The Trump Doctrine

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At his inauguration, Trump declared several times that his policy will be “America First.” While he respects the United Nations, he believes that national sovereignty is of paramount importance. The echo of “America First” is repeated in his statement that “my job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America.” While he wishes for peace, another part of the evolving Trump Doctrine leaves much room for interpretation.

“The only long-term solution for these humanitarian disasters is to create the conditions where displaced persons can safely return home and begin the long process of rebuilding,” he said. This statement carries with it complex ramifications. A test case for the scenario is Syria. Since 2011, Syria has been ravaged by civil war: the ruthless dictator Bashar al-Assad has been killing rebels, civilians, and terrorists indiscriminately. The various factions opposing Assad are tough to make out: some are terrorists, others want democracy, some are fighting for Kurdish independence, while others are aligned with Islamic State. This conflict has seen U.S. involvement that has led to CIA-backed rebels fighting Pentagon-backed rebels, strangely enough. Iranians, Russians, the Arab Gulf States, and Saudi Arabia are supporting a wide range of combatant groups. Turkey allowed Islamic State to grow in hopes of crushing the Kurdish independence movement only to see a rise in terrorist activities at home in Asia Minor. In short, Syria is a disaster, which has led to a massive flow of civilians fleeing the conflict. This, in turn, has resulted in a refugee crisis that Europe and the United States are trying to solve.

According to the Trump Doctrine the best way to solve this refugee crisis, is to go to the source, which means not allowing in more refugees. Trump’s plan is to ameliorate the instability in Syria. When a faucet is leaking, one does not ask how many buckets are needed, but to try to stop the leak. Granted, a leaky faucet is easier to fix than a three- to four-way civil war in a ravaged nation, but that is precisely what Trump advocates as a long-term solution to this problem. How a post-war Syria will look, and what path that nation takes to get there, is for the Trump administration to decide.

The Trump Doctrine attempts to correct what the president perceives as the mistakes of the past 16 years under Presidents Bush and Obama. It recognizes the natural limitations to America’s ability to spread democracy throughout the world and nation-build. At the same time, it acknowledges that the United States will be a strong leader and a guiding force for its allies and will attempt to eliminate any direct threat to the national interest of the U.S.

At this moment Trump is still assembling a team around him and many of his supporters are on different sides of foreign policy. While learning lessons from both Republican and Democratic administrations, Trump’s foreign policy in some areas may find favor with Republicans, such as the focus on a strong military and defeating Islamism. Democrats will presumably look with favor at the prospect of ending nation-building and reaching out to adversaries.

Sens. Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas) both claim that President Trump agrees with them on foreign policy. Paul, is the leading libertarian in the Senate and advocates noninterventionism, while Cotton is one of the most hawkish on foreign policy and an advocate of projecting American strength abroad. History will judge how well the Trump administration implements its policies. The important thing is that in his well-received congressional address, President Trump outlined a cohesive foreign policy, which, like his domestic policy, may see many different groups support different components of his doctrine.

Tyler Stone received a Bachelor’s Degree from Le Moyne College, where he studied history. He is currently a freelance writer.  Crossposted from Capital Research Center.

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