The content of President Trump’s speech to West Point graduates last weekend is concerning, particularly a line in his speech that hints at his future foreign policy, and indeed, reflects his approach thus far: “it is not the duty of US troops to solve ancient conflicts in faraway lands that no one has ever heard of.”
We have seen this perspective play out in Trump’s denigration of alliances, contempt for allies, and his threat to bring troops home from Germany. This view of the world, and America’s place in it, not only reverses the leadership role the U.S. has played for 75 years, but would cede that role to our enemies. It cannot be an accident that Trump borrowed these words from British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who, speaking of the Nazis in 1938, described rising tensions between Germany and other European countries as “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing,” as he announced the appeasement of Germany.
Why should we care about Trump’s words? Because they seem to reflect the Trump Doctrine — his foreign policy approach moving forward — at a time of increasing global tensions that require U.S. leadership: China has renewed threats against Taiwan; North Korea has threatened to send the military into the demilitarized zone; Russia remains committed to exporting its influence to Eastern Europe, to weaken democracy and US interests there. The U.S. has alliances with these countries that are under threat, yet Trump dismissed the reality that sometimes getting involved in global conflicts is a necessity. What message does this send to our allies? While that question is concerning enough, even more worrisome is the message it sends to our enemies: the United States of America has embraced appeasement.