The candidacy and subsequent election of Donald Trump to the presidency caused a great deal of consternation among the U.S. foreign policy establishment, Democrat and Republican alike. His campaign rhetoric suggested that he had no coherent view of U.S. foreign policy, other than the gauzy commitment to “making America great again” and “America first.”
Trump criticized America’s overseas commitments, including the ongoing effort in Afghanistan; called into question the value of NATO; and argued the United States was being undone by its adherence to free trade. On the other hand, his bombastic language suggested he was ready to abandon the constraints on the use of force that traditionally have guided our military efforts. For instance, during the Republican primaries, Trump said that he would “bomb the shit out of ISIS” and supported the use of waterboarding terrorists and targeting their families. His inflammatory campaign rhetoric led many conservative foreign policy specialists to criticize him. At the time, many signed two letters taking him to task (full disclosure: I signed both). Today, many conservative foreign policy professionals remain adamant “NeverTrumpers.”
Even though Trump’s rhetoric often remains undisciplined, his actions as president suggest the emergence of something resembling a doctrine.