Late in the afternoon of 7 September 2016, the Washington Post published a story that carried the following title, “Trump calls for higher defense spending after months of isolationist talk.” (1) The most germane part of this fundamentally uneducated and anti-Trump article is in the two following paragraphs.
“As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military,” Trump said Wednesday during a speech at the Union League in Philadelphia. “This will increase certainty in the defense community as to funding and will allow military leaders to plan for our future defense needs.
“The speech marked a striking shift toward conservative orthodoxy for the real estate developer, whose candidacy on foreign affairs was built on an anti-establishment, anti-interventionist message. Trump has often dismissed the value of consulting experts on international relations, pointing to upheaval in the Middle East as proof that their policies have been ineffective and asserting last year that he knew “more about ISIS than the generals do.”
Now, Trump has not once called for an “isolationist” foreign policy for the United States. Indeed, no political figure of any prominence in U.S. history has ever called for an isolationist foreign policy. Why? Because we are a trading nation and so must be involved in commerce in all areas of the world, as well as in joint scientific endeavors, banking relationships, and dozens of other dealings that are part of being a nation-state existing in a world of nation-states. As Pat Buchanan once said, the term “isolationist” has been used, since the 1930s, as a slur by those upper-class and foreign-owned Americans who want the United States to intervene in other peoples’ wars in the name of democracy and freedom, as well as by malignant foreigners — Britain and France in the late 1930s, Israel, NATO, and the EU today — who want us to intervene in the wars they have started or want to fight, and, in essence, fight their wars, pay for them, and then clean up the postwar mess. Since 1945, the adjective “isolationist” also has been used to identify Americans opposed to U.S. intervention in wars that are none of the republic’s concern as pro-communists, America-haters, and anti-Semites. The term “America First,” of course, is used for the same vile purpose.
The author of the Post article does, most remarkably, stumble onto the truth when, in the second paragraph above, he notes that Trump has championed a non-interventionist foreign policy. Non-interventionism is not in any conceivable way a deviant kind of foreign policy. It is, after all, the foreign policy the republic’s Founders decided was best able to serve genuine U.S. national-security interests in perpetuity. While it reigned in the White House, the United States fought few if any overseas wars. Since it was abandoned — by William McKinley and the loathsome Woodrow Wilson — America has had, quite literally, almost nothing but unnecessary wars.
For the Founders, non-intervention simply meant that (a) America would deal amicably with other nations on any number of issues, save for those nations that chose to attack or tried to subvert the republic, and (b) would never become involved in foreign wars that posed no threat to the United States, even if one or more of the nations involved in such irrelevant-to-America wars was thought to be a friend of the United States.
Because they knew history and human nature better than any current U.S. politician, and because they also knew that history always repeats itself, the Founders believed that war brought death, deep debt and high taxes, internal divisions, and the tyranny that is the inevitable product of the war-engendered growth of excessive executive power. They believed these results would occur even in wars that America had to fight because they were life-or-death struggles for the republic’s existence; that is, necessary wars. Naturally enough, then, the Founders were confident that involving America in other peoples’ wars that were irrelevant to U.S. national security would be a gross stupidity that would unjustifiably impose on Americans the unending grief resident in the host of plagues just mentioned. For the Founders, wars were undertaken only for matters that meant life or death for the republic; they were never, ever, fought for the purpose of winning abstract and unattainable goals — freedom, liberty, women’s rights, secularism, the “right” of a country to exist, etc. — for foreign nations.
Trump, so far, has been a non-interventionist, which, he has made clear, means neither isolationism nor pacifism. Likewise, he clearly sees that there are deranged carnivores lose in the world who would quickly harm America if they concluded it would not respond immediately and decisively. Indeed, such miscreants are doing so today because of the pacific behavior and idealistic — and therefore laughable — rhetoric of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. The Founders, especially Washington, Jay, Hamilton, and Knox, held that a non-interventionist foreign policy would protect the republic only if America had a military strong enough to smash any nation that believed — as Iran does in 2016 — it could do as it pleased and America would not defend itself to the utmost. In short, non-intervention and a large and capable military must go hand-in-hand.
So the Post, as always, is wrong. Trump remains a non-interventionist — not an isolationist — and, as the Post’s article notes, he continues to politely and clearly inform the Europeans that NATO is a deservedly dying entity because (a) they will not fund their own defense; (b) they are without commonsense, except for Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic; (c) they bait Russia with their democracy-mongering — as in the Ukraine — while counting on the U.S. military to rescue them; (d) Americans are no longer is willing to go war automatically if one of the other 27 NATO nations does so; and (e) because Europe’s leaders have already mandated the suicide of their civilization through the door they have opened to unlimited numbers of Muslim migrants.
Whether in 1790 or 2016, the Founders’ non-interventionist foreign policy fits the United States and the American people like a glove, one that can ensure its survival, sovereignty, independence, and to the greatest possible extent in this war-loving world, its peace. For now, Trump has it precisely right. More power to him.