Trump’s stands go against Republican foreign policy positions

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump realises that to beat Dem­ocratic candidate Hillary Clinton in general election he will need to galvanise Republicans.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump (L), shakes hands with his running mate Indiana Governor Mike Pence on July 16th.

2016/07/24 Issue: 65 Page: 17

The Arab Weekly
Gregory Aftandilian

Washington - Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, despite giving lip ser­vice to party “unity”, has staked out foreign policy positions that go strongly against the party’s traditional philosophies.

Nonetheless, Trump’s positions are unlikely to hurt him in the No­vember election with party-line vot­ers because he has captured their mood on a number of key issues.

Trump realises that to beat Dem­ocratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the general election he will need to galvanise Republicans, even those who voted against him in the pri­maries, which is why he mentioned party “unity” and gave establish­ment Republicans key roles in draft­ing the party platform. This also was the major factor in his choice of running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence.

Trump said he chose Pence, a staunch conservative, because ad­visers emphasised the importance of “party unity”.

Although Pence is likely to be a loyal running mate, he has differed with Trump on such issues as the Iraq war of 2003 (Pence voted for it when he was in Congress; Trump said he opposed it), free trade (Pence supported the North Ameri­can Free Trade Agreement) and on Muslim immigrants (Pence has called Trump’s proposal for a ban of­fensive and unconstitutional).

It is Pence, however, who is likely to change his policies — at least pub­licly — rather than Trump, who says the positions he staked out in the primaries are the ones that will en­sure victory in November.

Trump has consistently called the 2003 Iraq war a “dumb war” and a “disaster” that has destabilised the region. Trump has even used Dem­ocratic contender Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Clinton against her.

“Bernie said that Hillary Clinton has bad judgment,” Trump said in a campaign speech. “If you look at the war in Iraq, look at what she did with Libya; a total disaster.”

Although Trump has not for­mally commented on the Chilcot report, he gave an interview on British ITV in May in anticipation of the British inquiry into the Iraq war. Trump criticised former British prime minister Tony Blair joining then US president George W. Bush in invading Iraq and called the war a “disaster”, saying: “Your country shouldn’t have gone in.” Trump added that British leaders would get more respect if they put UK inter­ests before US interests.

Because of Trump’s remarks dur­ing the primaries and his comments against the Iraq war, neither Bush nor his brother Jeb Bush, who was a presidential candidate against Trump, attended the Republican convention.

Trump’s position against the Iraq war is in sync with the majority of Americans. While there is some nostalgia among Republicans for the Bush presidency, the general public sees the Iraq war as a grave mistake.

Trump’s sharp criticism of the North America Free Trade Agree­ment (NAFTA) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) fly in the face of Republicans’ traditional support for free trade. By condemning those deals, however, Trump has earned support of many white working-class Americans — many of whom often support Democrats — who claim such agreements have taken good-paying manufacturing jobs from the United States.

While Trump fashions himself as a proponent of “America First” — meaning that the United States should not be eager to engage mili­tarily abroad because doing so saps resources needed at home — he has been very critical of President Barack Obama’s administration for not doing enough against the Is­lamic State (ISIS), which he says is a direct threat to the United States.

Although the latter position is in line with most Republicans, Trump seems to tie this to his anti-Muslim immigration position, which many Republicans see as discriminatory and hurting US efforts abroad to generate anti-ISIS support among Muslim countries.

The fear of more domestic ter­rorist incidents plays into Trump’s game plan. His position supporting a temporary ban on Muslims strikes many Americans as “sensible” giv­en what they see in the daily head­lines.

Trump’s bigotry against Muslims is likely to cost him support among principled voters of both parties but he probably figures he will make up that loss by appealing to the preju­dices and fears of some white work­ing-class voters.

Hence, Trump’s non-traditional positions may work to his advan­tage, particularly if come Novem­ber there are more instability in the world and more terrorist incidents in the United States. Although Clinton enjoys a slight advantage in many polls, she should be con­cerned.

Gregory Aftandilian is a lecturer at the Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and is a former U.S. State Department Middle East analyst.

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