Of all the ways President Donald Trump has revolutionized American politics, foreign policy easily ranks among the most important. Whether it was in his efforts to decimate ISIS or opening up, finally, a path to negotiate nuclear disarmament with North Korea after almost 70 years of stubborn belligerence, the Trump Doctrine has proven a success in almost every corner of the globe.
But recently, the president has made several moves that reveal another aspect of his foreign policy. And these are moves he foreshadowed during the 2016 presidential election campaign.
Foreign Policy is Key to the Greatness Agenda
A friend of mine once told me that Trump ran and won on a “tripod of issues”—three core issues that ultimately carried him to victory. Originally, I thought he was talking about Trump’s emphasis on immigration, trade, and infrastructure. But my friend instead suggested that one be swapped out; replace infrastructure with foreign policy. While infrastructure is a more detail-oriented policy that also holds appeal for the working-class and for all Americans who just want to take pride in their country, it was foreign policy where Trump truly shined for one key reason: It was his top outlet for showcasing just how different he was from all past Republican candidates and nominees.
When had any other major Republican candidate openly attacked former President George W. Bush the way Trump did, and with such sharp and painfully accurate criticisms? By relentlessly bashing the dominance of an ultra-hawkish neoconservative foreign policy, Trump once again displayed his crossover appeal among both Republicans and Democrats; whether it was Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Obama in Libya and Syria, Trump never hesitated to take shots at all who were guilty of this policy of recklessness overseas. Theirs was not only a foreign policy that falsely assumed you could invade away all problems, but one that also sorely neglected the most important obligation of all: Defending the homeland.
President Trump repeatedly has invoked the fact that the $6 trillion wasted in our Middle East crusades could have rebuilt our entire infrastructure several times over. In the last week, he took it even further than that. Nothing can undo all the damage that has been done abroad, and thus the damage that was not addressed at home, but we can still return to a common sense approach. That is the definition of America First.
Buttress the Border, Leave Syria
And that is why two of the president’s most recent announcements could not be more necessary or more welcome.
First, in the latest development on the southern front, the president has proven that he truly does mean business when it comes to defending our borders. With the news of a caravan of thousands of illegal aliens from Central America marching toward the United States, President Trump took no chances and correctly treated this as a serious national security threat. His announcement that he will deploy the National Guard to help protect the southern border is a shining example of our armed forces doing what they do best as they serve their number one purpose: Protecting America at home from enemies abroad who seek to undermine our nation and endanger our people.
At the same time, the president has proven his commitment to doing the right thing on the other side of the world as well. While he rightfully did commit American troops to a foreign wasteland to eliminate an evil menace, he has made clear that he will not be led astray from the original goal; and that when that job is done, it is truly done and the troops can come back home.
That is why, with the physical caliphate of ISIS just about completely eradicated, the president announced that American troops would be withdrawing from Syria. He reaffirmed that when our part is done, even though the damage in that country and the surrounding region has not yet been undone, it will be up to Syria and its neighbors to rebuild—not us. Not anymore.
“America First” Doesn’t Mean Abandon the World
Despite past calls to intervene more directly in the ongoing Syrian civil war out of some misguided and self-righteous sense of “humanitarianism,” President Trump has put his foot down and said, once and for all, no more unnecessary foreign wars.
One of the biggest “concerns” that the establishment leveled at then-candidate Trump was that he would be an “isolationist,” like Ron and Rand Paul. But President Trump has consistently proven them both wrong and right at the same time; yes, he is committed to defending America first more than any president in recent memory, but that does not mean a collapse in American hegemony either.
America has quickly become respected on the international stage again. Sanctions and tariffs against China and other cheating trade partners have been met with calls for trade negotiations, rather than the ever-feared possibility of a “trade war.” ISIS has been demolished with remarkable speed. North Korea appears to be on the verge of denuclearizing. Saudi Arabia, with pressure from Trump, is modernizing and taking a leading role in combating terrorism in the Middle East now more than ever before. We have reaffirmed a hardline stance against the Communist regime in Cuba and the Islamic theocracy in Iran.
And President Trump has done all of this, and so much more, without invading a single country or starting another pointless war. Instead, he is balancing America’s role as a peacekeeper with its top priority of protecting itself at all costs. That is just one more facet in the emerging success of the Trump Doctrine.
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