Elias Atienza is a history sophomore and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Trump’s victory was a stunning blow to the United States’ status quo. Trump’s bellicose attitude toward the current administration’s policies on trade, immigration, terrorism and the economy propelled him to the position of president-elect. While it is imperative that we approach these changes with some degree of reservation, Trump’s views do provide some cause for cautious optimism.
Arguably the most central component of Trump’s foreign policy is his opposition to overthrowing foreign regimes. The U.S. overthrew three foreign regimes in the last 15 years: Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Trump publicly voiced opposition to this policy of intervention since at least 2004. He blasted the regime changes as having “produced only turmoil and suffering and death.” And in a foreign policy speech that the Washington Examiner called “libertarian-like,” he called for a new foreign policy that “learns from the mistakes of the past.”
“We will destroy ISIS. At the same time, we will pursue a new foreign policy that finally learns from the mistakes of the past,” Trump said in a “thank you” speech on Dec 1. “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks. Our goal is stability, not chaos because we wanna rebuild our country. It’s time.”
Trump understands that overthrowing regimes was counterproductive to the national security interests of the U.S. In the past 15 years, despite trillions of dollars spent by the U.S. overseas, the Middle East is still cloaked in turmoil and more countries are destabilized now than at the beginning of the millennium. Trump’s promise, while only a promise, brings hope that the U.S. will stop looking to depose foreign regimes and finally adopt a relatively noninterventionist foreign policy.
Additionally, Trump promised to restructure the standard that the U.S. holds its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to. The member states of NATO are obligated to spend two percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on their military. However, only six countries (including the U.S.) meet this obligation. Denmark, for example, last fulfilled this obligation just after the end of the Cold War. Now, its military spending is only 1.2 percent of its GDP. The European welfare state has grown, while its militaries have shrunk. But this might change.
Should Trump enforce this fiscal floor, Denmark would either have to cut spending in its many welfare programs or raise taxes; the latter is unlikely as Denmark has the highest tax burden in Europe. Though Trump might not be able to get all the nations to meet the two percent requirement, highlighting the lack of European adherence to it will put a spotlight on the fact that the U.S. essentially subsidizes European welfare programs, as we are left continuously compensating for its lack of defense spending that allows Europe to get away with diverting funding from defense into universal healthcare and “free” college.
By forcing NATO nations to spend more on military, it would cut spending from welfare programs, which accomplishes two goals. Firstly, it will help dispel the fiction that the European brand of socialism is scalable or even successful by pointing out how it actually leaches off the U.S. in order to subsidize its own programs. Secondly, it will allow the U.S. to reduce the number of standing forces in Europe, as we will no longer be responsible for defending the European arena from Russian aggression. The U.S. has many problems to deal with and continuing to maintain a large number of bases and tens of thousands of troops in Europe is foolhardy.
Now, it is important to recognize that there are concerns with Trump’s foreign policy. The primary concern of his foreign policy, and our national security interests as a whole, is his infatuation with nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are the most dangerous weapons in the world and while we should not totally disarm, we should not urge for further proliferation. As Ronald Reagan said, “A nuclear war cannot be won and cannot be fought. The only value in our two nations possessing nuclear weapons is to make sure they will never be used.” Trump’s call for increasing the nuclear arsenal should be a red flag, especially to a world where nuclear proliferation has been halted since the end of the Cold War.
There is reason to think that Trump might reverse the foreign policy of the last 15 years and start restructuring how we deal with the world. While I am not going to believe every word he says, I will continue to keep an open mind on his foreign policy and look forward to seeing him enact it. Only time will tell if he will be any different from the last two presidents.