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Where Is Trump's Alleged Isolationism?

October 9, 2018 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

It’s nearly impossible to read major newspapers,
magazines, or online publications in recent months without
encountering a plethora of articles contending that the United
States is turning inward and “going alone,”
“abandoning Washington’s global leadership role”
or “retreating from the world.” These trends supposedly herald the arrival of a new
“isolationism.” The chief villain in all of these
worrisome developments is, of course, Donald Trump. There is just
one problem with such arguments; they are vastly overstated
bordering on utterly absurd.

President Trump is not embracing his supposed inner
isolationist. The policy changes that he has adopted regarding both
security and international economic issues do not reflect a desire
to decrease Washington’s global hegemonic status. Instead,
they point to a more unilateral and militaristic approach, but one
that still envisions a hyper-activist U.S. role.

For instance, it’s certainly not evident that the United
States is abandoning its security commitments to dozens of allies
and clients. Despite the speculation that erupted in response to
Trump’s negative comments about the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO) and other alliances during the 2016 election
campaign (and occasionally since then), the substance of U.S.
policy has remained largely unchanged. Indeed, NATO has continued
to expand its membership with Trump’s blessing—adding
Montenegro and planning to add Macedonia.

If you look at his
actions and not his words, you won’t find it.

Indeed, Trump’s principal complaint about NATO has always
focused on European free-riding and the lack of burden-sharing, not
about rethinking the wisdom of the security commitments to Europe
that America undertook in the early days of the Cold War. In that
respect, Trump’s emphasis on greater burden-sharing within
the Alliance is simply a less diplomatic version of the message
that previous generations of U.S. officials have tried sending to
the allies.

Moreover, Trump’s insistence at the July NATO summit in
Brussels that the European nations increase their military budgets and do more for
transatlantic defense echoed the comments of President
Obama’s Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in 2014. Hagel warned his European
counterparts that they must step up their commitment to the
alliance or watch it become irrelevant. Declining European defense
budgets, he emphasized, are “not sustainable. Our alliance
can endure only as long as we are willing to fight for it, and
invest in it.” Rebalancing NATO’s “burden-sharing
and capabilities,” Hagel stressed, “is
mandatory—not elective.”

Additionally, U.S. military activities along NATO’s
eastern flank certainly have not diminished during the Trump
administration. Washington has sent forces to participate in a
growing number of exercises (war games) along Russia’s
western land border—as well as in the …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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