Donald Trump Lays Out Foreign Policy — Kind Of

In a lengthy interview published on Saturday, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump argues that he has resisted laying out specifics of his foreign policy because he “wouldn’t want [adversaries] to know what my real thinking is.”

His responses in the interview do, however, paint as clear a picture of what a future Trump presidency would be than has been seen to date. It is notable that, as usual, the interview was granted over the phone and not in person.

Among the positions he does take, Trump says:

  • He would withdraw troops from Japan and Asia if they were not willing to pay more;
  • He would make NATO pay more for security and to have a greater focus on fighting terrorism;
  • He would use trade as a tool to combat China’s militarism in the South China Sea.

Is it an isolationist foreign policy? As Daniel Larison notes in the American Conservative magazine, Trump is more of a nationalist than an isolationist because he lacks a rigid, principled adherence to any particular foreign policy philosophy.

“It is always perilous to identify Trump with any particular tradition because he so often seems to be making things up as he goes along and won’t be pinned down by his current or past positions, but insofar as we can define Trump’s campaign themes it makes sense to think of him as the candidate espousing the most vocal and sometimes most obnoxious nationalist position, says Larison.

He adds that Trump would not be stating his desire to “beat” other states if he were truly isolationist. But it is clear from a 1990 Playboy magazine interview that Trump has had isolationist tendencies for some time.

It does, however, echo back to the 1992 campaign of Republican Pat Buchanan, who unsuccessfully challenged President George H.W. Bush by running a campaign that decried international and bilateral trade deals, contended America was weak and disrespected abroad, called for a halt to immigration, because the real estate mogul has been fairly vague about his foreign policy.

Prior to the New York Times interview, the nearest Trump has come to delivering a foreign policy address was his speech to AIPAC. In those remarks, he repeated his criticisms of the Obama administration’s handling of Iran, China and again stated that America is not respected globally.

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