Date: January 12, 2017

Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

At China.org.cn, I analyze Trump’s foreign policy and why it doesn’t fit into traditional frames of reference:

The discourse over whether Donald Trump is “anti-interventionist” or a militant warmonger is misguided. Trump is neither, and yet he’s also both. Indeed, he has put forward arguments — contradictory as this may sound — for both ways of thinking.

The media and ideological analysts like narratives, and this has led them to seek to place Trump in one or other ideological camp. For instance, after he made noises that suggested he favored isolationism, many Americans on that side of the political spectrum considered Trump as one of their own.

A cohort of academics involved in international relations studies, including Professor Daniel Drezner of Tufts University, argued that Trump’s self-proclaimed anti-interventionism should be understood as “realism;” meanwhile, most respected realist scholars, such as Harvard’s Steven Walt, argued Trump wasn’t a realist at all.

The latest shot in the academic debate comes from George Washington University professor Henry Nau, who argued in The American Interest, just in time for Trump’s inauguration, that his traditional nationalism represents a dire threat to the longstanding American policy of “nationalism of internationalism,” which Nau defines as “intervention abroad to defend democratic allies, defeat terrorism, and trade freely.”

Embedded in his argument, however, some assumptions, derived from the view that Trump is an isolationist, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. America will fall apart, Nau argues, if it reverts to “fighting terrorism at home because the United States is no longer willing to fight it on the ground abroad.” (“Fighting terrorism abroad” so Americans don’t have to face it at home is a neo-conservative argument for sending troops to Iraq or Afghanistan to fight ISIS, al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups).

It’s a misnomer, however, that Trump doesn’t want to send American troops abroad to fight terrorist and insurgent groups. After all, he’s repeatedly said he wants to “bomb the shit” out of ISIS in Syria. In March, he even paid lip-service to the need to send in up to 30,000 ground troops.

Read my full article: Trump: Neither isolationist nor interventionist

A tale of two scandals

Investigations were being conducted into both of America’s two major party nominees by the FBI during the 2016 election. One was being looked at for her use of a private email server, the other for his alleged relations with Russia. The FBI director only gave a speech tearing into one and only released a letter 11 days before the election commenting publicly on one of the investigations.

Co-editor Sumantra Maitra wrote an article for Quillette about how Buzzfeed’s publication of the full document on Trump was irresponsible and causes trust in institutions to die. I recommend you read it. Sumantra is absolutely right.

But it’s not only trust in the press that is dying, trust in all institutions is threatened, including the FBI. One reason for that was FBI Director James Comey’s actions during the election, the double standard he applied to FBI investigations of Clinton versus those of Trump.

First, to make one thing clear: I don’t know whether most or some of the allegations in the report prepared as opposition research by a former British intel officer are true or not. Some of them appear highly unbelievable. Some of them have apparently already been disproven. But if one allegation is disproven that doesn’t mean all of them all. What we do know is that the FBI is investigating. The only fair thing we can say with certainty now is that we don’t know whether some portion of it is true or not.

The argument I present in this article is rather about the FBI and James Comey and how they influenced public discourse over the unverified report.

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