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Friday, January 20, 2017

On Inauguration Day, George Friedman offers this compelling analysis of the new President's Foreign Policy

...in a new Geopolitical Futures post, Donald Trump Has a Coherent, Radical Foreign Policy Doctrine.

Some excerpts:

...Trump’s rhetoric is a problem, but so is conventionally clear political rhetoric that clearly says nothing. I say this because I think that observers tend too readily to dismiss what he says. This is an attempt to decode it.

Trump’s core strategic argument is that the United States is overextended. The core reason for this overextension is that the United States has substituted a system of multilateral relationships for a careful analysis of the national interest. In this reading, Washington is entangled in complex relationships that place risks and burdens on the United States to come to the aid of some countries. However, its commitments are not matched by those countries in capability, nor in intent.

NATO is the obvious case. The United States has been involved in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in the Islamic world. NATO has not provided decisive strategic support to these efforts. Many have provided what support they could or what support they wanted, but that level of support was far below the abilities of NATO members.

The members of the European Union have roughly the same collective gross domestic product as the United States, and a larger population. They also have a substantial industrial base. Europe is well beyond where it was when NATO was founded, when it was incapable of collective defense without the United States. NATO members have taken for granted that Washington will bear the primary burden for defense, measured not only in terms of dollars spent, but also in the development of military capabilities.

As important, the primary strategic activity of the United States for the past 15 years has been in the Islamic world. Many in NATO objected to the U.S. operation in Iraq, and except for the United Kingdom they provided little or no significant support. Alliance members have no obligation to join in conflicts initiated by the United States outside the area of NATO’s focus. Trump accepts that principle but points out that the organization has been irrelevant to U.S. strategic needs. Where the alliance engaged, it did so with far too little force to constitute a strategic force. Their reasonable argument that the 28-member alliance makes no commitment to out-of-area engagements not undertaken under Article 5 raises the question of what, then, NATO’s value is to the United States. In sum, NATO lacks significant strategic capabilities, and the alliance is defined in such a way that its members can and do elect to avoid those conflicts that matter most to America.

It is therefore not clear that NATO as currently constituted is of value to the United States. The United States is liable for the defense of Europe. Europe is not liable for defending American interests, which today lie outside of Europe. Trump believes this relationship must be mutually renegotiated. If the Europeans are unwilling to renegotiate, the United States should exit NATO and develop bilateral relations with countries that are capable and are prepared to work with the United States in areas of its national interest in return for guarantees from Washington. Similar re-examination of our relationships ought to be carried out globally in regard to allies such as Japan and South Korea to assure that such relationships remain of value to both parties, and that the level of effort and risk reflects that value.

The same view holds true for Trump’s policy on foreign trade. It is not clear that the current international trade regime has benefited the United States. International trade is not an end in itself; it must serve the interests of each party. At this point in history, the primary economic need in the United States is to create trade relations that build jobs in the United States. The previous goal of aggregate growth of an economy without regard to societal consequences is no longer acceptable. The terms under which most international trade agreements have been structured are now therefore unacceptable.  Free trade may well increase the GDP, but it does not deal with critical societal issues.

Large multilateral free-trade agreements are therefore far too complex to fine-tune to the American interest. They need to be avoided in favor of bilateral treaties, or of smaller ones such as NAFTA, that can be reshaped to serve the current American interest. In these negotiations, the United States, producing about 25 percent of the world’s GDP, holds the strong hand. The United States’ primary concern must be the same as that of other countries: trade relations that are beneficial to it, and not an abstract commitment to free trade.

Trump’s core strategic argument is that the United States is overextended. The core reason for this overextension is that the United States has substituted a system of multilateral relationships for a careful analysis of the national interest. In this reading, Washington is entangled in complex relationships that place risks and burdens on the United States to come to the aid of some countries. However, its commitments are not matched by those countries in capability, nor in intent.

For Trump, the key is to recognize that the Post-World War II period of multilateralism is over, and that continuing to act otherwise is harming the United States’ interests in multiple ways. For the United States 9/11 remains a defining moment, and 15 years of unsatisfactory operations in the Middle East do not mean that a solution is unattainable. Since NATO members are either unwilling to commit to this effort, or have very little to commit, the United States seeks other nations with a common interest, and chief among those is Russia.

Trump has actually said most of these things in a rather disjointed way. But if we ignore rhetorical flaws and look at the substance of what he has said, he has a coherent and radical foreign policy. Trump is proposing a redefinition of U.S. foreign policies based on current realities, not those of 40 years ago. It is a foreign policy in which American strength is maximized in order to achieve American ends.

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