Trump and the GOP’s foreign policy: A worldwide danger

Donald Trump is the official presidential candidate of the Republican Party, which has also now published its platform for 2016. We can see clearly where they stand on the issues, including foreign policy. Both Trump’s acceptance speech and the platform document should alert us to the extreme danger that a Republican victory would represent not only for the United States but the world.

In his acceptance speech, given in Cleveland last week, Trump served up his usual stew of pompous and belligerent nationalist statements, things he has been saying throughout the campaign. There was no moderating of tone or softening of line.

He started out by saying that “we cannot afford to be so politically correct any more.” He then launched into an attack, full of misinformation, on immigrants and refugees, whom he portrayed as a life-threatening horde who are causing poverty and crime. He went on to push every fear button and blow every dog whistle. On foreign policy, first off, he launched an attack on the nuclear agreement with Iran. He said his administration will put “America first,” once more repeating a phrase that he well must know is associated with pre-World War II appeasement of Nazi Germany by the U.S. right.

Trump called for an end to “nation building and regime change” policies that he says characterized Clinton’s approach to foreign affairs when she was Secretary of State. He also blasted free trade treaties for hurting U.S. workers. Had he stopped there, he might have sounded somewhat reasonable. However, Trump made clear that he is not really for a non-interventionist foreign policy. For example, he criticizes NATO but makes it clear that what he wants to do is pressure the other member countries to increase their financial contributions, thereby strengthening that organization – which indeed should be headed for the scrap heap.

He continued in belligerent, xenophobic mode, in which he blamed, as he has throughout his campaign, evil scheming foreigners abetted by weak-kneed Democratic Party politicians for every ill that besets our society, often providing out and out false information to bolster his case. He singles out China as the main enemy and suggests he will be just as confrontational in dealing with that country as the present administration has been.

The Republican Platform for 2016 is even worse.

*After declaring, on the first page, that “We believe in American exceptionalism…the United States of America is unlike any other nation on earth,” it goes on to list changes it wants to see in U.S. foreign policy, all of which are aggressively xenophobic and which, together, represent a danger of greatly increased international tensions.

*It calls for a massive military buildup on a basis that amounts to a huge giveaway to the armaments industry and other corporate giants.

*Like Trump, it blames economic woes on all the other countries in the world with U.S. corporations sharing none of the blame. The remedy is more penetration of other countries by greedy U.S. corporations. “We cannot allow foreign governments to limit American access to their markets while stealing our designs, patents, brands, knowhow and technology.” Commercial rivalry with China is highlighted and given a bogus moral tone, as if U.S. corporations also do not grab every advantage they can get overseas, often to the detriment of both poorer countries and U.S. workers.

*It calls for even more U.S. intervention in Ukraine and an even more confrontational attitude toward Russia than the current administration has been carrying out. Some of the other NATO powers, particularly Germany, are already worried that the U.S. approach is too aggressive.

*Likewise, the platform calls for an even more confrontational attitude toward China in the South China Sea.

*It calls for repudiation of the Iran nuclear deal.

*It calls for an open U.S. policy of “regime change” in Syria, ignoring the fact that this would probably strengthen ISIS.

*On Israel and Palestine, many were disappointed that the Democratic Party’s platform was not more evenhanded. But the Republican platform is absolutely over the top: It reads as if it had been written by Benjamin Netanyahu or someone in his cabinet. “Support for Israel is an expression of Americanism,” it intones. There should be “no daylight” between America and Israel. It calls for U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as the “eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state,” which is an attack on the desire of the Palestinians that their capital be East Jerusalem. The statement rejects the idea that Israel is an occupier (meaning in the West Bank) and denounces the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS) as inherently anti-Semitic. A two-state solution is not mentioned, and there is nothing whatsoever  about the rights of the Palestinian people.

*It denounces Vietnam while supporting U.S. arms sales to that country, and revives the canard that Vietnam is somehow hiding U.S. military personnel missing since the Vietnam War.

*It echoes Trump’s complaint that other NATO powers are not spending enough on that military alliance, and calls for a military buildup by the European member countries, basically to confront Russia.

*On Latin America, it accuses the Obama administration of abandoning the United States’ friends in the region and cozying up to its enemies. “A Republican president will never embrace a Marxist dictator, in Venezuela or anywhere else.” The statement goes on to claim that Venezuela is now a “narco terrorist state” and a base for Hezbollah, threatening Central America. No evidence is given for any of these bizarre and false claims.

*On Colombia, it says nothing about the peace talks but channels the Colombian ultra-right, hinting that the results of the peace agreement might cause “the accession to power of murderers and drug lords.”

*The platform contains a full-throated, Cold War-style attack on Cuba, demanding essentially that the Obama administration’s opening to Cuba be canceled, that instead the U.S. work toward the overthrow of the Cuban government, and that Cuba’s “corrupt rulers [be] forced from power and brought to account for their crimes against humanity.”

*The foreign policy part of the statement concludes by demanding that the U.S. repudiate a whole slew of international treaties, including the U.N. Convention on Women’s Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty and the Law of the Sea Treaty, to name just a few.

These foreign policy items recall nothing so much as the sort of things the John Birch Society used to promote during the worst of the Cold War and the days of McCarthyism. The rest of the platform is more or less like that: Tea Party all the way.

Candidates are not bound by party platforms, but the general thrust of Trump’s positions and of the GOP platform should put us on our guard and inspire us to greater efforts to defeat them in November. The election is fifteen weeks from this Tuesday.

There are a great many things wrong with the foreign policy of the Democrats and with Clinton’s handling of her job as Secretary of State, but it is unthinkable that, because of this, we permit Trump and the current Republican Party leadership to win by default. Nor is it possible for a third-party candidate to build up enough of a campaign in the intervening time to win. Bernie Sanders has ruled out running as an  independent, precisely because doing so would likely put Trump in the White House.

Let us act maturely and responsibly.

Read the whole Trump acceptance speech and the whole of the Republican platform and you will see what has to be done, and why it is so urgent.

Photo: Trump’s speech during the Republican National Convention.  |  J. Scott Applewhite/AP


Emile Schepers
Emile Schepers

Emile Schepers is a veteran civil and immigrant rights activist. Born in South Africa, he has a doctorate in cultural anthropology from Northwestern University. He is active in the struggle for immigrant rights, in solidarity with the Cuban Revolution and a number of other issues. He writes from Northern Virginia.