Trump’s foreign policy: a new hope? | Chris Murray

It’s finally over. After a painfully drawn-out election cycle, at last America has chosen its next President. This election has hurt the country, re-opening old wounds and inflicting new ones that threaten social cohesion across the U.S. After all, the last few months have been dominated by personal insults from both campaigns. The lack of stimulating debate on policy has produced the most shambolic Presidential contest in living memory. Trump’s misogynistic comments are simply indefensible, and Clinton’s campaign was dogged by serious allegations of a breach of national security. These are important issues to raise and discuss, but they should never have been as central as they were in deciding who the next leader of the Free World would be.

It is concerning that the media circus shunned the opportunity they had to educate the voters on issues such as the economy, immigration, the environment and foreign policy and instead turned the entire contest into a freakish and twisted reality show. It’s a terribly sad state of affairs when a process designed to unite the country under a new leader and initiate a new era of optimism and progress instead rips apart and brutalises society like a rabid institutional pit-bull. For all the faults in this election, and there were many, the people have elected Donald J. Trump as the new President. Now is not the time to divide society even further by staging large-scale tantrums, protesting the democratic result. Now is the time for acceptance – the man has to be a given a chance to fulfil his post-election promise to be “a President for all Americans”. Unfortunately, due to the lack of substantive policy coverage, the vast majority of people have relatively little idea about what this actually means. It’s hard for most of us to stomach some of his most highlighted domestic policies, such as his rhetoric about ‘The Wall’, and his portrayal of Mexican immigrants as synonymous with White Walkers. But constitutionally, this takes a backseat role compared to foreign policy. When the centuries-old document was created, foreign affairs played a fraction of the role in politics that they do today, and thus the President is far more restricted in his power concerning domestic policy. Certainly, for those of us outside the U.S., we’re much more interested in how the new President will use his newfound power to shape the world beyond his borders.

Fox News, on President-elect Trump's foreign policy

This was the primary reason for my jubilation at 7.30AM, after hearing that Trump had captured Wisconsin and the 10 electoral votes that go with it, pushing him over the threshold of 270. Specifically, I was thinking about Russia. I’m fed up of successive U.S. Presidents allowing U.S. – Russian relations sour into acrimony. It seems that the events of the Cold War have already drifted into the annals of history, despite the fact that there was a very real possibility of nuclear war breaking out within living memory. The potential for a second Cold War has been on the rise ever since the pro-Russian unrest in Ukraine at the end of 2014, exacerbated by this proxy-war taking place in Syria. Over the last few months, we’ve seen unprecedented military mobilisation by Putin, as a response to President Obama’s less-than collaborative attitude towards the Russians. Many leftists are making it known that they’re scared of a Trump Presidency, but I’m personally more fearful of the collision path between two of the world’s greatest powers, a catastrophe-in-waiting which Secretary Clinton would have done nothing to avert. Trump at least had the foresight to extend an offer of friendship to President Putin; an offer which Putin seemed open to, judging by his speech congratulating President-Elect Trump on his victory. The importance of a mature and conciliatory approach to American diplomacy with Russia cannot be underestimated; it may well help to avert a war and save inestimable lives on both sides of the Atlantic.

For those of us outside the U.S., we’re much more interested in how the new President will use his newfound power to shape the world beyond his borders.

While his comments about women and minority groups would suggest a lack of political maturity, his attitude towards foreign policy hints otherwise. Another of the most pressing issues American Presidents have consistently faced outside of the U.S. is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Once again, as with their habitual intolerance of Russia, successive Presidents have blindly and unashamedly supported the Israeli Government in their protracted feud with the Arab minority in Israel-Palestine. It is a conflict with a deep-rooted and difficult history, with both factions claiming the right to the land. Of course, it is the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, but the actions of the Zionists since the British mandate in Palestine ended and the United Nations partitioned the state have been unacceptable. Israeli expansion into Palestinian territory has created such a deep resentment that the Palestinian people feel militant fundamentalist groups are their only option. Of course, this is also inexcusable, but the entire conflict is compounded by external intervention from countries like the U.S. To me, it seems that Trump’s more neutral approach and desire for a two-state solution is not only bold, but also likely to decrease mounting tensions in areas such as the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

President-Elect Trump is fairly non-interventionist, having been a frequent critic of the Iraq War, and has been cautious on his views of other major U.S. led conflicts, such as Afghanistan and Libya. Importantly, he recognises the need for military intervention in certain circumstances, but crucially, lacks the destructive gung-ho approach of Hillary Clinton. Trump does subscribe to a policy of increasing military spending, but only so the force is there should the U.S. need it at a later date. His defence policy is focused on precisely that: defence. The former First Lady supported intervention in all three of the aforementioned cases, and more. Of course, Trump is no pacifist. When a serious external threat to American security emerges, we can be confident that he’ll respond with force, whilst also minisming any diplomatic damage. Naturally, we think of Islamic State as the most pressing issue that fulfils these criteria at the moment. It seems logical that co-operation with Russia with regards to the Syrian conflict is the best way to push back IS and other Jihadi militant groups; as opposed to continuing this ridiculous and costly proxy war between the U.S. and Russia. This would not necessitate supporting, or even condoning the Assad regime; it would merely be acting on the rationale that the regime poses less of a threat to both American security, and regional stability than does IS.

Trump’s foreign policy shows a man that is willing to heal rifts and unite warring factions. It shows a man who recognises that force is sometimes necessary, but should be avoided if possible. Most importantly, it shows a man mature enough to wield the great power bestowed upon the office of U.S. President with regards to foreign policy; a quality Secretary Clinton has spectacularly failed to demonstrate over the course of her political career. With Trump at the helm, we can expect a considered and dynamic approach to matters of international diplomacy. My hope is that America will no longer take it upon itself to be the world’s policeman, but will instead sit back and assume the role of a supportive teacher, intervening only when necessary.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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