The Trump Doctrine

The Inauguration of the billionaire property developer and businessman Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States has ushered in a new era in American politics and international standing. It was a surreal moment due to the fact so many believed it would never happen. Mr. Trump must be credited with the fact he possess unique political and charismatic skills that a man with zero experience of running a political campaign, running for political office or having ever served in government, could have got himself elected President at the outset of his very first political campaign, is quite remarkable.

What is more remarkable is that Mr. Trump largely drove his campaign and success with the capturing of the Republican nomination and subsequently the White House, largely through the sheer force and theatrical, flamboyant personality of his character, a deep understanding of his audience/market and an uncanny ability to utilise and harness mass media to attract attention to himself and his campaign. He did all this in the face of stiff resistance from many within his own party and the Establishment and mainstream media. As a performer he is extremely captivating and this in many ways fuelled his rise to the Presidency.

President Trump’s inaugural address was quite unlike any in recent American Presidential history. He returned to the dark and pessimistic vision of America and the world originally outlined with vigour at the Republican National Convention. President Trump dubbed the state of America in graphic terms as an «American carnage», in which the nations elite Establishment in Washington DC had allowed the country to rot as they themselves flourished. It was a full scale onslaught against the members of the DC political Establishment both Republican and Democrat and the ushering in of a so-called new way of getting the best for the American people from their political institutions.

What was must striking in policy and political terms was the overtly nationalist doctrine that President Trump enunciated in his Inaugural Address. It would seem for the first time in decades an American administration will be openly and philosophically Protectionist in its actions, policies, rhetoric and thinking advocating for «smart trade» not «free trade» and moving away from free trade type agreements such as NAFTA or the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. The nationalism is striking for its isolationism.

There is no place in the Trump Doctrine for George W. Bush style messianic, neoconservative interventionism in the name of democratic nation building around the world. The Trump Doctrine is neither liberal internationalist nor American exceptionalism or neoconservative hawkishness rather a traditional form of nationalist isolationism redolent of the 1930s Republican Party of Wendell Willkie who opposed US involvement in the European World War II.

The Trump Doctrine emphasizes American greatness through a heavy focus on nationalism to express the pride in national power and is hostile towards attempts at or achieved restrictions upon national sovereignty to act as an independent nation state rather than in a collective, multi-lateral fashion through organisations such as NATO, United Nations, the Paris Climate Agreement, the Iran Nuclear Agreement etc.

This nationalist isolationism is most starkly revealed and will have the most radical impact in terms of international trade policy. It will be fascinating to see just how far under the Trump administration America moves away from Free Trade in the international economic architecture of the Western IMF/World Bank system and embraces protectionism with the possibility of trade wars and an undermining of organisations such as the World Trade Organisation and the globalized framework of manufacturing. In terms of Great Power Superpower politics the Trump Doctrine will position American global leadership as more of a Chairman of the Board style of leadership rather than the activist World Policeman CEO figure of past administrations post-World War II. Trump wants America to remain dominant and number one but refuses to follow a set of international policies which could bankrupt America for paying for Global hegemony of the Kennedy/Reagan/Clinton/Bush administrations.

At home a brand of patriotism will be used to attempt to create greater internal cohesion and unity despite the profound divisions within the country and large opposition to the Trump victory. Be prepared to see a wave of America First hyperbole and hyper-nationalism unleashed in an attempt to quell dissent and wrap the Trump Presidency in the American flag in a powerfully emotional appeal to the countries most sensitive sensibilities. This will in all likelihood be abused for political purposes of the Trump administration to silence critics and dilute opposition and it is likely to widen the gulf between small town middle America and the coastal big city liberal metropolises stoking even greater social tensions.

The Inaugural Speech was a tour de force in raw emotion powered by a fiery and telegenic, charismatic and motivational, persuasive though hyperbolic public personality and speaker. It was a master class act in mass manipulation and it remains to be seen whether a policy platform for Government fashioned out of this individual driven political insurrection will indeed cure some of the problems facing the United States or whether they will in fact create even bigger problems both for Americans and the rest of the world.

By Matthew Jamison
Source: Strategic Culture

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