“Our moments of greatest strength came when politics ended at the water’s edge.”
This was a statement made by Donald Trump during his recent foreign policy address. This address was actually a formal speaking engagement, written ahead of time and given with the help of a teleprompter. Because of this, we know that at least a decent amount of planning had to go into this speech and the policies put forth in it.
This particular statement is particularly troublesome. There have been times in the past when the United States had an isolationist foreign policy. The most memorable of these is before the U.S. joined World War II. During those years, President Roosevelt had to finagle a way to offer assistance to the British, in the form of the Lend-Lease Act, and at one point a ship carrying Jews was forced to turn around and take them back to Europe, the very place they were trying to escape from. This is what an isolationist foreign policy looks like.
I understand that citizens of the United States have grown tired of acting as the world’s policemen. The appeal of Trump’s isolationist policy is a direct result of this tiredness. Just because this seems appealing in our fatigue over too many years of war, that does not mean that it will result in an actual good foreign policy. Instead, it will result in a sharp decline in American influence, which I do not believe is the goal of either Mr. Trump or his supporters. Before we commit ourselves to any kind of isolationist foreign policy, we need to consider all the possible long-term consequences of this policy, not just the immediate feeling of security we might gain from it.