Reform of U.S.-NATO engagement should entail a recognition that, particularly if the 2 percent goal is met, Europe is more than equipped for self-defense. The continent’s considerable might is a powerful deterrent against any plausible conventional threat, and a shrewd approach to diplomacy offers further insurance against attack. Large-scale, permanent U.S. presence and subsidy is not needed—or deserved—especially as Washington shifts attention to Asia.
Trump should absolutely seek a comprehensive deal. Bringing peace to the peninsula is good for our allies in the region, all Koreans, and the U.S. However the overriding objective for the United States must not be obtaining some specific negotiated deal, but the prevention of war and the preservation of American security and prosperity.
Pompeo committed the U.S. to escalating tensions with Iran with the hope Tehran will yield—even though it has not done so after 40-plus years of pressure. We can say with certainty this approach will not make Americans safer, nor will it bring the Middle East closer to stability, the Iranian people closer to liberty, or the Trump administration closer to its stated foreign policy aims. The path forward cannot be unrealistic, unilateral ultimatums and barely concealed threat of invasion, as Pompeo proposed. That path leads to generational war at a price of blood and treasure the United States need not, and should not, pay.
Whether or not one thinks Europe’s welfare state is advantageous to society-at-large is not the issue. Very simply, U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing European largess. America’s budget deficit—the amount our federal government spends in excess of what it takes in per year—is fast approaching $1 trillion with no end in sight. This level of overspending is unprecedented outside of a recession.
Now that he has withdrawn the U.S. from the JCPOA, President Trump must remember that most important of campaign promises: beware of pointless, endless regime change campaigns that degrade America’s economic wealth and strain America’s armed forces. To lose sight of this principle would be an extreme violation of the most significant commitment Trump made to the American people as a presidential candidate.
The solution is not preventive war. The U.S. can deter North Korea indefinitely which makes force unnecessary. Why sacrifice 7 million lives to prevent a North Korean attack that’s unlikely to happen anyway? The United States coexists with the Russia and China, and it can learn to do so with North Korea if the summit fails.
President Trump has defined his foreign policy as “principled realism,” a welcome shift in direction from the hawkish liberal internationalism and neoconservatism of the past. Jettisoning a nuclear deal that is working, despite the problems buried in the text, would run counter to the realism embedded in the Trump administration’s national security doctrine. And it may very well put the United States in the position of fighting a fourth war in the Middle East, a possibility the American people are neither prepared for or supportive of.
Both sides in this civil war have spilled much innocent blood; there are no good guys in this fight. That’s why U.S. foreign policy should be guided by a realistic grand strategy, not knee-jerk responses to developments on the ground. Bashar al-Assad is a brutal thug, but deepening U.S. involvement in Syria’s civil war would undermine U.S. security.
The most prudent path is the one already announced by the president: to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria’s civil war and use the United States’ unparalleled diplomatic power to pursue a viable detente in Syria. Sometimes there are no good military options, and we must opt for the least bad policy on the table.
President Trump is mulling an end to the U.S. military intervention in Syria’s civil war, commenting Thursday that U.S. troops would exit the country “very soon,” letting “the other people take care of it now.” With the Islamic State deprived of the vast majority of its land and status—the terrorist group now controls just 5 percent of the Syrian territory it had conquered at its peak—and regional powers like Russia, Turkey, and Iran invested in preventing an ISIS reprise, Trump has recognized the rationale for U.S. occupation grows increasingly thin.
If the United States chooses to follow the counsel of Ambassador Bolton and others in the idealism-driven foreign policy establishment on NATO enlargement, we will be playing a risky game with an opponent who has stronger incentives to win on the issue—a worrying circumstance to find ourselves in. There may well be danger in the appointment of the president’s new national security advisor, but it certainly is more perilous to have an entire ruling class in unquestioning support of his most reckless policies.
American security is neither enhanced nor placed at increased risk regardless of how the Syrian war is eventually resolved. Our government’s obligation to defend U.S. interests and citizens remains the same either way, and we will continue to successfully protect our vital national interests. Leaving a residual military force indefinitely on the ground in Syria will not accomplish even partial success, and that’s okay, as long as we get out and stop risking precious blood and treasure. President Trump is right to order the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.
President Trump has had good instincts on several foreign policy matters since the 2016 campaign. If he does indeed hire Bolton to become his next National Security Advisor, let us hope that Trump does not sacrifice his good instincts in deference to Bolton’s poor track record of advocating hawk-like impulses.