A primary concern for many regarding the at-the-time potential election of Donald Trump to be the president of the United States was his effect on American foreign policy and security. He has virtually no foreign policy experience. His foreign policy advisers on the campaign trail were inexperienced and not well-known within foreign policy circles. Numerous GOP officials who had previously served in a national security capacity in previous Republican administrations authored a public letter declaring that the foreign policy positions Donald Trump had adopted during the campaign were dangerous and could threaten U.S. national security. Donald Trump could threaten the international world order, they warned. World leaders and international organizations were concerned about the effect Trump would have on international security and foreign policy.
These concerns have not dissipated following Donald Trump’s victory. Now that he has been elected his administration looks to be short on national security staff and experts. His apparent choices for Cabinet officials which would deal with national security issues engender little enthusiasm or confidence. He is still denying remarks he made regarding an encouragement of nuclear proliferation. While foreign leaders have taken a conciliatory tone when talking about and to Donald Trump and it would seem Trump has softened on some of his positions regarding foreign policy, on others he has not. President Obama has stated, after meeting with President-elect Trump, that on some issues Trump will have to soften his positions for them to be tenable.
What are Donald Trump’s positions and thereby potential policies on U.S. foreign and security policy? And what does empirical research have to say about the potential consequences on these policies?
First, a look at some of the policies:
- He has renewed his vow to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
- He plans to immediately deport 2-3 million undocumented immigrants.
- Donald Trump has maintained he wishes to forge a better relationship between the U.S. and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- He has seemingly encouraged nuclear proliferation.
- He has threatened to pull back from long-standing U.S. alliances such as NATO.
- He has promised once again to renegotiate and/or “tear up” many existing U.S. free trade agreements.
- He has apparently made defeating ISIS his top priority.
Now, what does empirical evidence suggest about the outcome of these policies, if enacted?
- The vast majority of Mexicans migrate to the United States in order to escape crime, economic problems, drugs, and corrupt political leaders. Building a wall, deporting illegal immigrants and seeking to decrease the benefits of NAFTA will only worsen these domestic issues in Mexico. In other words, they may spur an increase in illegal immigration. Making America less secure.
- Many experts consider Russia to be a threat which necessitates strict U.S. control.
- U.S. engagement in international alliances increases U.S. security. Furthermore, these alliances do not threaten or curtail U.S. interests.
- The existence of these alliances also increases international trade. Trade which decreases the probability of engagement in international conflict.
- Additionally, engagement in alliances and international free trade increases interdependence between the United States and other countries, which decreases the probability of international conflict.
- Nuclear proliferation increases the probability of international conflict.
- ISIS cannot be defeated and rhetoric which dehumanizes and further vilifies Muslims, as well as more violent action in the Middle East and around the world against ISIS and other Muslim extremists, may increase the threat posed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. In fact, it was reported that ISIS was rooting for a Donald Trump victory because his words and actions would help their cause.
In short, every one of these potential Trump policies would decrease U.S. national security. While it remains uncertain that any of Trump’s positions will be effectively put into policy, or what shape that policy would ultimately take, as pure issue positions they appear to be poor. And have been declared as such by foreign policy experts, both academics and practitioners, since Donald Trump first began elucidating them. There are no sure things in foreign policy and any policy can be potentially dangerous, but these positions are dangerous on their face.
That is why the lack of foreign policy experience and knowledge of Donald Trump and among his advisers is particularly concerning. A lack of experience and knowledge signals a lack of understanding as to the potential consequences of the policies. Consequences which seem to be a less secure United States.