While Donald Trump’s foreign policy will treasure and save American lives, Hillary’s foreign policy will do the opposite, sacrifice them.
The Consequences of Wrong Theories
For the past several decades, the United States’ foreign policy goals have been underpinned by theoretical constructs. In many cases, these theories turned out to be wrong. In places like Kosovo, Bosnia, and Haiti, countries where the United States intervened in the belief that no other power could do the job, the consequences of erroneous theories turned out to be negligible for the U.S. No American lives were lost and financial cost was minimal. But in others, the consequences of foreign policy based on wrong theories have been stomach-churning. In Libya, the price was four Americans killed, including an ambassador, and a failed state. In Iraq, 4,500 Americans and countless Iraqis died in the context of civil war. In Somalia, sixteen American servicemen died, including one who was stripped and dragged through the streets of Mogadishu. In Central America, hundreds of thousands of civilians were killed by right-wing death squads backed by the United States. In Indochina, 58,000 Americans were forever lost, thousands had lifetime injuries, and over half a million Vietnamese and Cambodians civilians were killed.
The rationales behind these failed interventions would boggle the mind of any history student. Yet one fact emerges: What all of these failed interventions have in common is the paternity of foreign policy advisors who operated under a light of certainty solely based on academic scholarship. However, recommendations based on scholarship in political science can never be anything more than theoretical constructs. Applying the iron laws of physics or the natural sciences in political science – specifically in that field known as international relations – becomes problematic. The subject matter necessarily involves something inherently volatile and can never be amenable to scientific predictions: It’s called human nature.
We now know, based on America’s record, that it is a folly to substitute the unvarnished assessment of facts on the ground with theories based on the past, as four American administrations did in Indochina with the Domino Theory.
We now know that it is a mistake to assess threats to the United States primarily through the prism of history This is what the U.S. did in Iraq when we were told that seeking actual proof that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction before invasion would mean “a mushroom cloud”. We now know that the adage often repeated in finance like a kind of catechism, ‘past performance is not indicative of the future’, ought to be the official mantra of those crafting foreign policy.
Failing to learn from the mistakes of the past
Yet to this day, too many voices out of Washington – Republican and Democratic – sound as though they haven’t learned from history. They sound as though the United States must, once again, launch interventions abroad on the back of nothing more than theoretical constructs. These constructs indeed sound great on television and are endorsed by “The Best and the Brightest”, as the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam called their intellectual ancestors. They sound as though they want to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Trump demolishes long held assumptions
In his foreign policy speech in April, Trump was in his iconoclastic best. He demolished assumptions held dear by the foreign policy establishment. Perhaps the most controversial and important recommendation was the one delivered near the end. When it comes to foreign policy, Trump spoke about the need for the United States “to seek talent from other places.” We must seek guidance from people other than the academic elite in positions of power in Foggy Bottom and in the West Wing. This includes the foreign policy establishment, an amorphous group of the Left and the Right, who are distinguished by their advanced degrees in political science and international relations.
Common sense and experience over intellectual and ideological elitism
By insisting that the United States break with this habit of installing ideologues for positions of paramount influence in foreign policy, Trump is actually evoking an older tradition in American diplomacy. There was a time in the post-war era when the nation’s foreign policy goals were overseen by men who came to power not on the backs of the books they had published or the Ivy League classes they had taught. They came with something more valuable: killer instincts and common sense honed by executive experience. They were men who swam in shark-infested waters and not only survived, but immobilized the sharks. They were men who saw diplomacy not as a discipline to be prosecuted for its own sake, but as a function of government whose sole purpose was to protect American interests. This started with the most fundamental interest of all: human life.
These were men who, because of their years in the military, the private sector, and the legal field, applied proven skills, not theoretical exercises, to solve problems. They were men who never claimed to be, or were ever recognized as “experts” in any region, much less fancied themselves as political “scientists” or “international relations experts”. They were men who came to power with an acute sense of humility, given their stellar accomplishments. This humility compelled them to investigate those things that they did not know, in contrast to the arrogance that comes with doctoral degrees in international relations and the accolade of being an “expert”.
While imperfect, these men – these non-ideologues – turned out to be the nation’s most effective foreign policy actors. They were men like General George Marshall, who saw vast need with his own eyes and summoned the spirit, generosity, and energy of Americans to lift an entire continent out of darkness. They were men like Dean Acheson, who was “present at the creation” and whose life’s work still endure and provide stability in the global system of 2016. They were men like James Baker III, who cobbled together an improbable coalition to prosecute what was essentially an American policy. They were men like George Shultz, who never allowed ideology to get in the way of his assessment of facts and people on the ground. In so doing, United States played useful roles in the democratic transitions of certain countries.
Donald Trump is not looking for the next Henry Kissinger or Jeanne Kirkpatrick. He wants men in the mold of Shultz, Baker, Acheson, and Marshall running our foreign policy. These are the kind of men who won’t buckle under the pressure of smooth-talking but specious foreign policy “experts” who demand U.S. intervention anywhere and everywhere. These are the kind of blubber heads who shout “isolationism!” whenever someone questions putting American men and women in harm’s way in places like Kosovo, Haiti, the Ukraine, and the South China Seas, when other options are available.
Hillary Clinton’s hawkish instincts following the legacy of Madeline Albright
Hillary Clinton will guarantee the continuation of a foreign policy driven by ideologues for ideologue-diplomats, with their Jurassic-era assumptions. Consider the words uttered by a woman she considers one of her foreign policy gurus, Madeline Albright: “What use is it to have a big military, Colin, if you can’t use it?” Albright asked this question to a four star general who evinced reluctance to send the U.S. military to a country that posed no threat to the United States. Their crimes were being committed in the heart of Europe, not far from the militaries of the French and the British, which were ranked then and now as being the most powerful in that continent. Albright’s instrumental view of the men and women of the U.S. military, her lack of understanding as to why they volunteered for service in the first place, her naïveté, as well as her role in Hillary’s brain trust, should send a chill to anyone averse to the kind of useless and senseless “interventions” launched during the Clinton and Bush eras.
Hillary’s coterie of “experts” have always been the intellectual descendants of the men who brought us Vietnam. They come from the same mold as the “Masters of War” who brought us Iraq. She will continue a foreign policy that justifies U.S. intervention in places where no American interests are at stake. It will be a foreign policy where America plays both the role of sheriff and patsy. So even when powers with the capacity to intervene are present, they will not do so in anticipation of American involvement. She will bring back to power the same gaggle of foreign policy experts who view the men and women of the U.S. military as tools of diplomats.
Hillary will bring more death abroad and at home, and will render the way of life we now know as unrecognizable.
In contrast, Trump’s foreign policy will treasure and save lives because he does not see foreign policy with the martial romanticism and naïveté of academic ideologues and those who have never fought in a war.
Foreign policy must be oriented around the protection of American lives
Trump gets it. Most of the time, the vociferous advocates of the military response are the same people who have never fought in a war themselves. The war they dodged in their youth must now be waged as they sit in positions of influence in the media or in Congress. But the price must be paid by others – other people’s sons and daughters. These are the same people who, like Cheney, Rice, Wolfowitz, Kristol and Kagan of the Right, and like Albright, Brezinski or Friedman of the Left, are not inclined to look at other options. There never are other options for chicken hawks in times of crisis, other than to “send the boys over.”
Trump understands that a sensible and decent foreign policy is one that is oriented, first and foremost, to the protection of human life. We must defend American life and preserve the American way of life. We must not put thousands of American lives in harm’s way on the basis of something called the Domino Theory, “to shore up American credibility” (whatever that means), or for “strategic purposes” (which would change every month and which no one can properly define). We must not put American men and women at risk to promote the foreign policy career of an ambitious Secretary of State or to leave a “legacy” for a National Security Advisor.
He will surround himself with pragmatic men, who have proven themselves in shark-infested waters, not in Ivy Towers. He has an exceptional connection with our veterans, which makes him acutely aware of the true price of war. He will stand up to sneering foreign policy mandarins who charge “Isolationism!” every time the U.S. seeks a non-military response to a conflict or declines to involve itself in another country’s problems. He will resist those that thump their chest to fight the war they evaded in their youth. He will recruit experienced men who are not part of the foreign policy establishment. His philosophy draws lessons from David Halberstam’s masterpiece on the roots of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
Foreign policy is a matter of life or death. Trump will defend American lives and the American way of life. There is one clear choice for America. Without a doubt, that choice is Donald J. Trump.