‘America First’ Foreign Policy Explained

For 75 years we have operated under a ‘if it is good for our allies it is good for us’ sort of foreign policy, and in the Cold War that served us well, but since the end of the Cold War our needs have changed.

‘America First’ does not mean that America is going to stop working with, or is going to try to usurp the interests of, other countries. It means only that our foreign policy prescriptions will be based on our own interests first and foremost, rather than based on whatever helps our allies.

The average country in the world, just as one example, spends 4% of its GDP on national defense, and NATO members are treaty-bound to spend at least 2%. Only seven countries spend at least 2%, and when Trump took office there were only three countries spending 2%. Some NATO members barely spend half a percent. The United States, in the meantime, spends 3.4% of its GDP on defense.

Our foreign policy was created for a time when our primary rival was a country we had virtually no trade with. Today our primary rival (China) is one of our largest trading partners, and China views itself as being in an intellectual and economic war with us. We need a foreign policy that reflects this.

It is not a surprise that many in the State Department are fighting the changes Trump is making to US foreign policy, and in fact, when you listen to their impeachment testimony, they are not accusing the President of crimes, so much as of changing our foreign policy.

Lt. Colonel Vindman said he objected to Trump’s call with the President of the Ukraine based on “influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the inter-agency,” and he continued by saying, “While my inter-agency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined US Government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.”

In other words, Vindman’s problem with Trump was that Trump was questioning the foreign policy Vindman and his ‘inter-agency colleagues’ were implementing with Ukraine. Lt. Colonel Vindman was testifying that the President of the United States was guilty of violating official US policy regarding Ukraine, in spite of the fact that the President of the United States, and not Lt. Colonel Vindman (or his ‘inter-agency colleagues’), SETS the official US policy toward Ukraine.

Not to be outdone, Fiona Hill testified that, “If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention.” Never mind that Fiona Hill is presuming Trump’s intent; by suggesting that the President can impede or subvert the national security of the United States ignores the fact that the President is the one who determines what those things are. Fiona Hill was not accusing Trump of violating any law, but of violating US foreign policies that the President, and not Fiona Hill, has the power to define.

Note that ALL of the witnesses against Trump are from the State Department, and that when you dig into their testimony, all of them express concern, and in some cases outrage, that the President is trying to undermine official US policy toward Ukraine – and all of them are flat-out ignoring the fact that the President, and not the State Department, determines what that policy is.

The fact that the State Department is trying to impeach the President for trying to set foreign policy should make your blood boil. The State Department has no power to set foreign policy – it’s sole role it to implement the foreign policy as set by the President of the United States.

And at the same time, I totally get their concerns. Trump is undoing the only form of foreign policy any of these people have ever known – a foreign policy based on the cold war. Change is scary, and every bit of training these people have tells them that this change is wrong, based on the assumption that if we do not kiss our allies heinies, they may run to the Soviets, and in doing so knock down another domino.

Of course, the Soviet Union is gone…

Trump’s foreign policy is not perfect, but it is better than what worked in the Cold War. Really it should have changed around the year 2000, as China started to emerge as a world power.

Our foreign policy going forward needs to reflect the fact that we are going to be economically connected to friends and foes alike, and that our friends and foes will be economically connected to one another. Making our allies strong at our own expense no longer hurts our foes, and may in fact help them. Keeping our self strong, on the other hand, keeps us in a leadership position, where when our interests align with others, we can take a leadership role.

The days when all of our allies agree with us on everything are over, and those days are not coming back. To quote former President Obama, “The 1980s called. They want their foreign policy back.”

Trump is moving us in a new direction, and such change is sorely needed. Trump deserves his nation’s support.