The Dangerous Foreign Policy of America’s Presidential Candidates - part 1
Presidential candidates of all stripes promise to fix not just America but the whole world. Few parts of a president’s portfolio are as important as foreign policy. On the domestic front, Congress can (or should) have a say in what the president is able to do. But when it comes to foreign policy, he can act almost completely unhindered.
So what would America’s foreign policy look like under America’s leading candidates? The two front-runners, Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton, have very different plans. But both share the same flaw.
A Nuclear-Armed Japan
Trump has outlined his plans in some detail over the last few weeks. The main thrust of his opinion is that America should withdraw from the world, and other nations need to step up and do more. Here’s how the New York Times described its interview with Trump on his plans for Asia:
He also said he would be open to allowing Japan and South Korea to build their own nuclear arsenals rather than depend on the American nuclear umbrella for their protection against North Korea and China. If the United States “keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway, with or without me discussing it,” Mr. Trump said.
Japan is already remilitarizing because it’s losing faith in America’s security guarantees. But Trump is fine with that going even further.
A nuclear-armed Japan would be a radical blow to the already weak efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and radically change the military balance in Asia. More importantly, it shows a dangerously shallow trust in America’s allies.
We’ve been warning about a nuclear-armed Japan at the Trumpet for well over a decade. In a 2003 article “Japan’s Place in the Future”, late columnist Ron Fraser and his son Gareth Fraser wrote:
For the past 50 years, a strong relationship between the U.S. and Japan has guaranteed economic and military security in East Asia. But now it seems that Japan’s leaders are increasingly edging away from that partnership. …
The problem is, Japanese militarism has a dangerous history. Its most recent resurgence was only halted by nuclear bombing in 1945.
After World War II, the U.S. wrote Japan’s Constitution. It stated that “the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes. … L
and, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.”
Now Japan has one of the most able militaries in the world; only five nations spend more on their military than Japan does. It is in the process of watering down its constitution—with complete U.S. backing.
As the article continues, “It would not be surprising to see the U.S. even encourage Japan to obtain nuclear capability under the guise of self-defense!” Trump has come close to doing exactly that.
encouraging the creation of a rival power that has historically challenged and opposed U.S. naval power in the Pacific. George Friedman and Meredith LeBard warn in their book The Coming War With Japan that Japan could easily become a U.S. rival—in fact, its geography is pushing it in that direction.
In “Japanese Defense—Going Nuclear?”, Ron Fraser summarized some of the conclusions from this book:
In their book, Friedman and LeBard observe that “Japan’s need for physical security requires that it take control of its regional environment, the Northwest Pacific .… Japan’s need for raw materials demands that it adopt a much broader policy, reaching far beyond the confines of the northwestern Pacific.”
This is the conundrum that led Japan to become an imperial power once it had industrialized pre-World War I. …
Given that, in the light of its foreign-policy imperatives mentioned above and the “precarious” nature of continuing to rely on the U.S. as its protector, Friedman and LeBard observe that “Japan must return to history and live the place assigned to it on Earth, living by its own wits and its own powers .…”
Donald Trump wants to push Japan even faster down this path. He wants to build up a power that is currently a U.S. ally but could very easily become a rival.
Trump shows exactly the same thinking when it comes to NATO. Last month, he told ABC, “I think NATO’s obsolete.”
“What I’m saying is that we pay, number one, a totally disproportionate share of NATO,” he said. “We’re spending the biggest, the lion share’s paid for by us, disproportionate to other countries.”
“NATO is obsolete and it’s extremely expensive to the United States, disproportionately so,” he said. “And we should readjust NATO.” He continued:
But I don’t see other people partaking. And then you say why are we paying, Jon? Why are we paying disproportionately the cost of NATO? We’re paying a tremendous amount more than we should be from the standpoint of proportion.
In other words, Trump wants to continue the current president’s policy of pushing Europe to rearm. In fact, he wants to go down this path much faster. Rather than merely telling it to rearm, he wants to disband NATO and leave it no choice.
Once again, Trump is encouraging the rise of a power that is currently a U.S. ally but could easily become a rival once it becomes an independent military power. Whether it’s Europe or Japan, Trump has a lot of trust in America’s allies.
When it comes to many of Trump’s beliefs—from abortion to which political party he supports—he has vacillated all over the place. But his foreign policy has remained constant. In 1987, he said the U.S. must “stop paying to defend countries that can afford to defend themselves.” In 2013, he complained, “I keep asking, how long will we go on defending South Korea from North Korea without payment?”