Unmasking the Trump Doctrine
Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Capitol Hill this week with the impossible task of illuminating for Congress the Trump Doctrine, defined by a unilateral retreat from the global community.
In his first five months in office, President Trump has inexplicably heaped praise on strongmen including Vladimir Putin, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and Rodrigo Duterte, while dismissing some of our closest allies. In Brussels for his first foreign trip, the president adamantly refused to affirm Article 5 during his NATO address, despite the concerted efforts of his own national security advisors, including Mr. Tillerson.
He ripped up the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would have applied American labor, environmental, and human rights standards to 40 percent of global GDP. TPP was a bulwark against China’s overwhelming economic influence in the region. They are still drinking champagne in Beijing.
Trump has slammed shut America's doors to whole swaths of refugees fleeing from civil war when there are a record 65 million displaced people around the world. He has proposed slashing U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance by nearly a third. And he has failed to fill most senior State Department positions.
Last week, he decided to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord - an agreement supported by every nation except Syria and Nicaragua. Even North Korea has recognized the gravity of climate change and signed the deal.
These actions leave many Americans with more questions than answers about how this administration views our role in the world.
Unprecedented threats to global stability require dedicated, unambiguous American leadership. Russian troops have illegally occupied Crimea and parts of Georgia, and fighting continues in eastern Ukraine. Putin is undermining democratic elections in NATO countries - including our own. This administration has turned a blind eye to such interference, and President Trump has demonstrated more interest in validating false claims of fraudulent voting than combatting a threat certified by 17 national intelligence agencies.
North Korea is aggressively pursuing the capability to deliver a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile that could reach the continental United States. And yet, we don’t have an Ambassador in Seoul, Tokyo, or Beijing. Tillerson says “all options are on the table,” but so far we’ve only seen tweets. That won’t cut it.
A philosophy of diminishment and retrenchment, and the dismantlement of the international administrative state - to coin a phrase from Steve Bannon - is not in our interest. It is inherently destabilizing and opens the door to grave situations.
Since World War II, we have been and we remain the essential nation. From John Winthrop to John F Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, our leaders have strived to make America that shining city on the hill. American values are rooted in respect for human rights, personal autonomy, and communal freedom. We are a place that people look to for succor and a beacon of hope even in the darkest corners of the world.
So when Secretary Tillerson comes before the House Foreign Affairs Committee this week, I will be looking for answers to one simple question: How does retreating from the world “Make America Great Again?”
Connolly represents Virginia's 11th District. He is a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is a member of the NATO Parliamentarian Assembly.