By Daniel McAdams
As candidate Donald Trump prepares his foreign affairs coming out speech tomorrow, we might hope for the best (a conversion on the proverbial -- and perhaps literal -- road to Damascus to solid non-interventionism). But sadly we should expect the worst. Whenever a politician tells us he is “getting serious” about foreign policy, it means he is going to outline all the places in the world where the US government and its military must intervene to “protect our interests.” No politician who craves power – and that means nearly no politician – is going to take to the stage and do what 2012 presidential candidate Ron Paul did: tell people “I don't want to run your life, I don't know how to run your life, I don't have the authority to run your life, and the Constitution doesn't permit me to run your life.”
Trump is no expert on foreign affairs. That is certain but it is also forgivable in a candidate. However it means that he will have to turn to the “experts” help him develop his policy and write his speech. Who are the experts? Those same Washington neocons who have botched every single foreign policy action they have gotten their hands on. The “experts” have no incentive to say, “we should stay out of this conflict,” because doing so means their services are no longer needed. Even beltway “libertarians” get in on the game – jetting off to places like Iraq at taxpayer expense to help them write a new constitution (to be as ignored as ours is).
What to expect from Trump’s big speech, then? A main course of Washington conventional wisdom wrapped up in a good helping of colorful, populist rhetoric. Hopefully this is mistaken, but taking from his comments just five years ago as the decision was being made to attack Libya, we should not be too optimistic.
As you will see in the below video (h/t Target Liberty), Trump repeats the mainstream interventionist line about Libya which we know now to be a total fabrication. “Gaddafi is killing thousands of people,” he says, “nobody knows how many. …it’s a carnage. You talk about things that have happened in history, this could be one of the worst.”
This of course was not the case. As Gaddafi himself tried to tell Obama and Tony Blair and anyone who would listen, he was fighting an Islamist extremist insurgency in his country and any killing was being done against al-Qaeda, our supposed enemy. How do we know he was telling the truth? Because now that “we came, we saw, he died,” the country is over-run with al-Qaeda and now is a major headquarters for ISIS!
So Trump’s problem on foreign policy is that his instinct is to accept the conventional wisdom, which is consistently wrong, and to shoot from the hip (endorse US military action) rather than to soberly assess whether such action is critical to the defense of the United States. He may think that is what the people want to hear, but judging from polls he may be very much misreading the sentiment of a war-weary American people.
Trump on Libya, 2011: