from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

Five Ways Trump’s Foreign Policy Would Be a Disaster

November 3, 2016

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

I have a new column today on Foreign Policy—“Trump Is Less Hawkish Than Hillary. Who Cares?”—which summarizes my evaluation of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s foreign-policy positions. I have published a number of pieces focusing on both candidates, from Clinton’s call for a no-fly zone in Syria, to Trump’s convenient amnesia about strongly endorsing a U.S. ground intervention in Libya in February 2011. This campaign has been marked more by perceptions of the candidates’ behavior, temperaments, and familial or professional connections than actual policies.

However, based upon the limited and skewed available information about their likely foreign policies, Donald Trump would be a far more dangerous and destabilizing Commander in Chief. He has not demonstrated any improved understanding of the basic principles, laws, and behaviors that govern the foreign policymaking process, nor the manner in which states routinely interact with each other. Far worse is his unwillingness to acknowledge when he has changed his mind, or learned from others. Instead, he has consistently lied about his past positions, and, when asked who he listens to on foreign policy, stated “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

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My new column details five consequential foreign policy issues on which Trump has demonstrated his misinformed and dangerous opinions. To take just one example:

Trump either has no understanding of U.S. conventional military power, or is being intentionally misleading about the capabilities of the armed forces. He inaccurately defames the most globally committed and powerful military in world history as being “very weak” and “seriously depleted,” and led by generals who “have been reduced to rubble to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country.” Other than repeating the Reagan “peace through strength” mantra with zero context, Trump has given little indication what sorts of military missions he would support. He opposes using U.S. ground troops for “nation-building,” but has repeatedly endorsed using them in Iraq (and in Libya in 2011) to coercively extract the country’s oil and natural gas. This is an illegal act of aggression fit for King Leopold II of Belgium, not a U.S. president.

For more on my final analysis on this campaign, read here.

More on:

United States

Diplomacy and International Institutions

Conflict Prevention

Defense and Security

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