- - Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Critics of President Trump often grumble that he lacks a coherent foreign policy vision, but as 2018 comes to a close, we’re seeing a Trump Doctrine take shape. It’s a set of policies that promote freedom around the world buttressed by real commitments to state sovereignty, economic security and energy independence.

The Trump Doctrine is a latter day Marshall Plan that seeks to leverage American innovation and economic power, rather than rely too heavily on military or foreign aid to counter geopolitical competitors like China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. His recent decision, albeit risky, to draw-down U.S. troops in Syria is a prime example of this philosophy.

While not known for using the language of diplomats or articulating policy in a manner acceptable to the Beltway think-tank class, the president is piecing together a framework for U.S. foreign policy that is reasserting America’s global leadership.

Barack Obama approached foreign relations like stumping for prom king. The Obama administration’s foreign policy was marked by deference to international organizations, appeasement of enemies like Iran, a willful ignorance of the ISIS threat, a failed “pivot” on China, an abandonment of Iraq and strained relationships with allies like Israel.

History has shown us that it was in fact Mr. Obama who retreated from the world stage and abandoned our responsibility for leadership.



Still, Dan Zak of The Washington Post in a shallow piece in October dismissed Mr. Trump‘s foreign policy as “fatalistic.” Back in June, Kori Schake of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said Mr. Trump was dislodging our nation from the alliances and institutions “that have characterized the American-led order for 70 years.” Only six months into the president’s term, a piece in Foreign Policy Magazine proclaimed with certainty “There is no Trump Doctrine, and there will never be one.”

None of these are grounded in reality. The Trump Doctrine appreciates that war and conquest on one hand and peace and alliance-building on the other have evolved beyond their 20th century constructs.

The president instinctively understands that it’s our economic power, technology and innovation that give us our leverage, not just our military. The Trump Doctrine recognizes that bucks are more powerful than bombs in the same way that Russia’s Vladimir Putin understands that energy is stronger than missiles or how China‘s Xi Jinping knows that investment and debt can create wide avenues to influence developing nations.

Mr. Trump‘s newly-minted Africa strategy, articulated last week by National Security Adviser John Bolton, will see the United States finally evaluate our foreign assistance programs to ensure greater effectiveness and taxpayer dollars going to nations that share our values and buy our products. The Trump Doctrine will move our approach from aid to trade in Africa emphasizing capacity building with U.S. private sector assistance to grow economies and advance freedom in the region.

It’s a direct response to China‘s “Belt and Road” initiative, which is intentionally saddling developing countries with mountains of debt in an attempt by Beijing to control both governments and industries.

Similarly, Mr. Trump has begun working to reduce Russian influence in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and beyond that went unchecked during the Obama years. Mr. Trump‘s work to increase LNG exports is demonstrating to Russia that we are prepared to counter their most powerful geopolitical weapon.

In two years, the White House has pivoted our Middle East policy with the anti-Islamic State coalition having retaken 98% of the land controlled by ISIS. Mr. Trump has also repaired the U.S.-Israeli relationship and built common cause between Saudi Arabia and Israel to combat both Russia and Iran’s influence in the region.

In Central America, Mr. Trump is reversing Mr. Obama’s hands-off approach, leveling a range of sanctions and other actions against Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to isolate the regimes and deny the “troika of tyranny” access to the capital they need. The administration is building a stronger relationship with Brazil, South America’s largest economy, to help clamp down on authoritarianism in the region.

The Trump Doctrine has also meant standing up for our sovereignty and U.S. taxpayers while working to strengthen our traditional alliances. The administration has made clear that we will not cooperate with International Criminal Court, joining countries representing more than 70 percent of the world’s population in rejecting the authority of the tribunal. He’s also pulled us out of the laughable U.N. Human Rights Council and UNESCO due to anti-Israel bias, and finally will push to reform U.N. Peacekeeping Missions that perpetuate instability at an enormous cost to U.S. taxpayers.

The president’s decision on the Paris Climate Accord made clear he would refuse to allow American consumers and businesses to be subject to higher costs while China and developing nations again push to exempt themselves from what was supposed to be a global environmental pact.

To the hysterical cacophony of Trump critics, the Trump Doctrine is disjointed and incoherent, like an off-the-cuff speech at a campaign rally. But it is real and taking shape in a world far more complex than the one Ronald Reagan faced, and far more in need of American global leadership than ever before.

• Tom Basile is a columnist, speaker and author of “Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq.” He served as an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq during the Bush administration.

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