It can be easy to look at President Trump and see a chaotic bull in the china closet. But those who do — the Democrat/media establishment — miss the overriding consistency in policies, most vividly in foreign policies, and see only a president who acts far outside the modern norm of American presidents.
For many of his supporters, his boisterous method of upending the apple cart is a feature, not a bug. But focusing on Trump’s personality and methods really misses both what the President is accomplishing and the complete consistency in which he is going about it.
So consistent, that it truly deserves the term “doctrine.”
And here it is in plain sight: In every dealing with foreign countries, with trade agreements, with military alliances, America’s interests are the priority. Yes, it’s an America First Doctrine. A big part of the reason it looks so foreign is that it is the first time it has been the active doctrine for an American president since Ronald Reagan.
It is indisputable that the Barack Obama Doctrine on this count was the America Meh Doctrine. George W. Bush’s might be called the New World Order Doctrine. Bill Clinton held to the Bill Clinton Legacy Doctrine. George H.W. was definitely the Globalist World Order Doctrine.
These are just on the foreign stage, but many domestic policies tracked similarly as trade agreements are a mix of foreign relations and domestic. Is it any wonder that a political moderate but American traditionalist like Donald Trump would run on the slogan Make America Great Again? The red hat was marketing. The phrase was genuine. And it obviously resonated with millions of Americans.
But actually putting America’s interest first in foreign policy was duty-bound to tick off a lot of countries that had become accustomed to having the better end of trade agreements or living rent-free under the American military umbrella or tacitly shipping some of their most problematic poor to America to deal with.
Yes, changing that was always going to be messy, and require an aggressive, even bull-in-a-china-closet, personality to pull off. But also one with superior negotiating skills and the unrelenting ability to shed relentless criticism.
With China, the trade deals were well understood by those involved on both sides to be terrible for the U.S. In addition to providing Chinese companies virtually every trade advantage, the U.S. shrugged and looked the other way most of the time that China was blackmailing U.S. companies to give up technology secrets in order to enter the Chinese market. That was not free trade nor fair trade. Trump’s America First Doctrine is the antidote because the Chinese government most certainly operates from a China First Doctrine.
With Mexico, U.S. taxpayers, the working poor, minorities and national sovereignty have all been materially damaged by the waves of Illegal, uneducated, unskilled Mexicans and other Central Americans that the Mexican government has ushered to the U.S. border to sneak into the United States. This has been costly at so many levels. But neither Republican or Democratic president made any serious attempts to change the status quo with a corrupt government that Foreign Policy Magazine described this way: “Authoritarian leadership, stifled dissent, limited freedom of assembly, and endless violence are the hallmarks of Mexico…” Trump’s America First Doctrine is the essential policy response to what is obviously a Mexican Corrupt Government First position of the authorities to our south.
So Trump implemented his America First Doctrine and sent the bull into the china closet on both of those fronts — and, apparently, is getting results none of his predecessors could.
But let’s look at NATO, the most recent iteration of the doctrine, to really see how this works with our closest allies.
NATO allies have been shirking their responsibilities for decades, refusing to pay their fair share for defense against Russia. They have relied on the U.S. military, knowing that it has generally been in our interests to defend them. This is easily measurable. The U.S. spends 3.5 percent of our giant gross domestic product on military spending. Keep that number in mind.
Germany, the wealthiest major country in Europe, spends only 1.24 percent of its GDP on defense — even though they face a far more immediate threat from Russia. A study by McKinsey & Co. reports that about 60 percent of Germany’s Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets, and about 80 percent of its Sea Lynx helicopters, are unusable because of the chronic underfunding. Belgium, NATO headquarters, spends a paltry 0.9 percent of GDP on defense — one-third of which is for pensions.
In 2002, after our European allies were unable to help in any real way in post 9-11 Afghanistan, they promised to fix that embarrassment by spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense — still far below the U.S. expenditures, but at least something. Alas, they didn’t. Instead, our European allies’ combined defense spending actually declined further, from 1.9 percent at the time all the way down to 1.4 percent by 2015.
There are 29 countries in NATO. But the United States, across the Atlantic, pays 73% of NATO’s budget to protect all of those European allies from Russia. Not a reasonable arrangement.
In the meantime, they spend more on social programs and on supporting large corporations directly competing with American corporations, such as the Airbus consortium. George W. Bush tried to get them to pay more. And even Obama called them “free riders.” But the nice guy approaches of those two netted nothing — well, less than nothing.
So Trump’s critique of this lopsided relationship is exactly right. And following the America First Doctrine, he unleashes the bull to bang around the china closet because that is what is apparently necessary to get these allies to quit free-loading off U.S. taxpayers. Last year he used harsh words — and naturally was duly chastised by the Democrat-media establishment — and managed to get a small and inadequate increase in defense spending. But he wasn’t looking for token change.
So this year he was more bumptious, and insinuated that perhaps NATO was an unnecessary relic of the past — something that was debated quite a bit in the early 1990s after the Soviet Union broke up and disintegrated, ending the Cold War.
European leaders huffed and puffed in horrified unison with the American Democrat-media establishment, but in the end, the Europeans softened, at least publicly. They seem to understand the arrangement has been great for them, but not for the U.S., since the fall of the Soviet Union. They have been able to blow off previous presidents who had a weaker doctrine. But they have likely come to believe that Trump is not going to back down until America gets a much better deal.
It’s the same conclusion the Chinese have come to, and perhaps the North Koreans. Time will tell on the Mexicans. But while the bull is breaking china in the closet, an altered world arrangement is slowing taking shape that improves America’s relations around the globe — for Americans.
And that’s how Trump’s America First Doctrine works.
Rod Thomson is an author, former journalist and current TV talking head, and is Founder of The Revolutionary Act. Rod is co-host of Right Talk America With Julio and Rod on the Salem Radio Network.
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