Since Donald J. Trump became president almost a year ago, many of us have been diligently trying to figure out what his foreign policy is.
Shortly before Christmas, the White House released the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy, a defense plan for both military and economic security, mandated by law and meant ideally to show where we stand as the leading nation-among-nations.
So what does it reveal about America and its future security, both real and imagined.
First, the Trump “strategy” completely eliminates climate change from its list of threats to national security.
Trump’s philosophy is that paying attention to global warming, soft-power issues like diplomacy, population control, severe water shortages and famine is somehow a self-indulgent, even phony, cause celebre of the liberals. These are issues not worthy of such tough thinkers (or at least talkers) as the president and his gang of populist godfathers.
But thoughtful people cannot seriously dismiss climate change from their concerns about security because we are not dealing only with flooding in Houston, wildfires in Santa Barbara and the veritable destruction of entire areas of Puerto Rico. We are facing a world where island nations like the Maldives will soon face disappearing altogether, and overpopulated nations like Egypt, jam-packed with 90 million desperate people, will soon explode.
The devilish confluence of threats — drought, a lack of arable land and overpopulation — has already been the cause of tragedies in Rwanda, Syria and Yemen.
And as these patterns are repeated across the globe, it only means more and more desperate migrants will head north, inevitably threatening, and in time destroying, the industrialized European and American civilizations. It does not take much imagination to predict conflicts over food and water, but also simply over space.
Second, the National Security Strategy is singularly economic. No surprise here, given that Trump’s mantra of “jobs, jobs, jobs” and his tax relief for billionaires make it clear that the economy is at the center of everything for him.
We must compete always and everywhere — but only for jobs and for the benefit of the big corporations. “Protecting American interests,” the strategy paper says, “requires that we compete continuously within and across these contests, which are being played out in regions around the world.”
“Economism,” where every social, political and cultural factor is reduced to an economic one, is at the very heart of Donald Trump’s canon.
Except that this is a stubborn and ignorant child’s conception of the world. Mature and responsible people see the world as a combination of the social, the moral, the political, the cultural and, yes, finally, the economic.
Third, Trump’s strategy paper does challenge Russia and China, both described as “revisionist” powers trying to “shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests” and to “erode American security and prosperity.”
Here one sees the adroit and sophisticated hand of White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, as the paper points, for the first time, to the dramatic new awareness that U.S. policy in the Far East, based on the belief that China would liberalize politically as it developed economically, is now disproved by the facts.
“Contrary to our hopes,” the paper says, “China expanded its power at the expense of the sovereignty of others in the region.”
In general, the strategy is a surprisingly moderate creation.