- - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Donald Trump’s foreign policy speech this week astonished some of his snarky critics who were surprised that he had a foreign policy, beyond building a wall on the Rio Grande and sending the bill for it to Mexico. What they got was what he has been saying for months, in coherent language more easily committed to the teleprompter that presidents and prime ministers rely on.

Mr. Trump set out to sound presidential, and if he didn’t quite demonstrate that he belongs in the ranks of Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy, he sounded gubernatorial or senatorial enough. He offered few specifics, but promised those will be forthcoming. He has not offered the learned white papers, as the diplomats call them, setting out in detail what he wants to accomplish as president. Nobody but pundits, editorialists and academics read such papers closely, and the candidates don’t mean everything they say. Like party platforms, adopted with similar ballyhoo on the days just before the political conventions are convened, the learned papers of candidates are mostly for show.

Nevertheless, there are specifics that must be addressed in the real world a new president is suddenly heir to, and foreign policies are chief among them. He was right to start there. His vow to always put America first was taken seriously enough in the foreign offices across the world and the presidents and prime ministers are anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. There’s not yet much expectation that they will actually be dealing with Mr. Trump as a president, but they must act as if they believe it to be a genuine possibility, which in fact it is, like it or not.


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Paramount among the next president’s problems is an Islam seeking its identity in a world that has moved beyond the ninth century, a religion bereft of a reformation like the reformation that reclaimed the authentic message of the Christian faith. The berserk elements of Islam, such as the Islamic State or al Qaeda before it, have disfigured Islam in the eyes of civilization, and its terrorism now threatens the entire world, not least 1.3 billion Muslims. The origins and nucleus of the berserk elements spring from the Middle East, and there is where they must be destroyed — not gentled or enlightened, but destroyed.

Nuclear proliferation and the doomsday threat from unstable regimes must get a high priority. This includes first of all a reconsideration of President Obama’s misguided pact with Iran. New nuclear powers rising in the Persian Gulf feel abandoned by their American ally as it pursues a foolish romance with Tehran. The new president must deal with this early in his administration.



Russia, under Vladimir Putin, wants to continue as a threat to America. The new Russia is a shadow of the old Soviet Union, but it is capable of much mischief. How to reinvigorate NATO in the face of renewed Russian aggression in Georgia, Ukraine, and in the Baltic, is part of the bundle. The anti-missile defense system, with bases abandoned as one of Barack Obama’s retreats from American leadership of the world, must be restored.

The United States must confront the growing military power of China, and Mr. Trump’s tendency to see the Chinese threat as mostly economic, is not reassuring. The Chinese economy, miraculous as it has been over the last two decades, is nevertheless fragile and may be on the cusp of a major bump. An ambitious Chinese military is building a navy that challenges the U.S. Navy in the Western Pacific.

The Trump phenomenon is in part an expression of the resentment of the loss of American manufacturing, and improving trade relations with China, will be job one for the new president. The failure to unite continental Europe politically and Britain’s ambiguous relationship with the European Union will have a big impact on America’s enormous trans-Atlantic commercial and economic interests. What the new president must offer, one might say, is authentic hope and the right change.

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