It is dangerous to listen to someone like Donald Trump whose nostalgia date (his way-back machine) is set to the 60’s and 70’s. No problem if you’re just telling stories to your grandchildren but a “huge” problem if you are the President of the United States. Donald’s idea of winning – he said in this foreign policy speech – is our victory in WWII and he also gives America credit for winning the Cold War. Donald is another worshipper of the only “perfect” American President, Ronald Reagan. He likes an America that is pugilistic and muscular.
Trump believes we haven’t won a war since World War Two or the Cold War because we have been weak. He, perhaps, would have liked Ronald Reagan to be made President for Life. Alzheimer’s, sadly, would have put the kibosh on that. However, except for Saint Ronald (who if you studied real history was way less than perfect) no one else has measured up. According to Trump the weakest leader of all has been President Obama (who is never given the honorific) and Hillary Clinton will be just as bad.
But what Donald Trump, stuck in the old days, cannot see is that the very philosophy concerning the ways we participate in the world has evolved.
We have learned not to go to war lightly – well no we haven’t but we, at least, are not turning every skirmish into a world war, or every power hungry man into an existential threat (OK, we’re not perfect at that either but we’re trying). We have learned that nation building in far-flung corners of the globe is expensive and not often appreciated or even successful, which doesn’t mean we will actually refrain. We surely have had plenty of examples of the totally unforeseen consequences of regime change, although from time to time we still can’t seem to resist. We especially can’t help injecting ourselves into the chaos in the nations of our nearest neighbors, often with horrifying results.
Donald wants to bring this all back along with torture and secrecy and threats (even nukes). So while evidence suggests that tactics that we and others have used in the past will not actually make America great again, that the only thing resorting to these old military chestnuts can do is enhance our reputation as “ugly Americans”, Donald Trump, still stuck in that post-World War II glow, seems unaware of such evidence.
Trump blames Obama and Clinton for “the confusion, chaos, and disarray” in the world but many of us believe that the Bush administration opened the Pandora’s Box that has turned into the seething, painfully transitioning Middle East we see and deal with today. Whether the region tried to shake off their authoritarian leaders, or whether the Iraq war had a domino effect, or whether Americas had our hands in their fall from power, it is clear that the Middle East does not have a tradition of democratic rule and that is not the setting it reboots to. Perhaps we need to flood the area with reasons to join the developed world that make sense in relation to Muslim beliefs.
However, I contend, that we are actually at the point where war and the environment meet, because if we cannot work across nations, and stay somewhat peaceful and stable as the inhabitants of this planet we may be doomed. If we can’t work efficiently as caretakers and help create a sustainable lifestyle for the exploding population, then confusion, chaos and disarray will be the order of the day, every day. Old imperialistic and militaristic strategies may have once made America feel large and in charge, but these outdated attitudes towards our global neighbors, however un-neighborly, are not what we need now.
We could go with America First and decide, as we see our planet become a less hospitable place to live, to build those walls and annihilate our enemies (or be annihilated, because people will fight back). That’s one way to be sustainable, wipe out anyone who won’t accept our leadership. But where is the challenge in that. It is far more interesting to try to design global strategies that will give everyone a livable spot in a world exhibiting rapid climate change. It is far more intelligent to keep striving to colonize other planets than to turn this one into a radioactive nuclear wasteland.
Earth probably doesn’t care if we take care of it; it will live on without us. But if we want the Earth to support human life we may need to start cooperating pretty soon now. We can’t just take a boilerplate set of old war policies and rely on them to keep the flaws in human nature from sucking us under. The nations who understand the risks to our planet need to be strong, yes, but also cooperative, creative and nuanced; and we need a global design for where we would like things to go here on Earth – and for that we need peace, not war-mongering. The reason Donald Trump’s foreign policies, and in fact the foreign policy stances of the Republican Party are dangerous is because they will not meet the current and future needs of Americans or anyone else on Earth.
By Nancy Brisson