Claire Berlinski contemplates Donald Trump’s recent Foreign Policy speech and finds that he is really preaching the same doctrine of American withdrawal from world leadership and decline that Barack Obama was.
Trumpâ€™s speech made him seem to me Obamaâ€™s natural successor, and made me decide that neither are the aberrations I thought they were. Both reflect an external reality: the relative loss of American power. Both envision a limited role for America in the world. Trumpâ€™s wrapping Obamaâ€™s view of the world in the American flag, and making it palatable to people who werenâ€™t willing to hear it from Obama, but itâ€™s the same message. Weâ€™re no longer able to be a benevolent global hegemon. Indeed, we never were a benevolent hegemon. The world will be fine, and so will we, without our efforts to lead it. If weâ€™re an exceptional country at all, our destiny is to lead by example, not force. â€œAmerica Firstâ€ is not an accidental slogan. Trump certainly knows where it comes from, and I suspect most Americans at least intuit it.
Trump in many ways echoes the themes of Obamaâ€™s first presidential campaign:
We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of Americans and just killed be lives, lives, lives wasted. Horribly wasted. Many trillions of dollars were lost as a result. The vacuum was created that ISIS would fill. Iran, too, would rush in and fill that void much to their really unjust enrichment.
They have benefited so much, so sadly, for us. Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.
Hereâ€™s Obama in 2008:
â€¦ we have lost thousands of American lives, spent nearly a trillion dollars, alienated allies and neglected emerging threats â€“ all in the cause of fighting a war for well over five years in a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks.
And with just a few changes in tone,
I am running for President because itâ€™s time to turn the page on a failed ideology and a fundamentally flawed political strategy, so that we can be intelligent about keeping our country safe. I stood up and opposed the Iraq war from the start, and said that we needed to fight al Qaeda.
Hillary Clinton says sheâ€™s passed a â€œCommander in Chief testâ€ â€“ not because of the decisions sheâ€™s made, but because of all the years sheâ€™s spent in Washington. But here is the truth, folks, believe me: there is a gap in this country â€“ a gap between people who claim to be tough on national security, and how unsafe we are because of their stupid, disastrous decisions. Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.
The war in Iraq enriched Iran, continuing its nuclear program and threatening our ally, Israel. Instead of the new Middle East we were promised, we got nothing. The war in Iraq has enriched North Korea, which built new nuclear weapons and even tested one.
The above passage is Obama in 2008, with a few words changed so that the voice sounds more like Trumpâ€™s, although the meaning is intact.
A world â€” including me â€” thatâ€™s been looking at Obama for eight years and wondering if the American century is over is now watching the Trump campaign and realizing that itâ€™s long since past. Come 2016, Trump or Hillary Clinton will be in the White House. Clinton is explicitly running on â€œmore of Obamaâ€™s foreign policy.â€ Trump is implicitly running on the same promise, and proposing to get there at warp speed.