After Donald Trump’s foreign policy interview with the New York Times, foreign policy analysts, including coeditor Maitra, Tom Wright, and Stephen Walt, began discussing whether or not Trump was a neo-Realist, as Dan Drezner argued in his February 2 WaPo blog piece, “So when will realists endorse Donald Trump?”

Even if Trump was a dyed-in-the-wool Realist, one could still choose not to endorse him if they wanted a president who was the least bit dignified, or one who knew anything about foreign policy. Moreover, as Maitra argued, Trump is not in the least a Realist.

I second Maitra’s argument for the simple reason that Trump doesn’t know enough about foreign policy to qualify as an adherent to any ideology. Asking whether or not he’s a Realist is not even a valid question in the first place. It’s like debating whether Kim Kardashian is a Keynesian or an Austrian.

This is the candidate who doesn’t know who the leader of ISIS is or what Hamas and Hezbollah are.

The response in particular that got a lot of attention in the Times interview was that he would consider letting Japan and South Korea develop nuclear weapons. Let’s talk about his views on nuclear: He doesn’t even know what the nuclear triad is, he admitted at a debate, and “I think, for me, nuclear is just the power, the devastation is very important to me.”

Here’s what he said about nuclear in his other disastrous recent interview, the one with the Washington Post editorial board:

RYAN: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?
TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…
RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS? [CROSSTALK]
TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing, this is a very good looking group of people here. Could I just go around so I know who the hell I’m talking to?

Does that sound like a man who considers these questions deeply?

Read Maitra’s article for an analysis on why, even if one takes his answers seriously, Trump’s responses didn’t equate with Realism.

A More Plausible Explanation (Updated)

What’s a more plausible explanation for why a candidate who said Mexico is “sending” America “rapists,” tweeted “#WhiteGenocide,” refused on CNN to denounce the Ku Klux Klan, and who wants to build a border fence would want to withdraw from the world militarily? It’s not hard to think of explanations.

The America Firsters, George Wallace, and Pat Buchanan have all espoused similar views on foreign and domestic policy. The motivating factor, which isn’t hard to see through, isn’t a coherent political ideology, but biases based on identity politics.

Part and parcel to their arguments for pulling back militarily, they also argue for a “strong” America at the same time that will take umbrage at anything and punish enemies brutally. Trump even (claimed to have) felt offended that Castro didn’t greet Obama at the airport on his visit to Cuba.

So on Syria, Trump says he’ll leave Syria to Putin one day, before saying he’ll “bomb the shit” out of Syria the next day, and then says he might invade with 30,000 ground troops.

He’s all over the place, so, to the extent that he has an ideology, a lot of it is by coincidence. But one thing he has been consistent on is xenophobia and identity politics.

How did Trump try to explain his argument for pulling out of Japan and South Korea? “We’re not a rich country. We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore.”

Case closed: He just doesn’t know what he’s talking about.


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