Non-Interventionists Don’t Want an ‘Aggressive U.S. Posture in the World’
Trump spoke with The Washington Post editors about his foreign policy views, which they described as “unabashedly non-interventionist” in one place but also described this way:
Speaking ahead of a major address on foreign policy later Monday in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said he advocates an aggressive U.S. posture in the world with a light footprint [bold mine-DL].
If Trump favors an “aggressive U.S. posture in the world,” it is safe to say that he doesn’t want have any kind of non-interventionist approach to the world. Understanding this doesn’t depend on the kind of foreign policy one happens to prefer. A non-interventionist approach rules out having an “aggressive posture in the world” and vice versa. The Post is doing its readers a disservice by leading them to think that Trump supports one kind of foreign policy when it’s fairly clear that he supports something very different. Claiming that Trump wants a “light footprint” seems consistent with the Trump statements quoted in the article, but all this tells us is that Trump wants allies to share more of the burden for their own security.
Trump eschewed nation-building in his remarks with the Post editors, but aside from Rubio and a handful of his advisers there is almost no one who claims to be in favor of this now. He questioned why the U.S. was doing as much as it has done in connection with Ukraine, but at most I see this as a variation on Trump’s standard theme that U.S. allies are not pulling their weight in their own regions. According to the Post, Trump indicated that he would like to see the U.S. less involved in Europe and Asia, but it seems that this is mostly contingent on what the U.S. can afford and how much the U.S. gets reimbursed. Trump gives the impression that he wouldn’t have much of a problem with existing alliances if the national debt were smaller and the allies shelled out a bit more in return.
None of the advisers Trump named in his meeting would fit with an “unabashedly non-interventionist approach,” but they would seem to be a good fit for a candidate interested in having an “aggressive U.S. posture in the world.” The latter is what I would expect a hawkish nationalist candidate to support, and I would not assume that Trump’s skepticism about the value of certain allies or alliances means that he wants to change U.S. foreign policy in a big way.