The Trump Foreign Policy

I recommend reading Rosa Brooks’s analysis of Donald Trump’s foreign policy at Foreign Policy. Here’s the meat of her analysis:

Trump’s vision of the world — and his conception of statecraft — isn’t one I much like, but it reflects a fairly coherent theory of international relations. It’s realist, transactional, and Machiavellian — and it demands a serious, thoughtful, and nondefensive response.

I can’t imagine circumstances under which I’d vote for Trump but Ms. Brooks offers a very solid explanation of why dismissing him, practically a parlor game among pundits and politicians, is ill-considered:

Every time someone in the Media Elite pokes fun at Donald Trump, it inspires six bad-tempered middle Americans to vote for him. And every time someone in the Media Elite utters a pompous condemnation of Trump’s ignorance and folly, 17 more angry Trump voters are created. If Trump becomes president, guys, it’s gonna be your fault.

21 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    To which Trump foreign policy should we respond? He keeps changing. He is ignorant on many issues you would expect a candidate to have prepared for. Yes, you create supporters when you point out that ignorance. He is just like them and they don’t know the same stuff. So what.


  • Read the article. She addresses that very question.

  • Andy Link

    Good article, thanks for posting.

  • Modulo Myself Link

    Machiavellian? Come on. I’ll buy coherent, at least on paper. But unless he’s really a Clinton plant, there isn’t a shred of cunning or self-awareness in the man. He’s what the foreign policy elite sound like when they crack or get really drunk or want to impress women. First you want to do good; then went they turn against you want to withdraw and waterboard their children. The operative word here is ‘want’.

    The two smartest foreign policy moves by Americans since the end of the Cold War were Bush I’s refusal to topple Hussein and Obama’s not going full throttle with the Syrian rebels. And you know what? Both of these guys wanted to do the opposite; they just were intelligent and honest enough not to act on what they wanted.

    When Trump wants to do something, he will do it times a thousand. He’s a zero when it comes to self-awareness.

  • steve Link

    Ok, I read it. The author says she was given the job of trying to make a serious repose to Trump’s foreign policy. She did her best to make it sound like he might have a coherent policy or worldview, or something. In order to do this she needs to ignore most of what he says. Yes, he pretty consistently says he thinks the US has been poorly led. The answer? The only consistent answer he actually gives? Put him in charge and he will get a better deal. He can’t or won’t tell us how he will do that, or even what the deal might be. Just elect him because he is great and will make America Great Again. Just like Trump.


  • walt moffett Link

    She does have a point, blue collar/working class folks resent being told what to do with the implied notion they be too dumb by their self appointed betters.

  • Ben Wolf Link

    Trump’s praise of Russian involvement in Syria “let them do it for us” got my attention. Rather than the stupid, insecure blather about looking weak because the U.S. won’t do everything itself this was something clever; we could have spent our time taking credit for manipulating a rival into getting dirty for us.
    He does appear to think differently than the neocons running things for the last sixteen years.

  • michael reynolds Link

    He has no idea what he thinks. He doesn’t think, he intuits and reacts. It’s absurd to pretend he has any guiding principle beyond, “Me make good deals.” He’s a complete ignoramus, he knows nothing, understands nothing, and as MM says above, lacks the self-awareness to know just how clueless he is, and thus lacks any interest in improving his level of knowledge.

    As for yahoos supporting him in reaction to punditry, more bullshit. The yahoos support him because they’re yahoos and so is he. Ignoramuses like other ignoramuses. The American people are just about the dumbest people on earth when it comes to foreign policy and they have at last found a candidate even dumber than George W. Bush.

  • TastyBits Link

    Racist did not work, but yahoo will. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

    Trump is a poopie head, and everybody who does not think he is a poopie head is a poopie head, and we hate them, and we hate you, and we wish everybody would die. We are going to hold our breath until all the poopie heads go away or die.

    When the walls come crumblin’ down.

  • CStanley Link

    I think part of her point too is that people are tired of being told that our current leaders know better, because they clearly don’t. I think that is a valid point, even though I think Trump supporters are wrong to look to him for an alternative and I won’t vote for him.

  • Moosebreath Link

    I agree with the first paragraph of Michael Reynolds’ comment, but not the second.

    Trump is not a thinker at all, but follows his first reaction and believes it will always be correct, whether or not it turns out to be correct. He also has a wildly outsized view of how often his first reaction is correct.

    On the other hand, whether or not his supporters understand Trump, or agree with what he says, they know who they do not agree with. And if those people are attacking Trump, then Trump must be correct.

  • jan Link

    That was an interesting article, weaving back and forth from Trump’s unattractive qualities to how his unorthodox campaign rhetoric merits genuine consideration. Some of the author’s observations catching my attention were: : Trump’s deliberate unpredictability; his unusual ruefulness of elite truisms; and how he disses and dismisses the intellectual and ideological laziness that permeates DC know-it-alls.

    Unlike how Reynolds sees Trump, I don’t think he is either a racist, yahoo, or ignoramus. He is blustery, insulting, defiant of political correctness, whose views and policies seem to zigzag between what is considered liberal and conservative orthodoxy. IOW, he seems far afield from operating under a purely ideological strategy, preferring instead to wield and deal from a more steely, pragmatic POV. As so many political operatives have said, there is simply no play book on Trump, leaving such people in dismay and frustrated. Those who are comforted by someone in sync with their own philosophical mind set either hate him or are queasy to support him. However, those who feel the existing system is insufferable and abusive seem to be rolling the dice and voting for him.

  • Guarneri Link

    Self-unaware, eh?

    Christ, Michael. Ever read your own comments?

  • TastyBits Link


    You are starting to get it, but it really does not matter if he wins. It might be better if they find a way to keep him from becoming the nominee. He is a sledgehammer, and it is affecting both sides.

    The BLM movement could be the awakening of the black voters, and the Sen. Sanders supporters are pissed at their elites who have sold them out as well.

    Trump is the catalyst because he has absolutely nothing to lose. He cannot be bought, and he will not shut up. What his detractors do not realize is that he is demonstrating how to stand up to them. They attack, belittle, besmirch, etc. him, but none of it works. What it is doing is providing a playbook of tactics that can be used against them.

    What Trump represents is not going away, but these fools cannot grasp it. Like every other time they think they have won, it turns into a big turd. With the way the US is going, there might be quite a few people who want to fundamentally transform America back to the way it was when things actually worked.

  • michael reynolds Link

    Oh, I get the frustration of Trump supporters. Unfortunately they caused a lot of their own frustration. Where were they when state by state the GOP was dismantling the unions which were the only voice the working man had? They were cheering on the destruction of their own defenses. Just as they cheer their governors who refuse to extend Medicare.

    And, I’m sorry, but wasn’t it just a few years ago Republicans were explaining the financial meltdown by blaming the people who took out loans they could never pay? Oh, right, that was before Republicans suddenly started caring about the suckers they’ve been fleecing.

    Aside from Dave, I believe I’m the person here with the most experience of actually being a working class guy living on the edge, so I get the frustration. The problem with that frustration is that it’s matched by the frustration of seeing white working class people easily used by anyone who can point at a black person in a nice car or wave a plastic fetus.

    It may surprise some of you, but when I’m not arguing against conservatives I’m elsewhere arguing against what I think of as the “campus left.” I’m publicly attacked far more often by progressives than by conservatives, often on matters of race. It’s not fun being in the middle between the stupid and the insufferable.

    Well, kinda fun.

  • Just as an aside having been both my experience has been that it’s a more pleasant experience being the farthest left guy in a group of conservatives than the farthest right guy in a group of progressives.

  • steve Link

    Dave–I think that used to be true. Today, being the farther left in a group of conservatives means constant attacks, which are pretty vicious. They all read Ann Coulter, Zero Hedge and other nonsense or listed to Rush and co. They all think they have been repressed and are trying to get revenge on the liberals. I work at a couple of smaller facilities sometimes that are very conservative. Just hold my tongue a lot.


  • michael reynolds Link

    Dave and Steve:

    I’m of two minds on that. Conservatives are easy to beat. They lack imagination and that’s fatal if you’re debating anyone with some agility. But a conservative will at least engage you. He won’t know what he’s talking about, but he’ll talk. Liberals won’t. For sheer impenetrability I give it to the progs.

    Every conservative debater: Here’s this thing I heard on Rush which ten seconds’ thought or research would reveal to be utter nonsense, but which I am incredibly proud to regurgitate and lay at your feet.

    Every progressive debater: How can you even consider the possibility that this is anything less than revealed truth? It came from an activist. Also an associate professor.

    It’s hard to say which is dumber. All things equal the conservative is almost always stupider. But if you grade on a curve what’s dumber than a college graduate in the professions with a respectable IQ believing that a green tea enema is the key to health and happiness?

    I actually had a guy, a friend of sorts, call me up to deliver a friendly message that some of what I was saying wasn’t playing well among all our mutual acquaintances in kidlit. Tiburon was apparently too heterodox for Park Slope.

  • steve Link

    michael- I will go out on a limb and conjecture you spend a lot more time with real, firmly avowed liberals than do I. OTOH, I bet I spend a lot more time with people who are cultural and political conservatives. I get along well with both groups since I have to, and because most people just aren’t that political most of the time, or at least they weren’t. However, I can say that in the last 5-10 years that has changed. I have had patients ask me if I was a liberal and say they didn’t want me to care for them if they did not. I had the conservatives at one hospital ask to have me thrown off of the staff because I criticized Bush. I think there has been a real change. As a former gamer, we used to use the term “real life”. What I now see is that people are bringing their internet obsessions and talk show drivel into real life. I am now losing one of my best young docs because she is a foreigner and her in laws who retired 5 years ago became Fox geezers and have started sending her racist nonsense and trying to break up the marriage. It is different, and the vitriol we all saw, the unwillingness to ever compromise by the Tea Party types has carried over (still pretty uncommon TG) among conservatives in every day life.


  • jan Link

    For sheer impenetrability I give it to the progs.

    I agree.

    Unlike Steve, 98% of the people we know and like are far left — some being self described Marxists and socialists. I remember one uncomfortable occasion with 3 women during the Romney/Obama election. Somehow politics intruded on what was a birthday breakfast. Everyone was fervently for Obama. When it came to my turn I voiced support for Romney. There was this deafening silence. Two of the three women were not surprised because they knew me well. One was stunned, and has been cool to me ever since. Even though I was a registered dem at the time, the fact I had wondered away from their political framework was enough to make me an unworthy person, in this one person’s mind.

    The examples given by Steve are, IMO, sad. Being left or right sided should have no influence on one’s workplace. I don’t like it when it’s done in academia, where conservative professors are shunned and degraded. And, it’s equally abusive when conservatives employ their ideology on deciding the professional value of someone.

    As a society we have become unhealthily polarized.

  • TastyBits Link


    Anybody who thinks that ZeroHedge is a Right Wing, conservative, or Republican site has not read very many of the posts. They are mostly libertarians, and they do not support much of the Republican, conservative, or Right Wing agenda. What may be confusing is that they do not default to the progressive positions.

    On the monetary system, most would put the dollar on the gold standard which would immediately solve the income inequality problem, and that is just the first problem solved. On many issues, they would seem like a progressive leaning site.

    The Right might be able to cherry pick a post here and there, but there are ten, twenty, or more that will place it in context. The person citing Zero Hedge is either a fool or a charlatan.

    (My good buddy kept trashing my positions and including links to Zero Hedge posts, and so, I began reading the site. It is time consuming because of the volume, but it is quite illuminating. It turns out that I was not alone in my positions. I doubt that my good buddy is a charlatan. That leaves only one option.)

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