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Mon Apr 6, 2020, 08:26 PM

Can The Liberal World Order Survive Another Four Years of Trump?

Probably not. Here’s why.
by Wesley K. Clark

'Donald Trump’s critics have often charged him with ignorance and a lack of a strategic approach to foreign policy. This is a profound misunderstanding of the president. In fact, Trump has always had a certain strategy, based on his “gut” and his experience with international business and business personalities. It is a strategy built on old-style U.S. isolationism and an appreciation of the new realities of international business. His reelection will confirm a profound realignment in U.S. security policies and U.S. military priorities. This strategy will be based on transactional values and uninhibited by history and experience.

For more than 70 years the United States has maintained its powerful grip on western Europe, an outgrowth of World War II and the subsequent Cold War challenge of the Soviet Union. The principal instrument of U.S. influence has been NATO, in which the U.S. provided the dominant military component while the Europeans provided the geography, and a lesser degree of financial commitment and defense resources. It was a matter of mutual using—we used the Europeans’ diplomatic and financial clout to serve what we believed were vital U.S. interests, not only in Europe but also beyond, and they got a powerful security umbrella, under which they could devote proportionately greater resources to social welfare without fear of renewed intra-European conflict. With more than 500 million people, a GDP that rivals our own, and a culture that largely shares our own values, Europe was our natural partner—and the transatlantic partnership has been hugely successful in promoting peace and prosperity.

After his reelection, President Trump is likely to gut NATO of its significance. Expect policy changes by tweet. Russia will no longer be seen as a threat. NATO enlargement will cease, and support for Ukraine and Georgia will be curtailed. Countries will be expected to spend more than 2 percent of their GDP on defense, and they will pay more for U.S. troop presence and exercises. Article 5—collective defense—will be conditioned. Security arrangements will be created with the United Kingdom outside NATO, and NATO will be held hostage to more favorable U.S. trade terms. Should the European Union resist U.S. economic pressures, the president will bring leverage through diminished American support for NATO.

The consequence will be an opening for Russia to exploit the particular weaknesses of each of these countries, politically, economically, or informationally, further weakening not only NATO but also the EU. Europe, including western Europe, will be open for deeper penetration by Russia and China.

In the Mideast, the U.S. will anchor a U.S.-Israeli-Saudi alliance directed against Iran. American forces will leave Iraq and Syria. Russia will be viewed increasingly as a sometime partner, sometime collaborator, and sometime adversary as it consolidates its control over Syrian and Libyan oil and stabilizes Turkey’s expansionist tendencies. ISIS will become a weapon used primarily against Iran and the Kurds, reducing parts of Iran to a failed state. But U.S. military efforts, largely directed against ISIS, will be curtailed.

In Africa, U.S. investment efforts to increase its influence under an enhanced U.S. International Development Finance Corporation will be too little, too late. An expanding Russian military and contract military footprint will further grow Russian influence over not just Europe and the country’s own oil and gas needs, but also its investment flows into Africa. Continuing large Chinese investments in resource-rich southern African countries will enable China to find the resource security it seeks.

In both the Mideast and Africa the consequence will be continuing low-level conflict and a loss of broader American influence. . .

History and experience would teach us that these policies are unwise. In two world wars in the twentieth century, the United States determined that it could not allow a hostile power to dominate Europe. Three generations of American leaders faithfully sustained that lesson, maintained peace, and ensured that the United States—and American values—maintained their dominance through the Cold War and post–Cold War period across the globe. But that lesson, and the alliances and forces that enabled it, and the world that was built with American values and American blood, will be left behind with the 2020 reelection of President Donald Trump. Long-term security will be negotiated away for short-term gains, both economic and political. In the world left to our children, America will be more isolated and less secure. Hardly America First.'


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