Trump Threatens Neocon Policies

Official Washington’s neocon-dominated establishment is apoplectic about Donald Trump’s “isolationist” foreign policy views including his disdain of NATO, but some of his ideas actually make sense for U.S. national interests, writes Ivan Eland.

By Ivan Eland

With his proposals for a registry of Muslims, a ban on their entry into the country, building a wall to prevent illegal immigration, and the deportation of 11 million illegal immigrants, Donald Trump, if he were elected president, might trend the country domestically toward fascism. (His election is possible but still unlikely, because the Democrats have an intrinsic advantage on the Electoral College map, and President Obama’s approval rating has begun to exceed 50 percent, traditionally a key determiner for the outcome of the election of a president’s successor.) But what would the world look like if Donald Trump actually became president?

Trump has threatened to pull out of the NATO alliance in Europe and withdraw troops from Japan and South Korea if these countries don’t pay up, and remove the U.S. nuclear umbrella from those two nations. (If the United States withdrew from NATO, the U.S. nuclear shield would also stop protecting European NATO members.)

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.

Instead, Trump has spoken of having better relations with the nuclear great powers of Russia and China. The Chinese don’t even seem worried about his proposal to impose more than 30 percent tariffs on their exports unless they play more “fairly” in the trade realm, because pro-business Republican presidents have traditionally been friendlier to China than human rights-loving Democratic chief executives.

Moreover, Hillary Clinton is much more hawkish in foreign policy than Trump. Despite attempts by the interventionist U.S. foreign policy establishment and media to brand Trump’s proposals “isolationist” crazy talk, most of his foreign policy program is long overdue.

The U.S. alliance system, built to contain a rival Soviet superpower during the Cold War, is long out of date. Despite all of his swagger and bluster, Vladimir Putin controls a Russia that is a mere shadow militarily of the old USSR. Furthermore, in the early part of the Cold War, when the United States first sent its military forces back to Europe and opened its nuclear umbrella to protect the European nations from the Soviet Union, most of the downtrodden Western European countries were still cleaning up the rubble from World War II. In contrast, today, the wealthy European Union has a combined GDP of at least five times that of Russia. Furthermore, the British and French have their own nuclear weapons that could deter any Russian aggression on Western Europe.

Even though the European Union’s combined GDP is greater than that of the United States, the U.S. accounts for 75 percent of the defense spending of the NATO alliance and has effectively promised to sacrifice U.S. cities to protect Western Europe from being overrun by a weaker Russia (even during the Cold War, as bad as any Soviet invasion of Western Europe would have been, sacrificing U.S. cities to stop it would have been worse for Americans).

In East Asia, the U.S. government is also planning to sacrifice New York and Chicago to save Tokyo or Seoul from a nuclear-armed China. These countries were shocked when Trump complained about their freeloading; they cited the host nation support (for example Japan provides about $2 billion a year toward the housing costs of U.S. forces there) making U.S. forces cheaper to station there than in the United States. Of course, this argument is a gross distortion, because the United States, if it didn’t need to defend these nations, could save much more by decommissioning these military units and many more stationed in the western United States allocated to East Asian defense.

Nowadays, U.S. friends and allies in East Asia have a combined GDP that almost equals China and could and should be the first line of defense against China. Even allowing Japan and South Korea, responsible world citizens for many decades, to get nuclear weapons to protect themselves and their East Asian friends would be better than losing U.S. cities in any nuclear war with China.

In both Europe and East Asia, the United States could return to the long-forgotten traditional foreign policy of the nation’s Founders — which was to have commercial relations with all nations but to avoid permanent and entangling alliances or political intrigue with any of them — which lasted through most of the Republic’s history until the Cold War began after World War II. A return to that restrained U.S. foreign policy would instantly make U.S. relations with China and Russia much better.

Unlike countries like Russia or Germany, which have poor geographical and topographical barriers to foreign invaders, the United States may be the most intrinsically secure great power in world history — with two great oceans as vast moats, weak and friendly neighbors, and the most powerful nuclear arsenal on the planet.

The only real, if low probability, threat the country currently faces is from blowback terrorist attacks from people who don’t like interventionist U.S. foreign policy abroad, mainly in the Middle East. With the recent domestic oil fracking boom restoring the United States as the number one oil producer in the world, the United States now has little justification to continue meddling in the region (if it ever did).

Donald Trump hasn’t gone quite this far in his less hawkish thinking, but we can only hope that he will if he actually makes it into the White House.

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. [This article previously appeared as a blog post at HuffingtonPost.]

23 comments for “Trump Threatens Neocon Policies

  1. Car Pillar
    June 5, 2016 at 16:27

    Consortium News : Independent Investigative Journalism since 1998….. is THAT what this is?

    Let’s see …..
    1. Donald Trump is going to be -THE FIRST – THE ONE & ONLY – president of the US who will actually keep ALL his pre-election promises! Ah the days of “Close Gitmo on my first day in office!” How young and gullible we were then……. Those were the days….

    2. The US – get this – OMG – the US is going to SACRIFICE ***US cities*** for ……. 3rd class exceptional US pudliwinks in Europe! and – EVEN BETTER – for Tokyo and Seoul – who aren’t even Real People! (Someone tell me – those folk didn’t actually BUY that canard – did they?)

    3. And hey – it’s OK – to not-non-proliferate nuclear weapons (another POTUS promise – get rid of these things) ‘cos they’re “responsible world citizens for many decades” TODAY (phuck tomorrow!)!

    I’m quite exhausted from laughing so hard.
    Investigative journalism – my àrse!

  2. AlexD
    June 2, 2016 at 09:54

    I think the author has spent too much time in Washington he’s full of American exceptionalism BS. Mutually Assured Destruction is on the table and he’s talking about America having ocean moats and weak allies to the north and the south. It’ll be more than a few American city’s sacrificed if the hubris displayed by those in Washington believe that any nuclear exchange with Russia is winnable.

    “He spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office.”
    Just this fact alone should disqualify anything this author has written.
    Fifteen years dealing with the lunacy of the Clinton Bush and Obama administrations takes its toll on one’s global outlook.

    As for Trump, well I guess if he wins the presidency it will only reinforce the perception most foreigners have of the US, that of a corrupt bankrupt bully that lacks intelligence and compassion. As for a Clinton presidency, well we may still have time to build a fallout shelter but we’ll need to start before she gets sworn in.

  3. TellTheTruth-2
    June 1, 2016 at 23:56

    The neoCON crazies have done themselves in with wars of aggression they can’t win. They’re overextended and the only threat from Trump is he’s showing the world what happens when you let stupid people run the US foreign policy. Go Trump! Expose them.

  4. RudyM
    June 1, 2016 at 18:13

    “Despite all of his swagger and bluster, Vladimir Putin. . .”

    What bluster? He has been extremely measured, from what I’ve observed. He does not bullshit regarding military issues.

    • Joe Wallace
      June 1, 2016 at 22:03


      Couldn’t agree more. Putin’s “swagger and bluster” is a fiction created by the mainstream media.

      • Oz
        June 1, 2016 at 22:45

        Agree with Rudy and Joe. Mr. Eland seems to have embraced some neo-con axioms himself, assuming that Russia and China are our natural adversaries. The BRICS nations are pursuing an enlightened policy — an enlightened US would join forces with them.

      • Cat Pillar
        June 5, 2016 at 16:32

        This entire article is a load of “Putin’s swagger and bluster!”

    • R. A. Shepetys
      June 2, 2016 at 08:27

      Hear. Hear.

  5. Peter Grafström
    June 1, 2016 at 16:48

    My hunch is the neocons really aim to waste Europe in a nuclear interchange between Nato and Russia. If that is correct Russia won’t save herself from devastation by retaliating or preempting only against the directly involved European installations even though Europe may be more damaged than Russia. Deterrence would probably necessitate striking targets that the western ruling elites care for.
    This means escalation is virtually unavoidable. The hope is that there are smart people in the US who have the foresight and determination to avoid this scenario. The neocons have been very keen on using nukes since at least 1990. It is mentioned that Obama is in favor of the first strike nuclear option. But Cheney had the Regional Defense Strategy put on record in 1993 with both first use of nukes and mininuke policies. And all along since the 1940s, the angloamericans have repeatedly expressed a wish to use nuclear weapons to attain hegemony.

    • J'hon Doe II
      June 1, 2016 at 20:57

      ( see “pivot to asia” / focus new policy )

      ongoing “clash of civilizations.”

  6. Ol' Hippy
    June 1, 2016 at 15:29

    If the US govt could ever adopt a “kinder” foreign policy al la Trump we’d all be better off. Also if elected, crazy as a loon Trump, would end up being like all the other presidents and cave to the neocons actually running things. The ME is such a mess, Humpty Dumpty anyone, withdraw and let diplomats sort it out if they can. If Trump wasn’t so unhinged a few of his policies could work for the foreign end of things. Peace would be a nice change for all involved and the best way to honor those lost fighting unnecessary winless wars.

  7. Dr. Ibrahim Soudy
    June 1, 2016 at 12:26

    Why does the writer call it “Neocon Policies”??!! It has been “U.S. policies” since WWII at least. Since when did the US stop overthrowing governments and destabilizing nations to suit our own “strategic interests”??!! Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are just as “Neocons” as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Robert Kagan, and you name it.

    The real point to be discussed is “is the price of a sane US Foreign Policy going to be having a Fascist Government at home?! Fascist Governments by their very nature are EXPANSIONISTS………………….The US Government has been a Fascist One for a long time…………Dissent in the US is allowed ONLY as long as it remains HARMLESS and does not change the system to make it work for the people as it is supposed to do………

    • J'hon Doe II
      June 1, 2016 at 20:26

      it’s the neocon v. neolib facade

    • Cat Pillar
      June 5, 2016 at 16:41

      Mr Soudy, the US has a clear, significant and desperate problem.
      Open the accompanying link, look right down at the very bottom entry and then remember – this information is from the CIA (not the Kremlin.)

      Russia and China are actively cutting off global trade in USD (that lovely US money making machine that massages that all that lovely debt) and with 40% of the world trading in or set to trade in “own currencies” instead of USD – what does the US do? ….. Beg? Go to war? “All wars are banker’s wars………….”

  8. J'hon Doe II
    June 1, 2016 at 12:23
    • R. A. Shepetys
      June 2, 2016 at 08:37

      Why is it that Pat Buchanan seemingly remains alone in his complete (and historically supported) understanding of Donald Trump’s raison d’etre in Trump’s campaign to gain the Presidency of the USA while “Making America Great Again”?

  9. Joe Tedesky
    June 1, 2016 at 12:21

    At the rate we are going I’m afraid we should all get ready to read more State Department warnings such as this;

    It is time for America to come home, and for America to start rebuilding a new 21st century sustainable nation, who will have learned to keep it’s nose out of everybody’s else’s business…with that said, you can now go ahead and ignore me, and go about your day.

  10. Realist
    June 1, 2016 at 11:43

    These would be sensible policies for any president, which is why they will probably never be allowed to happen.

  11. Hillary
    June 1, 2016 at 10:02

    No wonder so many Americans are waking up to the fact that our taxes should be invested at home on education, jobs, science , innovation, health care, housing, social security etc.etc instead of on US created “wonton destruction and violent chaos” destroying functioning governments & creating tragic refugee consequences not seen since WWII.
    Thank you Mr. Donald Trump & Mr Ivan Eland

    • Mats Lasson
      June 1, 2016 at 17:49

      Yeah, the Chinese better watch out for our wonton destruction.

    • L de B
      June 2, 2016 at 09:27

      Are you having Noodles with your Won ton destruction, Hillary?

    • Cat Pillar
      June 5, 2016 at 16:44

      Money? What money?
      You have no money – only credit.
      And Russia and China are slowly but surely turning off that tap.
      You folk aren’t dancing around Russian ‘n China for nothing…..

Comments are closed.