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Reasonable vs. Unhinged Criticisms of Trump's Foreign Policy

July 25, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

Critics of President Trump’s foreign policy, both
Democrats and establishment Republicans, find much to loathe about
his views and actions. Some of the criticisms are substantive and
reasonable, if debatable. Others, though, are little more than
unhinged, ad hominem attacks. The latter poison the public
discourse and make intelligent, meaningful debate on
America’s role in the world nearly impossible.

The criticisms are especially intense regarding Trump’s
policies toward NATO and Russia, and they have reached a crescendo
this month following the NATO summit and the subsequent bilateral
summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

NATO partisans were furious at the president’s comments about the Alliance and his treatment of the European allies.
Objections about the president’s diplomatic style were
certainly warranted. He proved to be even more abrasive than
normal, accusing German Chancellor Angela Merkel of making Germany
a “captive”to Russia by increasing
her country’s reliance on Russian natural gas. He also
bluntly reiterated his complaints about continued anemic defense
expenditures of NATO’s European members and their lack of
security burden sharing.

Unhinged, over-the-top,
accusations debase policy debates and discredit their
authors.

However, his overall message was neither new nor unwarranted. U.S. officials have complained for
decades about European free-riding on Washington’s military
exertions, their overreliance on the United States to solve
security problems in their region, and the persistent
underinvestment in their own defense. It was entirely appropriate
for Trump to raise that issue — and to stress that
America’s patience is wearing thin. It was also legitimate to
express doubts about NATO’s continuing relevance. The
Alliance was created during a different era, and both Europe and
the overall international system have changed dramatically in the
past seven decades.

Yet, the president’s critics acted as though it was
sacrilege for him even to raise questions about
whether NATO truly benefits America’s security interests any
longer. Any dilution of the existing U.S. commitment to the defense
of the European allies, they insist, plays directly into the hands of Putin and encourages
Russian aggression. In their view, it even imperils the entire liberal world order.

But unconditional NATO defenders are the ones who are
out-of-line and out-of-touch. A growing number of foreign policy
experts contend that the Alliance has outlived its usefulness, and that new, perhaps European-run security arrangements are
needed for the conditions of the 21st century.

The negative reviews of Trump’s performance at the NATO
summit were mild, though, compared to the shrill, even hateful,
assessments of his summit with Putin in Helsinki — especially
the post-summit …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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