Donald Trump has vowed to crush Isis in a speech outlining his “America first” foreign policy stance, which he said would “replace chaos with peace” while transforming the US economy and investing heavily in the military.
The frontrunner for the Republican nomination used a widely anticipated speech in a Washington hotel on Wednesday - delivered, unusually for him, with the help of a Teleprompter in hopes of evincing a more presidential mien - to insist that only by rebuilding America’s strength at home, both economically and militarily, could it hope thereafter to gain respect around the globe.
Speaking in Washington, Mr Trump said under his presidency Isis would disappear “very, very quickly” through his long-term plan to prevent the spread of radical Islam. The billionaire failed to outline his anti-Isis strategy in detail, but said the extremist group's "days are numbered". "I won’t tell them where and I won’t tell them how. We must as a nation be more unpredictable. Containing the spread of radical Islam must be a major foreign policy goal of the United States and indeed the world."
“We will spend what we need to rebuild our military. Our military dominance must be unquestioned,” he said. “We are also going to have to change our trade, immigration and economic policies to make our economy strong again – and to put Americans first again.”
It was a speech that sounded many of the themes Mr Trump has practised on the trail - his excoriation of the foreign policy record of President Barack Obama and of Hillary Clinton, his first Secretary of State, his disdain for the Iran nuclear deal and for some of America’s free trade deals - but also offered glimpses of moderation, for example on relations with the Muslim world.
Making no reference to his pledge to block Muslims from entering the US, he spoke for instance of cultivating Middle East allies to counter terrorism.
“We’re going to be working very closely with our friends in the Muslim world, which are all at risk for violent attacks,” he said. He spoke in more or less unspecific terms of seeking improved relations with Russia and China.
He also took a somewhat less belligerent tone on Nato, which he had previously termed as “obsolete”. That did not mean, however, that he did not take another opportunity to insist that America’s allies in Europe, and also in Asia, should take on more of the financial burden for their defense and that if they didn’t then America would leave them to defend themselves.
If America’s allies, especially those in Europe, had been hoping for some kind of comprehensive and clear vision from Mr Trump on how he would hold himself on the world stage, they may have been disappointed. At times the speech seemed incoherent and riven with contradictions.
The greatest tension was contained in the central premise of the speech: that America can draw in its horns and turn its attention to rebuilding domestically while at the same time keeping the world - and by extension itself - safe. Among his more perplexing statements: “We are getting out of the nation-building business and instead focusing on creating stability in the world.”
The easiest passages to follow dealt with what he said had been the failures of American foreign policy over a span that started after the fall of the Soviet system and which thus incorporated the years when Republicans were president (both named Bush).
“After the cold war our foreign policy veered badly off course,” Mr Trump averred. “We failed to develop a new vision for a new time. In fact, as time went on, our foreign policy began to make less and less sense. Logic was replaced with foolishness and arrogance, and this led to one foreign policy disaster after another.”
Separating himself from the foreign doctrine that informed the years of the second President Bush in particular, he said: “It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy.” As for now he went on: “ Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster.”
Certainly, he envisions a less interventionist America, one less inclined to attempt to enforce solutions to crises or conflicts. “I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative,” he offered. “But if America fights, it must fight to win. I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary - and will only do so if we have a plan for victory.”
Changes he promised included obliging nations assisted by the US to give something back, whatever that might be.“This has to be a two-way street,“ he said. ”They must also be good to us. It's no longer one way, it's two way.”
While he held back from threatening to undo Nato, he repeated his call on all members to fulfill their commitment to pay at least 2 per cent of GDP on defence. He said he would call for a summit of Nato countries, if he is elected, to discuss the alliance’s future.
He used the speech also to reiterate his willingness to reverse generations of Republican free trade doctrine. “We will no longer surrender this country or its people to the false song of globalism,“ Mr Trump said, denouncing all agreements ”that tie us up and bring America down.”
And in a message that is likely to appeal to “Brexit” campaigners in the UK, he said he would never agree to sign any international agreements that would reduce America’s “ability to control our own affairs”. He went further: “Under a Trump administration, no American citizen will ever again feel that their needs come second to the citizens of a foreign country.”
That Mr Trump spoke of improving ties with Russia while saying nothing about its incursions into eastern Ukraine may have cause some shudders in European capitals. “An easing of tensions with Russia from a position of strength“ is possible, he offered simply. He thought a similar approach might also work magic with Beijing. “China respects strength and by letting them take advantage of us economically we have lost all their respect.”
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