The Trump Doctrine

first_imgDonald Trump was inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States last Friday, in the bitter chill of winter, and unlike most of his predecessors’, his words matched the weather. Taking the road never travelled, he eschewed the usual soaring rhetoric and words of reconciliation to his just defeated opponents. Instead, he emphasised the central theme of his campaign: he was going to rebuild an America from the “carnage” wrought by his predecessors and the establishment that stood with him on the stage.He emphasised his presidency would be different in form and substance. On the foreign policy front he explicitly disavowed a role for the US to be the “world’s Policeman” and reiterated the isolationist line from his campaign: “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first,” Trump said. “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidised the armies of other countries, while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we’ve defended other nation’s borders, while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas, while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American, and hire American.”This position is consistent with that taken during the campaign – where he was even more explicit in naming several European countries – and will have certainly caused some head-scratching across the Atlantic with the US NATO allies. Most likely alluding to Russia, Trump said his administration will abandon the imposition of US values on other nations – presumably including those promoted by the LEAD programme here: “We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world. But we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”But the implied laissez faire on ideology does not extend to Islam: “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones. And unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” The word “eradicate” is very strong and implies a total war that will take this battle even into the home – both within and without America.Abandoning the commitment to free trade that his predecessors had placed at the centre of their foreign policy programme, Trump insisted: “Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.” Relations with China will definitely be re-evaluated to prevent these “ravages”.Even though he might not have come out of the traditional US conservative movement, on the domestic front he embraced their central value of a smaller and less intrusive government, but with a populist focus: “…we are transferring power from Washington, DC, and giving it back to you, the people. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories. Their triumphs have not been your triumphs. And while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. That all changes starting right here and right now. Because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you.”But Trump was not speaking to all who were watching: his constant reiteration to “Americans”, “the American people” and “citizens” were code words to invoke the nativist fears he had exploited during the campaign on immigrants, legal and illegal. He also invoked the premises of American exceptionalism: “No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again.”We live in interesting times.last_img

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