Where Donald Trump Makes Sense

Donald Trump’s narcissistic ravings have drawn widespread ridicule and contempt, but his rejection of Washington’s neocon foreign policy orthodoxy is a valuable contribution to the public debate, says Ivan Eland.

By Ivan Eland

Now that Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination, capitalizing on his image as a nationalist tough guy, he needs to fill in some of the details on his strategic vision for a proper American role in the world. By correctly declaring the NATO alliance obsolete and urging U.S. East Asian allies, such as Japan and South Korea, to do more for their own defense, he has identified one of the most important strategic issues for a new world vision.

The post-World War II informal American Empire has been defined by U.S. protection of wealthier allied countries in Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, many times against poorer foes; retention of hundreds of military bases overseas to do so; and profligate military and covert interventions to maintain this costly empire.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

In return, those allies have not even fully opened their markets to American goods and services. Trump is correct that we can no longer afford to sign up to defend countries that are now wealthy against adversaries that do not directly threaten the United States.

That the United States has a $19 trillion national debt doesn’t seem to matter to the U.S. foreign policy elite, which has been reared on maintaining an inflexible strait jacket of copious foreign alliances around the world. A more independent and flexible foreign policy is needed, like that originally advocated by the nation’s founders, who counseled against “permanent” and “entangling” alliances.

So a President Trump should retract those three pillars of the U.S. Empire, so that the national debt can be reduced, thereby restoring robust American economic growth. Trump is right that we need to get our own house in order instead of trying to solve other nations’ problems.

A period of economic restoration would ensure that the currently overextended America doesn’t go the way of the Soviet Union or the British and French Empires — all of which just ran out of money — into the dustbin of history. Thus, Trump’s defining America’s global interests largely in economic terms is not wrong; all other forms of national power, such as military, political, cultural, and diplomatic influence, depend on a strong economy to pay for them.


Security Concerns

Other important security issues that a President Trump would need to address — China, Russia, Syria, and ISIS — need to be addressed within this new more restrained and restorative strategic vision.

Instead of the United States automatically guaranteeing the security of European and East Asian allies vis-à-vis Russia and China, respectively, the now rich allies in each region should be the first line of defense. The United States should adopt the more independent policy of backing up those allies only if a relatively weak Russia and a rising China become hegemonic in their actions, which little evidence currently exists to assume.

As for the brutal ISIS group, the United States inadvertently created the group by invading Iraq and then converted what was a regional threat into a limited international threat by bombing the group in Syria and Iraq. U.S. intervention in the Middle East has always cost more than the oil it was allegedly protecting; now with the domestic fracking boom again making the United States the leading oil producer, the United States should care even less about local quarrels in the Middle East — in Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere.

Radical Islamism has existed for centuries, and the United States should retaliate against only such groups that have a primary focus on attacking U.S. targets.

A more restrained U.S. foreign policy abroad — about which Mr. Trump has been hinting — eventually would result in less retaliatory attacks by radical Islamist and other terror groups. Most of them primarily have regional grievances and ambitions and attack the United States only because it has been a superpower meddling in the Middle East since the end of World War II.

Mr. Trump has not yet completely fleshed out a strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy, but he has made some encouraging noises. As the general election campaign proceeds, one hopes that he will fill in a more sustainable and coherent vision of America’s role in the world than the status quo represented by Hillary Clinton’s tendencies toward hawkish interventionism and military social work abroad.

Ivan Eland is senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at the Independent Institute, Oakland, CA, and the author of Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty. [This article originally appeared as a blog post at


22 comments for “Where Donald Trump Makes Sense

  1. Enels
    August 8, 2016 at 03:28

    well maybe he could push a button… can’t say for sure. in response to j’ohn doe II Hell if I know,

  2. J'hon Doe II
    August 6, 2016 at 12:26

    Enels– enough with your naive bs…



    MARCH 9, 2016

    Sam Vaknin, a mental health expert and author, has studied over 600 hours of Donald Trump footage and made the harsh conclusion that Donald Trump is not simply a classic narcissist — he is, in fact, a “malignant and, probably, psychopathic narcissist.”

    There are, Vaknin explains, nine criteria that a narcissist meets, and there is little doubt that Trump is “writ large” on every one.


  3. Pixy
    August 5, 2016 at 02:54

    So… basically, after admitting US have distroyed several countries in the ME and created ISIS, the author suggests you wash your hands of it and let somebody else clean your mess? As long there are no attacks on your territory you don’t give a flying toss what your creation does to others? Neat…

  4. J'hon Doe II
    August 4, 2016 at 14:33

    “if we have them why can’t we use them?”
    If it worked for truman, why not now..?
    Japan has just installed a Warrior Woman
    to head the bulked up Japanese Defense dept.

    (wars and rumors of wars)


    • Evangelista
      August 4, 2016 at 20:08

      The converse of “If we have them (nukes), why can’t we use them?” is,

      “If we can’t use them, why have them?”

      The hysteria-mongers, who seem to be counting on the answer to the first question being too obvious to need to be vocalized, seem to be overlooking that that answer leads logically to the second question, since it leads logically to the next, which is why Bush, Clinton, Obama and Clinton.have all, and are, for nuclear proliferation.

      Is Trump a nuclear-weapons ban and control advocate?

      Maybe some one should ask this?

      • J'hon Doe II
        August 5, 2016 at 15:53

        Trump’s remark screams of narcissism.
        He would not hesitate to push the red button,
        and Glow Triumphant as the missiles flew
        in a World Redounding Event.

        • Enels
          August 5, 2016 at 18:21

          baloney, he wouldn’t anymore than any other of the cartoon puppets would, you are in dreamland if you think presidents can go off and do their own thing,

          enough with your naive bs…

  5. Enels
    August 4, 2016 at 13:43

    Bernie made a lot of sense. “He could a been a contenda”! But just like a lot of cynics had prognostocated, he folded right at the end, which was nice and dramatic, and a proper slap in the face of all the supporters, (think object lesson). Everything now in formulated to be part of the new paradyme, sheer autocratic power from above, ”get used to it” Learn to accept it.

    Trump will now one-up Bernie, running interference from the right. Slightly different format, but same end game, they cleared the field of viable candidates, and were both equipped with self destruct mechanisms.

    Bernie cast as idealistic old codger, too old, and too anachronistic. A lot of nascent good ideas, wrong vessel, needs to be a young firbrand to bring that, with a hell of a good support team!

    Trump, Last Great White Hope, also totally anachronistic in some eyes… ! He has the right messages on some select issues, which will go down with him. Another object lesson, slap in the face of his supporters, but mostly just a mass ”dissing”.

    • J'hon Doe II
      August 4, 2016 at 15:27

      Enels — “Bernie cast as idealistic old codger, too old, and too anachronistic. A lot of nascent good ideas, wrong vessel, needs to be a young firbrand to bring that, with a hell of a good support team!”

      I whole heartedly disagree.

      It’s clearly recognized the DLC w/Big Media waged a meet and destroy war against Sen. Sanders, leaving his devoted adherents whom were visibly emotionally heart sick, feeling crushed, as in a dream denied / deferred.

      To them it was as the 1987 Challenger Spaceship explosion witnessed on TV by worldwide millions of ultra enthusiastic believers in space exploration.

      Bernie Sanders has laid a blueprint/exposure of Political Reality in bellicose/milteristic USA.

    • Realist
      August 4, 2016 at 16:01

      I don’t know what it was, but they offered Bernie some kind of “deal he couldn’t refuse.” I’m sure the FBI knows his every sin and peccadillo. If he wanted to keep his good name, he played ball with Hillary.

    • Evangelista
      August 4, 2016 at 20:29

      The Hillary – Bernie play off was one of the all time goofs of history, since Bernie could have given Trump a real run for the money, which Hillary, the equivalent of a horse caught multiple times with a hypodermic in its hoof shooting itself up at post time, in no way can do.

      All I can think is that the big money elite had just put so much into prepping Hillary they just couldn’t bring themselves to scratch her, even when it was obvious her prospects were blown with the voters. And, obviously, as Realist points out, they had Bernie in their camp and on their team, evan after his running in the trials as independent.

      They gave the presidency to Trump giving the Dem-nom to Ms. Hillary. I don’t think even a one hundred percent of women turnout for Hillary could get her into the office, even if the black women voted their black men for her (though maybe if Black Lives Matter made making Hillary President one of their Demands…). It is a little bit sad, in a way, because a First Woman President Hillary would have pretty much the same effect as a First Black President Obama, which would just about guarantee black, white and women voting White Male Presidents in for the next ten generations.

  6. Joe Tedesky
    August 4, 2016 at 13:39

    Seeing the national debt peaking towards the 20 trillion dollar mark tells you everything you need to know. You would think that this country would be more concerned with eliminating that debt, over any other priority which could rival that concern. America would do well to concentrate on providing it’s citizens with adequate jobs, which would produce real productivity. Instead, we produce bartenders, and checkout cashiers, which often only provides an under paid employee part time work. Don’t get me wrong, bartenders and honest cashiers are an invaluable commodity, and occupations that should be respected, but a viable economy doesn’t appear strong with just service labor doing all the work, such as I mentioned.

    No, America is being used. Used in away which doesn’t produce anything but misery. Having the largest, and strongest military in the world, is America greatest vulnerability. How strange is it, that having this kind of might, would be our beloved country’s greatest downfall? Only, because the ones pulling the strings of this power, are the only ones benefiting from all this war. Whether, it be the bankers, the Saudi’s, or the Israeli’s, it doesn’t matter since America’s people receive nothing but the payment due. What we are witnessing is a great nation in decline. So, use the empire while it last, and debt be damned for all it’s worth, because we are the exceptional ones, indeed.

    • John
      August 4, 2016 at 17:13

      It is the run away train of American debt that will usher in a massive WWIII….The power and life blood of the neocon agenda is the US dollar….The war must come before the dollar fails. If the dollar fails the neocon dream comes to a halt….And if that happens the massive worldwide US military machine will be pieced out to rogue generals……

  7. Chet Roman
    August 4, 2016 at 13:19

    “As for the brutal ISIS group, the United States inadvertently created the group…”

    I’m not so sure that it was “inadvertent”. For years the U.S. ignored the miles long caravan of ISIS oil tanker trucks moving stolen oil from Syria to Turkey where Erdogan’s son sold the oil on the black market. The money from the stolen oil and funds from the Saudis were the major sources of funding for ISIS. The White House and the Zionists in the Treasury Dept. (Levey, Cohen, Szubin) are quick to impose sanctions on neocon targets like Iran and Russia but ignored this support of ISIS by Turkey and the Saudis, which can only mean that the U.S. government covertly supported the policy. The only reason the U.S. eventually took some action against the caravans of oil tankers is because Russia shamed them by bombing the oil tankers and by making the issue more public, revealing the hidden hand of the U.S.

  8. Drew Hunkins
    August 4, 2016 at 10:53

    With Trump’s foreign policy positions it’s essentially (essentially) coming down to three things:

    1.) He does not knee-jerk bash Putin unlike the mainstream media, Killary, liberal opinion generally and most rightwingers. Trump’s penchant to refrain from demonizing Moscow is obviously a good thing.
    2.) Unfortunately he does vilify Iran and asserts that he’ll rip up the Iran nuke deal. This is obviously a bad Trump position, it’s the one thing Obama got right, and Obama accomplished the Iran nuke accord in the face of vehement opposition from most of the Zionist power configuration.
    3.) Trump’s denounced the Iraq war (even in front of GOP debate audiences!). This is a terrific position.

    Killary on the other hand fares poorly on two of the three aforementioned categories, she gets some points for sticking by Obama’s Iran nuke deal but who knows how much she’ll genuflect to the rabid pro-Israel fanatics in Washington once she’s ensconced in the White House.

    As to be expected, both candidates contend that they will perform constant fellatio on Tel Aviv.

    So, based on the quick little scorecard I’ve outlined above, one has to lean in the direction of Trump as far as keeping the world’s people from possibly dying in a nuclear conflagration with the Kremlin, which is the most dangerous potentiality facing the world today.

    • Evangelista
      August 4, 2016 at 19:55

      Drew Hunkins,

      You stopped your list before reaching:

      4.) Trump initially declared himself a supporter and advocate for torture (during the primaries), but then, as candidate for president, modified his stance, saying (in paraphrase) that “If they tell me they need to torture I will say, ‘OK’.”

      Trump’s most recent statement is a significant roll-back from his initial from-the-stump aggressive advocacy. The significance of the change is the demonstration of having willingness to reconsider and retreat from an initial aggressive absolute declaration, and the demonstrated (by the roll-back) and indicated (in the statement) ability to seek and accept advice (even if his statement suggests he would unquestioningly follow, or cuncur, with the advice. I suspect, from other indicators that Trump would question for specific reasons from ones advocating torture, since trump seems to recognize need to avoid making situations worse by doing something yet more stupid than got us into a mess.

      Trump seems to also have a successful businessman’s acumen for looking for positive solutions, to get past obstacles to keep progress going, or going again (something politicians, who tend to view immediate situations in terms of maintaining appearances of guiding and controlling, instead of in terms of achieving a workable conclusion, seem to lose sight of, or forget, as a purpose for the doing in the first place).

      I suspect that Trump, upon being given the whole picture of the Iran deal would modify his initial prejudice as the pieces of the picture put together would indicate would be practical. I suspect, too, that, being a businessman, he would be able to see elements of the picture that we see today apparently baffling both the mainstream media and the Obama Whitehouse, e.g., the U.S. payment to Iran of $1.7 billion after years of ‘freezing’ Iranian moneys in deposit in U.S. banks being not U.S. taxpayers money just given to Iran, but the U.S. paying interest due on the Iranian money which, for being in deposits in U.S.. banks, was therefore available funds in the U.S. banks, which they were able to use, and which were, therefore, effectively forced loans from Iran to those banks.

      It would be good to have a president of the U.S. not too stupid to figure this out and explain it to the people of the U.S. It would be sort of like when Andrew Jackson was able to explain to the people how the Federalist initiated and corrupted first U.S. national bank was facilitating the elite to dominate and manipulate, and why it needed to be shut down and the nation’s finance reorganized.

      A replay of something of the sort appears to be something the current elite structure is worried might appear if Trump is elected, judging from how much hysteria and hyperventilating they are engaging in.

  9. Realist
    August 4, 2016 at 10:34

    It’s quite absurd, actually. Killary is the one who instigated the slaughter in both Libya and Syria. She pushed for the escalation in Afghanistan, and probably had her hand in Yemen as well. Trump has merely criticised Bush for needlessly getting America stuck in long wars of choice in Afghanistan and Iraq, and faults the present administration for opposing Russia rather than cooperating with it on a whole range of dangerous issues that could lead to a major war. Yet he is portrayed as the crazy one not only by the Democrats but many in his own party. Perhaps his ego and acquisitiveness are not such a bad thing if they give pause to recklessly unleashing a nuclear war which would see everything created by him and the rest of us utterly destroyed.

    • August 4, 2016 at 20:23

      Donald Trump is insane and anyone who does not see that should go back and read up on Hitlers rise to power. To even suggest that he would be better than Hillary leaves one strongly questioning the author’s reasoning

      • Realist
        August 4, 2016 at 20:57

        By what rationale can YOU embrace a proven warmonger who promises more of the same across numerous countries around the globe? (I guess if you liked the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and Yemen, you’re gonna swoon over the carnage when America starts mixing it up in Ukraine, Georgia and on Russian soil itself.) How can you stomach a shameless fearmonger whose reflexive response to an expose of her unethical scheming behind the scenes within the DNC was to spout 21st century McCarthyism? (You really believe Trump is “Putin’s puppet?” And that Putin “is the new Hitler?” Earth to Daniel…!) How can you tolerate the blatant lawbreaking and subsequent prevarication, most notably with respect to electronic communications laws (those infamous emails) that are supposed to apply across the board to all government officials? She constantly wants to make national security some sort of centerpiece to her campaign, and yet she puts classified information at risk. (Benghazi was not the point, Benghazi was an unforeseen consequence of gun running to aid the incipient Islamic State.) How can you stand her arrogance that makes her think she is special and the rules do not apply to her? Hillary is every bit as insane as you think Trump is, and I wouldn’t put much stock in your reasoning abilities either.

        • August 5, 2016 at 03:34

          It probably all started when she “killed” Vince Foster that my reasoning got messed up. Sorry I can’t bend my mind to get on the vicious Hillary attack that you “smart people” have waged for too many years. What we need next is another Benghazi attack investigation. Call her what you feel you must it still doesn’t change the fact that Donald Trump is insane. I won’t question your reasoning abilities.

          • Gene Poole
            August 5, 2016 at 06:28

            Trump is far from insane, but US “foreign policy” is definitely insane. And Clinton can be depended on to further it. If it weren’t her it would be another member of the Establishment, so it’s not Clinton as an individual that needs to be denounced, and it’s not a question of “vicious attacks” on her as a person. Neither should the focus be on Trump as an individual. If Trump were not polarized and demonized as the mainstream media and much of the alternative media are doing, perhaps Clinton would not be.

          • Realist
            August 5, 2016 at 23:45

            The stalking of the president, and his wife, during the 90’s, Whitewater, Ken Starr and all the rest of that was over-the-top political jousting just as the present media’s demonization of Trump is today. None of those people were “insane” but they all played dirty politics with the goal of who runs this country at stake, and I thought it was bad for this country every step of the ridiculous way. I said that the charges of “Benghazi” were rubbish but the events that made it possible (the NATO war against Gaddafi) and those during its execution (the gunrunning of Gaddafi’s arsenal to what would become ISIS) are certainly fair game and all Hillary’s doing. Let a psychiatrist determine whether she or Trump are insane, but you were the first to use the word.

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