Donald Trump will be the leader of the free world. There is work to do to advance the cause of liberty abroad and to defend American interests—and work to remind us these values are not mutually exclusive. The president-elect’s victory speech early this morning touched in various ways on the foreign policy terrain that spreads out before him. It will be elaborated and expanded upon in the near-term.
The key to his success in this realm will be in his ability—and willingness—to listen to those who have made it their business to know more about the international landscape and to harness more wisdom in this area than anyone else. I hope that many of those—who believe in the needs and limits of an exceptional America’s exceptional power, who understand that peace can only be approximated where there is justice and order, and who believe that it is in American interests to punish evil, requite injustice, and protect the innocent—will be invited to help a President Trump do his job with wisdom and probity—to the benefit of America and the global liberal order. “I am reaching out to your guidance and your help,” Trump pledged, “so that we can work together and unite our great country.” President-elect Trump will need help keeping it a great country, and more help keeping it good. I hope these folks, many of them Providence-friends, will be willing to pitch in—and equally willing to seldom give in.
To our international neighbors, Trump promised that America “will get along with all other nations, that want to get along with us.” So long as getting along with us means fidelity to the conditions required for all people to enjoy justice, order, and peace, then Trump’s pledge sounds about right. It helps that it reminds us of the Marine Corps pledge that in the Corps the world has no better friend and no worse enemy.
I’ve sent out a request to many of our writers for their thoughts on the foreign policy needs facing the president-elect. As responses come in, we’ll post them. Please find two below. More will be said, of course, in the coming days. It will be the work of Providence (and Providence) to advocate for the views found in our declaration, and to help President-elect Trump where we are able, to critique and to dissent where we must, and to help him advance the greatness and goodness of our Republic. May God bless that Republic and, wow, may God bless President-elect Donald Trump.
Robert Kaufman, Robert and Kathryn Dockson Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, author of Dangerous Doctrine: How Obama’s Grand Strategy Weakened America:
Donald Trump should listen to the better angels of the Republican Party, including his Vice President, to realize that America must continue to underwrite a global alliance system if he wishes to (keep) America great, again. His commitment to rebuild the Military is a necessary but insufficient condition for a prudential grand strategy grounded in muscular internationalism and American exceptionalism.
Our new president faces a sharply deteriorating international situation. Three revisionist powers—Russia, China, and Iran—seek to exploit the power vacuum the Obama Administration’s improvident retrenchment has created. We must stop doing what the Obama administration has done for eight years.
Instead, we must:
1. Rebuild America’s defenses, increasing spending to at least 4 percent of GDP. Make research, development, and deployment of ballistic Missile defense—the most important measure to restore the diminishing credibility of American security commitments—a priority.
2. Clearly distinguish between America’s decent democratic allies and our illiberal foes, especially in Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Stop the reset with Russia. Create a robust democratic alliance system including Japan, South Korea, and India to contain an increasingly authoritarian, belligerent China’s hegemonic ambitions.
3. Abrogate the Nuclear deal with Iran that puts a militant, virulently anti-American, virulently anti-Semitic regime on the pathway to crossing the nuclear threshold.
4. Restore moral and strategic clarity to the United States, embracing rather than repudiating the indispensable role the U.S. must play as the world’s default power.
If President Trump fails to do this, we will reap the whirlwind the Obama Doctrine’s weakness has wrought.
Robert Nicholson, Executive Director, Philos Project; publisher, Providence: A Journal of Christianity & American Foreign Policy:
Donald Trump’s main foreign policy burden is to reassert prudent and principled American leadership abroad after eight years of excessive restraint. That means rebuilding our military, strengthening our allies, confronting our enemies, and articulating a positive vision for the world. All difficult tasks indeed.
While there are many worrisome aspects of Donald Trump as leader of the free world, most of my concerns go back to a basic inconsistency in his view of international affairs. Foreign states make policy based on perceived cues from Washington, D.C., and the international system sits atop the cornerstone of a stable America. Yet up to now, Trump has failed to articulate a clear vision for US engagement abroad—or whether the US should engage much at all. His calls for disbanding NATO, embracing Russia, tearing up trade deals, and breaking off ties with “free riders” have, on the contrary, left the world guessing about what he plans to do.
Trump’s brash and unpredictable manner will shake up enemy states like Iran and North Korea, and that’s a good thing. Enemies need to be on their guard. But braggadocio will only go so far. It is imperative that he and his foreign policy team sketch out a real vision for stabilizing an increasingly disordered world, especially in that region he seems least interested in: the Middle East.