Trump Doc­trine gets noisy roll­out

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - Voices & Opinion - By Jonah Gold­berg

As we headed into this week’s NATO sum­mit, a Trump Doc­trine seemed to emerge.

“Doc­trines, like sub­marines, tend to be launched with fan­fare,” the late Charles Krautham­mer once wrote. Pres­i­dents James Mon­roe, Harry Tru­man and Jimmy Carter un­veiled their doc­trines in grand ad­dresses.

The Rea­gan Doc­trine, a term coined by Krautham­mer in 1985, emerged as a “foot­note” buried in Rea­gan’s State of the Union ad­dress ear­lier that year: “We must not break faith with those who are risk­ing their lives on every con­ti­nent from Afghanistan to Nicaragua to defy Soviet-sup­ported ag­gres­sion and se­cure rights which have been ours from birth . ... Sup­port for free­dom fight­ers is self-de­fense.”

The Trump Doc­trine is tak­ing form in a se­ries of tweets, glan­du­lar out­bursts at news con­fer­ences and a se­ries of seem­ingly in­choate pol­icy roll­outs.

Pres­i­dent Trump and his big­gest sup­port­ers see the pres­i­dent as the Great Dis­rup­tor. The “glob­al­ist” world or­der — on trade, mil­i­tary al­liances, sanc­tion regimes, etc. — has not served Amer­ica’s in­ter­ests, and Trump is like Sam­son pulling down the pil­lars that hold up the Tem­ple of Dagon, the shrine of the Philistines. In their telling, he will es­cape the de­bris.

Trump told NATO al­lies that the U.S. can­not be “the world’s piggy bank” any longer. Last month at the G7 sum­mit in Canada, Trump said Amer­ica has been “the piggy bank that ev­ery­body is rob­bing.”

On NATO, Trump has a point. In­deed, pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tions have hec­tored our al­lies to pull their weight on our com­mon de­fense, too. How­ever, it’s not al­ways clear the pres­i­dent un­der­stands how NATO works. He of­ten makes it sound as if NATO is a coun­try club and its mem­bers are in ar­rears. Last year he said that “many of these na­tions owe mas­sive amounts of money from past years and not pay­ing in those past years.”

That’s mis­lead­ing. Di­rect spend­ing on NATO is al­most in­con­se­quen­tial. (We spend about $500 mil­lion out of $600 bil­lion, or 0.08 per­cent of our de­fense bud­get). The real money is in what NATO mem­bers are sup­posed to ded­i­cate to their own de­fense bud­gets. Many mem­bers have fallen short of the 2 per­cent min­i­mum they all agreed to. That’s been turn­ing around, how­ever, since Rus­sia an­nexed Crimea in 2014.

When it comes to trade, the piggy bank anal­ogy is even more mud­dled. To lis­ten to the pres­i­dent, a trade sur­plus with the U.S. amounts to rob­bing Amer­ica of bil­lions of dol­lars. That’s not how trade works.

The Trump Doc­trine is sim­ply the in­ter­na­tional re­la­tions ana­logue to the do­mes­tic ver­sion of Trump­ism. The Big Man per­son­i­fies the na­tional will, and con­straints on the na­tional will are for suck­ers. It’s Make Amer­ica Great Again on a global scale. One prob­lem: The world was not that great when ev­ery­body fol­lowed this doc­trine.

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