On Foreign Policy, Trump Is Still the Lesser Evil
Covid-19 has occupied nearly all media attention, but foreign policy remains an important topic for many Americans who are exhausted by the prevailing order of never-ending wars. Lost in the usual cacophony of politics in the Trump era—which has been marked by outrage politics and a lack of introspection in discourse—are any in-depth discussions about making changes to America’s foreign policy quagmire. For some people who became disenchanted with the nation-building adventures of the Bush and Obama eras, the election of Donald Trump in 2016 presented a glint of hope.
Although he is no dyed-in-the-wool noninterventionist, Trump questioned a number of the shibboleths of the contemporary foreign world order that places America as the unquestioned savior of the world. Some members of the foreign policy blob (or the Blob) were so taken aback by Trump’s criticism of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) during the campaign trail that some feared he would have the US completely leave the military alliance. If only!
History has repeatedly shown, however, that what is said on the campaign trail does not exactly translate into tangible results. Although Trump was able to get NATO member countries such as Germany to pull more of their weight by increasing military spending to comply with NATO standards, NATO remains intact and is still being used to counter the alleged Russian Bear. The fact remains that NATO is a dinosaur of the bygone Cold War era and serves no real national interests in the present.
Nonetheless, Trump’s conversation about having European countries spend more on defense is somewhat encouraging, inasmuch as it makes the idea of countries with an American military presence assuming their defense functions slightly more palpable. Ideally, this would occur outside the NATO framework, as countries start providing for their own defense while America scales back its military presence in said countries and focuses more on its domestic affairs. Alas, we don’t operate in such circumstances.
It is amusing how foreign policy elites’ feathers continue to be ruffled by an administration that hasn’t done much to scale back the military-industrial complex (despite a lot of negative talk directed toward it from the president himself) nor to reduce America’s global footprint abroad. Take, for example, former vice president Dick Cheney. The former member of the Bush brain trust expressed his dismay with President Donald Trump’s supposedly “transactional” foreign policy of weighing the costs and benefits of a number of alliances and partnerships the US has made with other countries over the years. Yes, a transactional foreign policy is not ideal, but it’s a marginal improvement over the missionary role America has taken during the last century. A transactional foreign policy actually takes into consideration that there are actual costs—human and financial—when projecting power abroad.
Many on the mainstream right correctly observe that there are no free lunches in matters of domestic economics. But when foreign policy comes up similar logic escapes them. With over eight hundred bases across the globe and a military budget
Article from Mises Wire