Trump vows to work with ‘our friends in the Muslim world’
Washington - Donald Trump, who appears on the way to securing the Republican Party nomination for president, vowed to conduct a foreign policy that puts “America first”. In what was touted as a major foreign policy address, Trump broke new ground by speaking from a teleprompter, instead of free-associating as he does on the campaign trail. The result was a speech that was more sober and less provocative than his usual remarks.
The content of the April 27th speech, however, was vintage Trump in that it offered few details. He said that the Islamic State’s “days are numbered” and that “they will be gone quickly” if he is elected president but he laid out no clear path to defeating the jihadist terrorist organisation, other than promising to work with “our friends in the Muslim world”.
Defending the general opaqueness of his foreign policy pronouncements, Trump said that the United States must become “more unpredictable” and not reveal to enemies what it plans to do.
Many observers of this year’s Republican nomination campaign probably would agree that, if a policy of unpredictability is in order, Trump is the ideal candidate to deliver it.
Trump tried to establish a link between terrorism and US immigration policy, saying: “We must stop importing extremism through senseless immigration policies. A pause for reassessment will help us to prevent the next San Bernardino or worse — all you have to do is look at the World Trade Center and September 11th.”
In fact, the male perpetrator of the San Bernardino, California, attack was American-born and most of the perpetrators of the September 11th attacks had been legally in the United States at the time.
The New York billionaire blamed US President Barack Obama and former secretary of State Hillary Clinton for causing the chaos in Libya. He also criticised Obama for ignoring his own red line in Syria.
Trump insisted “foreign aggression will not be my first instinct”, adding: “I will not send our finest into battle unless necessary — and I mean absolutely necessary. And I will do so only if we have a plan for victory with a capital V.”
Trump was strongly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, saying that Obama “negotiated a disastrous deal with Iran and then we watched them ignore its terms even before the ink was dry. Iran cannot be allowed to have a nuclear weapon… Under a Trump administration, Iran will never be allowed to have that nuclear weapon.”
He accused Obama of being bad for Israeli relations. “Israel, our great friend and the only true democracy in the Middle East, has been snubbed and criticised by an administration that lacks moral clarity,” Trump said. “President Obama has not been a friend to Israel. He has treated Iran with tender love and care and made it a great power.
“Iran has indeed become a great power in a short period of time because of what we have done. All at the expense of Israel, our allies in the region and, more importantly, the United States itself.”
As he has done on the campaign trail, Trump boasted that his business experience and acumen would make him a tough negotiator and he promised to forge new relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and to twist the arms of NATO members and other US allies to ensure that they contribute more to their defence.
As interesting as what Trump said is what he did not say: He did not mention his proposed wall along the US-Mexican border, which he has vowed to make the Mexican government pay for, nor did he repeat his earlier support for torture and “killing terrorists’ families” as a means of combating the Islamic State (ISIS). And he did not explicitly repeat his pledge to ban Muslims from entering the United States, although his comments linking terrorism with immigration appeared to allude to this.
Trump’s speech combined isolationist and nativist sentiment with pledges of toughness. Its underlying theme was that in foreign policy, as in economics and every other realm, a Trump presidency would “make America great again”. Exactly how he will do this is left to voters’ imaginations.
Clinton, the likely Democratic candidate in November, released a statement just prior to Trump’s speech, saying: “Despite his frequent contradictions and displays of ignorance, Trump has a long record of recklessness and has espoused a worldview that goes against everything that makes America great. A Trump presidency risks leaving both our country and the world dramatically less safe.”