domestic candidate here in Britain, I would seriously consider placing a vote for him and might even lend my support to any party he led. I also understand that Trump is an intelligent man and, if we’re fair, a stump speech on foreign policy might not give the best account of his understanding of America’s foreign policy dilemmas. And finally, I am not American, so my understanding is limited in that regard.

    I like these articles from Ilana Mercer in America, keep them coming, but I think, in addition, we also need a critical perspective on Trump from somebody who is less enamoured of him. He is a false Messiah. I hope he is the GOP candidate and I hope he does well, but equally, I hope he loses. I think the preferable scenario for white Americans (and whites everywhere) would be a narrow victory for Clinton amidst trumped-up [no pun intended] allegations of vote-rigging, ideally with a hint of truth about them. We need white nationalists in uproar and primed for militancy, not just at the fringes, but on a mass basis. That’s the real role of Trump here.

    Imagine four years of arch-feminist Killory? She’s actually much more moderate and conservative than is alleged, and her husband would also have a moderating influence on things – her presidency will most likely be similar to Obama’s: a non-event and something of a let-down for those, such as me, who like a bit of excitement. Nevertheless, a Clinton presidency would help set the scene for what ultimately must happen: a political revolution, followed by the break-up and dissolution of the United States.

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