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The Trump Doctrine

However Donald Trump came upon the foreign policy views he espoused, they were as crucial to his election as his views on trade and the border.

Yet those views are hemlock to the GOP foreign policy elite and the liberal Democratic interventionists of the Acela Corridor.

Trump promised an “America First” foreign policy rooted in the national interest, not in nostalgia. The neocons insist that every Cold War and post-Cold War commitment be maintained, in perpetuity.

On Sunday’s “60 Minutes,” Trump said: “You know, we’ve been fighting this war for 15 years. … We’ve spent $6 trillion in the Middle East, $6 trillion — we could have rebuilt our country twice. And you look at our roads and our bridges and our tunnels … and our airports are … obsolete.”


Yet the War Party has not had enough of war, not nearly.

They want to confront Vladimir Putin, somewhere, anywhere. They want to send U.S. troops to the eastern Baltic. They want to send weapons to Kiev to fight Russia in Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea.

They want to establish a no-fly zone and shoot down Syrian and Russian planes that violate it, acts of war Congress never authorized.

They want to trash the Iran nuclear deal, though all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies told us, with high confidence, in 2007 and 2011, Iran did not even have a nuclear weapons program.

Other hardliners want to face down Beijing over its claims to the reefs and rocks of the South China Sea, though our Manila ally is talking of tightening ties to China and kicking us out of Subic Bay.

In none of these places is there a U.S. vital interest so imperiled as to justify the kind of war the War Party would risk.

Trump has the opportunity to be the president who, like Harry Truman, redirected U.S. foreign policy for a generation.

After World War II, we awoke to find our wartime ally, Stalin, had emerged as a greater enemy than Germany or Japan. Stalin’s empire stretched from the Elbe to the Pacific.

In 1949, suddenly, he had the atom bomb, and China, the most populous nation on earth, had fallen to the armies of Mao Zedong.

As our situation was new, Truman acted anew. He adopted a George Kennan policy of containment of the world Communist empire, the Truman Doctrine, and sent an army to prevent South Korea from being overrun.

At the end of the Cold War, however, with the Soviet Empire history and the Soviet Union having disintegrated, George H.W. Bush launched his New World Order. His son, George W., invaded Iraq and preached a global crusade for democracy “to end tyranny in our world.”

A policy born of hubris.

Result: the Mideast disaster Trump described to Lesley Stahl, and constant confrontations with Russia caused by pushing our NATO alliance right up to and inside what had been Putin’s country.

How did we expect Russian patriots to react?

The opportunity is at hand for Trump to reconfigure U.S. foreign policy to the world we now inhabit, and to the vital interests of the United States.

What should Trump say?

As our Cold War presidents from Truman to Reagan avoided World War III, I intend to avert Cold War II. We do not regard Russia or the Russian people as enemies of the United States, and we will work with President Putin to ease the tensions that have arisen between us.

For our part, NATO expansion is over, and U.S. forces will not be deployed in any former republic of the Soviet Union.

While Article 5 of NATO imposes an obligation to regard an attack upon any one of 28 nations as an attack on us all, in our Constitution, Congress, not some treaty dating back to before most Americans were even born, decides whether we go to war.

The compulsive interventionism of recent decades is history. How nations govern themselves is their own business. While, as JFK said, we prefer democracies and republics to autocrats and dictators, we will base our attitude toward other nations upon their attitude toward us.

No other nation’s internal affairs are a vital interest of ours.

Europeans have to be awakened to reality. We are not going to be forever committed to fighting their wars. They are going to have to defend themselves, and that transition begins now.

In Syria and Iraq, our enemies are al-Qaida and ISIS. We have no intention of bringing down the Assad regime, as that would open the door to Islamic terrorists. We have learned from Iraq and Libya.

Then Trump should move expeditiously to lay out and fix the broad outlines of his foreign policy, which entails rebuilding our military while beginning the cancellation of war guarantees that have no connection to U.S. vital interests. We cannot continue to bankrupt ourselves to fight other countries’ wars or pay other countries’ bills.

The ideal time for such a declaration, a Trump Doctrine, is when the president-elect presents his secretaries of state and defense.

Patrick J. Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative and the author of the book The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority [1].

27 Comments (Open | Close)

27 Comments To "The Trump Doctrine"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 14, 2016 @ 11:34 pm

Declaring such a Trump Doctrine “when the president-elect presents his secretaries of state and defense” would underscore the expectation that both nominees will adhere to such a Trump Doctrine.

#2 Comment By PAXNOW On November 15, 2016 @ 12:38 am

I would wager London to a brick that Donald for all his bluster will pick on the illegal immigrants (not special visas – who really soften the job market for US tech graduates) and cut Netanyahu a pass and keep on obeying orders as to where and when we should fight. Hope I am wrong? Very wrong. Just think of Netanyahu’s rave concern at the Capitol. What an insult to the position of president. Most Americans cringed at this show of lobby power.No one said very much. Have we become immunized to this domineering foreign influence.

#3 Comment By Allan On November 15, 2016 @ 6:08 am

Don’t get your hopes up with names like John Bolton and Ghouliani in powerful positions. Meet the new boss same as the old boss….maybe even worse.

#4 Comment By collin On November 15, 2016 @ 8:54 am

Um…Have you seen the leaked names for Foreign Policy? Bolton, Giuliani, and Flynn.

I am sorry he was but that is not a team of people of a humble foreign policy. That is a team that can convince Trump to bomb Iran or another nation. I never understood why conservatives thought Trump was the peace candidate. Remember the only thing Trump has been consistent about the Iraq War was taking their oil and with that team above they can easily convince Trump that there is a lot of oil to take.

#5 Comment By Viriato On November 15, 2016 @ 9:01 am

Let’s hope that Trump’s Secretaries of State and Defense are not John Bolton and Kelly Ayotte. Or, if Trump truly feels that he needs Ayotte as Secretary of Defense for political reasons, then he’d better counterbalance her with a staunch noninterventionist as Secretary of State. Otherwise, I don’t see how a fundamental recalibration of our foreign policy is possible.

#6 Comment By Conserving What? On November 15, 2016 @ 9:06 am

Although I strongly agree with your thoughts in general, Mr Buchanan, I differ on one point: I don’t think we need to make our military “stronger” if we aren’t going to go to war over every wide spot in the road. What we need is a military configured to defending the US, not to being an international guarantor of other countries’ safety.

One thing we need to “pivot” away from is any notion of going to war in Asia. Diplomacy, yes, guns no. Aside from the futility and waste of war anywhere, we simply cannot fight a successful war against China. It is folly to think that we could ever invade China with ground forces. Aerial warfare?–Strategic bombing achieved nothing in WWII and nothing in Vietnam, and would have no effect in a country as vast as China. Naval bombardment?–like bugs hitting the windshield of a speeding train. And the logistics of trying to move men and materiel over so vast a distance would bankrupt us.

#7 Comment By SteveM On November 15, 2016 @ 9:06 am

Re: “Then Trump should move expeditiously to…rebuilding our military…”

Agree with the thrust of Pat’s essay. But the military does not have to be “rebuilt”. Over the past 2 decades the Pentagon has wasted HUNDREDS of BILLIONS on weapons system acquisition programs yield realized hyper-busted budgets and technologies that failed altogether. E.g.,

Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)
Zumwalt Class Destroyer
Army Future Combat System
Deepwater Coast Guard Recapitalization.

The Army can’t even acquire a radio without screwing up:


Google almost any DoD acquisition program and the word “boondoggle” and see what economic wreckage surfaces. The defense contractors are allowed to screw up time and time again, yet are always allowed back to the FedGov trough to screw up some more.

Trump should play as much hardball with the Pentagon and the defense contractors as he does with his vendors. Unfortunately, he too is bedazzled by anyone with stars on their shoulders no matter how much over the top fear-mongering they lay out that ends up taking the taxpayers to the cleaners.

About the Constitution and Congress, Congress should immediately pass a veto-proof repeal of the pathologically open-ended AUMF and invite President Trump to negotiate authorized military activity in the Middle East. But of course they won’t…

Trump is already selling out. He is too little, too late. Stick a fork in Trumpland America – because it’s still cooked.

#8 Comment By dee On November 15, 2016 @ 9:34 am

The Trump Doctrine is to promise everything to everybody (less interventions in middle east, less funding of freeloading allies, much more spending on our military which is a disaster because of obama, and ripping up the Iran agreement the worst deal ever signed) etc. and deflect any questions by talking immediately about crooked hillary or the corrupt lying MSM.. The jokes on us, a year and a half long campaign and nobody has any real idea what he’ll do..

#9 Comment By Daniel (not Larison ) On November 15, 2016 @ 9:55 am

Pat, please, please seek Trump’s ear, and quickly. I hope he knows and respects your name. While he’s quickly surrounding himself with Neocons like Boulton, he needs to hear from those who categorically rejected their call to war and saw hope in his message.

#10 Comment By Fred Bowman On November 15, 2016 @ 11:13 am

Unfortunately I feel nothing going to change. The US wages War to fuel gluttonist appitites of the Pentagon and Military-Industrial-Congrssional Complex and in the meantime the Republic falls apart from within. Would like for Trump to put his foot down and change this course, but truth be told, this isn’t going to happen. Eisenhower warned us about this but no one listen. And these people have had their way for over a half century. In the end, just like any other President, Trump will give in to the wishes of the Complex and it’s allies.

#11 Comment By Frederick Martin On November 15, 2016 @ 11:39 am

I was not a Trump supporter, but nonetheless remained hopeful that he’d at least try non-interventionism given his policy statements during the campaign. Many of the names floating around for cabinet positions don’t give me much confidence that is going to happen. Bolton? Giuliani? FLYNN?! It’s a neocon’s wet dream.

Hopefully it’s all just speculation and doesn’t become reality. I’m not holding my breath though.

#12 Comment By JonPatrick On November 15, 2016 @ 11:44 am

@Conserving What? – Strengthening the military could mean improving morale by ceasing to use it as a pawn in the culture wars and instead focusing on what we need a military to do exactly in lieu of the Trump doctrine. I agree that it may not need to be expanded, perhaps leaner and meaner might be more effective.

I will disagree with you on the value of strategic bombing – it was a big factor in winning the war in Europe in WW 2. As for Vietnam we never really used it against the North for fear of bringing the Chinese into the war so that may not be a good comparison. Having said that I agree that invading China would be foolish unless we had to for self defense reasons i.e. they attacked us first.

#13 Comment By Will Harrington On November 15, 2016 @ 11:52 am

Conserving What?

While I agree with your main points I have to point out that in World War II, Germany’s manufacturing, while not eliminated, was devastated by strategic bombing. This greatly contributed to the destruction of Germany’s ability to wage war, which was the point. If it ever did come to a war with China, the role of strategic bombing would be much the same. Despite its vast size, much of china’s industry is located where it’s population is located, along the east coast. This presents a target that would degrade China’s ability to wage war. Why would we ever want to invade, occupy, or occupy China? The point of war from our perspective should be to degrade the enemies ability to attack us, not to conquer them. This being the goal, an emphasis should be placed on precision strategic bombing when planning how to build our military. If the enemy is decentralized, then an emphasis needs to be placed on intelligence. We don’t need boots on the ground, we just have to make sure that they don’t get boots on our ground.

#14 Comment By Myron Hudson On November 15, 2016 @ 1:18 pm

Unfortunately we have just read the Buchanan Doctrine. I think it’s great, but Trump is already looking like the dog that caught the car and his cabinet picks look like a return to the GWB days.

I have very low expectations here.

#15 Comment By Richard M On November 15, 2016 @ 2:09 pm

However Donald Trump came upon the foreign policy views he espoused, they were as crucial to his election as his views on trade and the border.

I know Mr. Buchanan would like to think so; but there’s simply very little evidence in the polling or other surveys done to support that proposition.

This wasn’t a foreign policy election. If earnest repudiation of Bushian neo-conservative foreign policy was a top priority of GOP voters, Rand Paul (even in his watered down posture) would have done far better than he did.

#16 Comment By Ken Zaretzke On November 15, 2016 @ 4:49 pm

Great article. We might also remember that, in 1961, the USSR exploded a bomb that was 1,400 (!) times as powerful as the bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki together. One of those hydrogen (not atomic) bombs could wreak the most disastrous havoc on all of North America.

#17 Comment By Deacon Nicholas On November 15, 2016 @ 7:29 pm

No, the intelligence community did not say that Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program. It said that Iran probably suspended one aspect of its program–the development of the actual warhead–while it continued enriching uranium and working on ballistic missiles the only purpose of which is to deliver a nuclear warhead.

#18 Comment By Ilya On November 16, 2016 @ 1:35 am

People, Hello!) I write to you from a snow-covered St. Petersburg, Russia! There are a lot of negative komenntariev, with respect to this article, but in general it corresponds to the fact that the majority of Russians would like to see in US foreign policy.
Actually, quite strange to see in your press articles and appropriate proposals for a new president of Trump. Usually only regret, whining that Hillary lost, and that the Russian Federation still regret unpredictability Trump. In fact, your media rather subjectively represent the desire of our people …. we are well aware that the better the aggressive but understandable Hillary than unpredictable Trump …. and all the campaign promises of peace and friendship we have already seen in the first term Obama and fully understand what it led to … and basically was a typo on the case, from crust and left …. instead of reloading turned OVERLOAD …. and here’s an explosion)))

#19 Comment By Ilya On November 16, 2016 @ 1:36 am

My English – awful, so I use the Google translator.
P.S. You can call me a troll Putin)))

#20 Comment By Expat On November 16, 2016 @ 5:07 am

Do not forget that NATO invoked its collective defense article for the first time on behalf of the US after 9/11. The US may aid Europeans with defense, but it would be unfortunate to forget that Europeans also aid the US, and that Europeans have also died defending US interests. It is clear from the past several days that Europe is moving towards greater defense independence, and this is positive development. Nevertheless, it is particularly important to facilitate multinational intelligence collaborations, because as others have pointed out, the enemy is decentralized, with both the US and Europe being their targets.

#21 Comment By Mike S On November 16, 2016 @ 11:06 am

NATO will probably have as much teeth as the post WWI, League of Nations. The minute a real crisis raised its head (Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia), the League simply turned its head in denial.

#22 Comment By Steve On November 17, 2016 @ 7:24 am

It’s heartening to hear a voice of reason amidst the cacophony of self-promoting voices that have been advising the rookie politician and President-elect.

#23 Comment By Chris Cosmos On November 17, 2016 @ 9:45 am

This is what could be. We’ll see if it plays out. The power struggle within the Deep State will determine a good deal of who comes out on top. Fortunately, Trump is the wild card–will he risk all for America or will the corruption and war-mongering stay in place. A lot is riding on Trump.

#24 Comment By Jones On November 17, 2016 @ 2:54 pm

Steve Bannon is the chief ideologist of the Trump regime. Trump himself is not a man of ideas. Bannon’s worldview will dominate.

Bannon is preparing for a global war against Islam, a total civilizational war.

“[W]e’re at the very beginning stages of a global conflict, and if we do not bind together as partners with others in other countries that this conflict is only going to metastasize.

They have a Twitter account up today, ISIS does, about turning the United States into a “river of blood” if it comes in and tries to defend the city of Baghdad. And trust me, that is going to come to Europe. That is going to come to Central Europe, it’s going to come to Western Europe, it’s going to come to the United Kingdom. And so I think we are in a crisis of the underpinnings of capitalism, and on top of that we’re now, I believe, at the beginning stages of a global war against Islamic fascism.


Most of the people he is hiring or even considering are extremist war hawks. Giuliani, Bolton, Michael Flynn.

Wake up folks. You are living in a fantasy land. These people are no isolationists. You got played.

Prepare for War.

#25 Comment By ADL On November 17, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

The ideal time for such a declaration, a Trump Doctrine, is when the president-elect presents his secretaries of state and defense.

Then NO Giuliani, Bolton or Gingrich for SecState or SecDef. Jeff Sessions for State (and maybe Bolton as his deputy just to piss off the “international community”).

Maybe Pence could ask Colin Powell if he’d like to become SecDef so he’d have a chance to exact some sweet revenge on the neocon nabobs. And Jim Webb as his deputy.

The GOP foreign policy Establishment has been hostile to Trump, so he doesn’t owe these people anything. He
should look for independents and Democrats (Jim Webb, former senator Bob Kerrey, etc). Maybe Chuck Hegel would also like a chance to exact some revenge as DNI or some such.

Independent-minded people and those who’ve been burned before– that’s the people President Trump should have watching his back in the hallowed halls of the Pentagon, Foggy Bottom & Langley.

#26 Comment By bentchad On November 17, 2016 @ 4:01 pm

For the people who gave Trump the election – those who were sick and tired of anything that smacked of establishment and globalism and the same old logic, this transition process is beginning to be very disturbing. We didn’t vote for Trump to pow wow with Mitt Romney and Nikki Haley and others as is being reported in the news. What it is beginning to look like is happening is he is being congratulated for his “strategy” of listening to the people and giving them lip service. he will lose the support that elected him if he continues.

#27 Comment By PA15017 On November 17, 2016 @ 10:07 pm

God bless you, Pat. I keep praying you’re right about Trump. The 60 Minutes quote provides a glimmer of hope… but it still all depends on who’s around him.

Best idea would be to ship your books to Steve Bannon.