Critics of Donald Trump’s behavior as president have said he follows no long-term strategies. Frenetic tweets and constant media distractions from serious issues make it appear he views each day as an episode in a reality television series. Nevertheless, he has been extremely successful at undermining a host of norms long taken for granted while building support among Republicans that has turned the Grand Old Party into Trumpism.
Is it possible he has a strategy, a Trump doctrine, that we aren’t seeing as he puts it in place before our eyes? Nixon gave us tapes with private statements that were “smoking guns.” Trump’s behavior has produced an armory of smoking guns that are daily cheered or laughed at and not taken seriously. His media strategy has worked thus far to numb the public as he boldly stomps on things previously considered sacred.
Based on emerging patterns that have been overlooked in the chaos of daily misdirection, I think it is possible Trump intends to turn the Americas into a hemispheric empire modeled on the governments of Russia, China, and North Korea. This strategy is built on nationalism, imperialism, and authoritarianism in the name of the Monroe Doctrine. There are two major components of this strategy.
First, Trump is reconstructing the Monroe Doctrine as he undoes American foreign policy since Theodore Roosevelt to focus on creating an Empire of the Americas. Second, he wants to be a strong leader and intends to belong in the company of the three strongest leaders in the world – Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Kim Jong Un. Weakness is on display when democratically elected heads of state interact as equals, Trump seems to believe.
Monroe Doctrine Restored and Updated.
Prior to the twentieth century, American foreign policy combined isolation from European involvement with assertion of hemispheric power through the Monroe Doctrine. In 1823, James Monroe declared an American sphere of influence in the western hemisphere by saying new European colonies would not be tolerated. Theodore Roosevelt, in his State of the Union address of 1904, announced what became known as the Roosevelt Corollary when he justified our recent intervention in Venezuela as a national right to be a hemispheric policeman stepping in when our interests are threatened. Both formulations of this tenet of American foreign policy were within the scope of isolationism recommended by George Washington in his Farewell Address.
Theodore Roosevelt extended naval influence in the Atlantic and Pacific and thus began modifying American isolationism. Beginning with Woodrow Wilson, Democratic presidents became entangled in two world wars that began in Europe, even though American public opinion tended to support isolationism despite provocations until the attack on Pearl Harbor. According to a resurgent nationalism, foreign policy since 1945 blurred our focus on the Americas as we engaged in multilateral defense and trade agreements to promote globalization. Although the United States has been recognized as the dominant world power, revived nationalism points to the one-sided cost to support the spread of democracy, free trade and human rights.
The Trump reformulation of the Monroe Doctrine would mean withdrawing from European and Pacific alliances to concentrate on dominance of the Americas. This might result in a three-way partition of the world into a Russia-dominated Europe, China-dominated Pacific, and American western hemisphere. We would of course withdraw from NATO and take steps to bring Canada and Mexico into orbit around Trumpian leadership. Border and trade issues would be resolved to our satisfaction, as Mexico gladly pays for a wall and NAFTA becomes a means of hemispheric trade dominance by the United States.
Although Trump has made no pronouncements about the Monroe Doctrine, evidence is mounting to support this argument. Meetings with NATO or the G7 keep leading to friction with our official allies. The long tradition of peace with Canada and Mexico is being openly endangered and could eventually be used to justify military interventions.
As foreign alliances are rearranged, domestic policies would install the public discipline seen in Russia, China, and North Korea that are so appealing to President Trump. Criticism of hostile news media and independence by justice, law enforcement, or intelligence agencies would be overcome. Loyalty to the president and repetition of his propaganda would be expected of government employees. Perpetuating Republican leadership in Congress would be ensured, along with compliant Republican federal judges to support new policies. Success would result in granting our first “really strong” president a term for life, as is the case with the leaders he admires. When he dies, the presidency would naturally pass to a chosen successor, probably resulting in a female president for the first time.
Does this strategy sound absurd? Consider the agencies he attacked from the moment of his election. Intelligence, FBI, and Justice Department prosecutors have been demeaned since Russian interference in the election was confirmed and existence of an investigation into his campaign became known to Trump. Now he has co-opted Congress and brags about success in packing federal courts with open Republican sympathizers.
During the election Trump’s fitness was questioned by a bi-partisan host of former national security and intelligence officials. Hillary Clinton made Trump’s fitness a major issue, yet everyone knew she was under FBI investigation. The public was unaware of a more serious investigation into the Trump campaign. When President-elect Trump learned of the investigation, he began demanding loyalty of the investigators as he publicly denied intelligence reports of Russian meddling in the election and treated intelligence officials as political opponents.
As President, Donald Trump continues hostility to the press to the extent of excluding them from meetings with our adversaries while allowing their propagandistic agencies into the meetings. He is systematically attacking our closest allies while expressing no concern over the chemical assassinations by Putin and Kim Jong Un who are now his friends.
Responsible world leaders, which has included all presidents until now, take several experts into important meetings with other heads of state. Mafia bosses and other criminals insist on one-to-one roofing contractors monroe la conversations to prevent witnesses to criminal decisions. A summit with Kim Jong Un excluded diplomatic experts who would advise and record the conversation. Trump is about to do the same with Vladimir Putin immediately after another case of Russian chemical poisoning in Britain.
What is it he doesn’t want witnesses hearing him discussing with murderous autocrats? A clear pattern of public behavior suggests he has secret arrangements with Putin he wants to hide. Also, why would anyone consider it unthinkable that these private, unrecorded conversations might involve eliminating political opponents with chemical agents? These are specialties of Putin and Kim – would anyone believe that moral scruples would prevent Trump wanting to follow their examples in that arena?
This plan represents a realistic set of possibilities based on current trends in the Trump administration. Our president does not respect democratically elected leaders who stand up for human rights and dare think they are his equals. A strong leader, he has made clear, is not produced by democracy. He shows no respect for constitutional or ethical limitations recognized by previous administrations.
Just a few years ago someone proposing this two-part strategy as a serious possibility would have been considered outlandishly stupid. Congressional leaders and federal courts would not have allowed it to happen, we thought. American public opinion would not tolerate even a few steps in this direction.
Nevertheless, this may well be the strategy being implemented openly and brazenly by Donald Trump. He provides clear evidence of his values and purposes everyday to the applause of some media outlets and the compliance of Republican congressional leaders. Whether Trump is following this strategy intentionally or just blundering in this direction, the fact remains he is moving toward the major objectives that have been described – and thus far what he is doing has been working.