Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has staked out a foreign-policy position quite distinct from his opponent, Hillary Clinton. It is not, however, “isolationist” (contra Jeb Bush and many others) or “less aggressively militaristic” (economist Mark Weisbrot in The Hill) or “a jolt of realpolitik” (journalist Simon Jenkins in The Guardian).
With all due respect to these sources, they’re all wrong. Ditto John Pilger’s claim that Clinton represents the greater threat to the world, John Walsh’s argument that Trump is “the relative peace candidate,” and Justin Raimondo’s assertion that if Trump wins, then “the military-industrial complex is finished, along with the globalists who dominate foreign policy circles in Washington.”
The nonsense written about Trump’s global views has been truly staggering.
Granted, it’s not easy to get a bead on Trump’s worldview. His comments on foreign policy have frequently been incoherent, inconsistent, and just plain ignorant. He hasn’t exactly rolled out a detailed blueprint of what he would do to the world if elected (though that old David Levine cartoon of Henry Kissinger beneath the sheets comes to mind). Trump is clearly winging it in interviews with journalists, as if he’d gotten his foreign-policy information from garbled summaries of National Enquirer’s international coverage.
However, over the last year Trump has said enough to pull together a pretty good picture of what he’d do if suddenly in a position of nearly unchecked power (thanks to the expansion of executive authority under both Bush and Obama). President Trump would offer an updated version of Teddy Roosevelt’s old dictum: Speak loudly and carry the biggest stick possible.
It’s not an alternative to US empire—just a cruder rendition of it.
The Enemy of My Enemy
Both liberals and conservatives in the United States, as I’ve written, have embraced economic policies that have left tens of millions of working people in desperate straits. The desperation of the “left behind” faction is so acute, in fact, that many of its members are willing to ignore Donald Trump’s obvious disqualifications—his personal wealth, his disdain for “losers,” his support of tax cuts for the rich—in order to back the Republican candidate and stick it to the elite.