Campaign Roundup: What Would Donald Trump’s Second Term Foreign Policy Look Like?
from The Water's Edge and Renewing America

Campaign Roundup: What Would Donald Trump’s Second Term Foreign Policy Look Like?

Each Friday, I look at what the presidential contenders are saying about foreign policy. This Week: A second Trump presidency would shift U.S. foreign policy in a more nationalist and unilateralist direction.
Former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Claremont, New Hampshire, on November 11, 2023.
Former President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Claremont, New Hampshire, on November 11, 2023. Brian Snyder/Reuters

Donald Trump’s polling lead over both his Republican rivals and over Joe Biden has grown in recent weeks. That has prompted a spate of articles asking: What would U.S. foreign policy look like in a second Trump administration?

The honest answer is that no one knows precisely. Other than insisting that he will close the southern border to asylum seekers, Trump has spent much of the past three years relitigating his 2020 election feat rather than building out a coherent policy program.

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What we know about Trump’s plans comes from occasional comments he has made and from news stories, generally based on unnamed sources, about his discussions with advisers. Trump has said that he would seek to end China’s most-favored nation trading status. He is considering whether to impose a “universal baseline tariff” of ten percent on virtually all U.S. imports with the goal of placing a “ring around the U.S. economy.” He says he is committed to “fundamentally reevaluating NATO's purpose and NATO's mission.” He has refused to commit to continuing military aid to Ukraine and insists he will end the fighting in “twenty-four hours,” though without saying how. He may be willing to recognize North Korea as a nuclear power if it agrees to freeze its nuclear arsenal. He has asked for plans on how the U.S. military might attack Mexican drug cartels. He has pledged to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, which seeks to spur the green energy transition in the United States, and will likely withdraw the United States once again from the Paris climate agreement.

Some or all of these proposals might come to fruition. Or they might just be idle talk. Trump has a long record of threatening action he never took and making promises he didn’t keep. And when he was in office, he showed that he could jump from one end of the policy spectrum (e.g., threatening North Korea with “fire and fury”) to the other (e.g., exchanging “beautiful letters” with North Korea’s leader) with remarkable speed.

What is clear is that a second Trump term, like the first one, would produce a sharp change in the direction in U.S. foreign policy, making it more nationalist, less cooperative, and more unilateralist. That will strain and perhaps rupture relations with longstanding friends, partners, and allies. That will hardly matter to Trump. He has argued for four decades that the world order the United States created after World War II and extended after the collapse of the Soviet Union doesn’t serve American interests. He is not changing his stripes now.

Campaign Update

The House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to open a formal impeachment investigation of Joe Biden. The vote fell strictly along party lines, with 221 Republicans voting yes and 212 Democrats voting no. Then-Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy launched an impeachment investigation back in September. This week’s vote theoretically enhances the House Republicans’ ability to subpoena testimony and evidence. The vote did not specify the precise “high crimes and misdemeanors” Biden is accused of, and several of the Republican lawmakers who voted to formalize the impeachment inquiry had previously said they had not seen any evidence of wrongdoing by Biden. As a sign of our highly partisan times, Biden saw contributions to his reelection campaign spike after the House vote.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley for president on Tuesday. The endorsement is likely to boost the former South Carolina governor’s chances in the Granite State, though not necessarily by enough to catch frontrunner Donald Trump. Sununu’s decision was bad news for her rival Chris Christie, who is hoping that a strong showing in New Hampshire will jumpstart his campaign.

More on:

United States

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Election 2024

Elections and Voting

2023 in Review

New York’s State Court of Appeals ordered the state’s redistricting commission to redraw the state’s congressional districts in time for the 2024 election. The decision helps Democrats’ chances to retake the U.S. House of Representatives. Republicans picked up four of New York’s congressional seats in 2022, in part because of a relatively friendly redistricting plan instituted after the 2020 census.  

Michigan’s Court of Appeals said Thursday that Trump’s name can appear on the state’s primary ballot. Asked to rule on the question of whether the former president can be barred from running because he violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s ban on insurrectionists, the court concluded: “Who to place on the primary ballot is determined by the political parties and the individual candidates.” The court punted for now on the question of whether Trump can be kept off the general election ballot.

The Candidates in Their Own Words

Trump held a rally in Coralville, Iowa, a suburb of Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, on Wednesday. The former president vowed once again to end what he called Biden’s “open border policies” and to launch the “largest deportation mission in history.” Polls show that a majority of likely Iowa Republican caucus-goers favor Trump. No other candidate breaks 20 percent.

Former President Donald Trump as viewed giving a speech.





CNN sponsored a town hall in Des Moines on Tuesday with Ron DeSantis. Among other things, the Florida governor said:

I don’t think you can have a “two-state solution” when the Arabs will view it—the Palestinian Arabs will view it—as a stepping stone to the destruction of Israel. Why have we not had a solution there? Because they’ve never recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. And until they’re willing to do that, anything that would be done would just weaken Israel.

DeSantis did not say what policy he would favor in place of the two-state solution.

CNN also sponsored a town hall with Vivek Ramaswamy. He called for cracking down on immigration, saying he believes that “anybody who's in this country illegally needs to be returned to their country of origin.” He also said he would end birthright citizen for any child born to undocumented immigrants after he became president.  

Cornel West sat down for a Q&A with Politico. The interview was light on foreign policy. However, West did offer that “I see brother Biden as a milquetoast neoliberal with military adventurism, possibly leading the world to World War III.”

What the Pundits Are Saying

The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson Sorkin recapped the status of the effort to disqualify Trump from the Colorado ballot because of the January 6 insurrection. Her conclusion is that “the U.S. Supreme Court needs to rule on that question as soon as possible.”  

Politico’s Rich Lowry argues that Biden’s fall in the polls “has completely eliminated any possibility of making an electability argument against Trump” in Republican circles.

The Campaign Schedule 

The Iowa caucuses, the first nominating event on the election calendar, are thirty days away (January 15, 2024).

The South Carolina primary, the first Democratic primary, is forty-nine days away (February 3, 2024).

Election Day is 325 days away.

Sinet Adous and Michelle Kurilla assisted in the preparation of this post.

The Campaign Roundup will be on hiatus for the next two weeks because of the holiday. It will return on January 5, 2024.

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