Politics & Policy

Trump’s Foreign Policy: America as Global Vulture

Oil tankers fill up at Basra, Iraq. (Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty)
Forget the hair and the ranting. We need to examine what Trump’s actually saying.

Offering the politically disenchanted a doorway to a utopian Neverland, Donald Trump can rant, joke, and flip-flop to his heart’s content. All he needs to do is speak with more confidence than his opponents.

But even if they like his personality, Mr. Trump’s supporters should examine his policy positions more closely — in particular, his foreign-policy positions. Because they might not like what a Trump presidency would mean. Were a President Trump to do what candidate Trump says he would do, two things would almost certainly occur.

First, America would enter a global tariff war with China, Mexico, and any other nation that failed to bow to Trump’s majesty. This would collapse American export markets, kill hundreds of thousands of jobs, and lead to far higher costs for the basic goods American families buy every day.

Second, we’d be in a theater-level war in the Middle East. That’s not an exaggeration.

Donald Trump wants to seize control of oil fields in the Middle East and North Africa. While he has recently focused on his desire to “bomb the hell” out of ISIS-controlled oil fields (a comment that does not constitute strategy), his oil agenda has deeper motivations than security. In 2011, Trump explained to CNN that the U.S. should have seized control of Iraqi oil fields as “spoils of war.” He was confused by his interviewer’s skepticism. But that same year, Trump expanded on his underlying oil-centric theory of foreign policy. Speaking about the Libyan revolution, Trump stated that the U.S. should have supported the anti-Qaddafi rebels only in return for “something special.” In Trump-world, this special gift would have entailed “50 percent of their oil.”

#related#Now don’t misunderstand me: It’s eminently possible to cogently argue that the U.S. made a strategic error by intervening in Libya. Still, whether applied to Iraq or Libya, Trump’s foreign-policy motivation is rotten. It is centered on raw imperial mercantilism, a notion that is antithetical to any moral notion of American foreign policy and American exceptionalism. A President Trump would turn America into a global vulture. China and Russia would be benevolent guarantors of international order compared with Trump’s America.

And the Middle East wouldn’t meekly acquiesce. In a matter of weeks after the first oil fields were seized, the U.S. would almost surely face a pan-Arab military mobilization against us. Even a cross-sectarian alliance between America’s Arab allies and Iran would be on the cards. U.S. military units in the region — and Trump asserts that U.S. ground forces would guard our newly seized oil prizes — would quickly be surrounded. To protect our personnel, we would need a massive mobilization of combined-arms forces — at least on the scale of the First Gulf War.

Donald Trump’s oil plan would lead America on a yellow brick road to chaos.

And that’s just the start. Perceiving our seizures as the ultimate proof of jihadist propaganda — that America seeks corrupt domination — both Sunni and Shia terrorist groups would receive a windfall of new recruits, funds, and popular support. The U.S. would be forced to close embassies around the world — some voluntarily, for reasons of security, and others because of expulsion. America’s regional allies would be treated as collaborators, and nations like Jordan and Saudi Arabia might fall into the hands of terrorists. And beyond the Middle East, the U.S. economy would face global sanctions as other allies moved in disgust to separate themselves from President Trump’s action.

Put another way, Donald Trump’s oil plan would lead America on a yellow brick road to chaos. And even aside from the human casualties we would take in following this agenda, Trump’s mercantilism would also fail. After all, fighting a war on that scale wouldn’t be cheap.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Mr. Trump’s policy positions are unavailable on his campaign website.

Tom Rogan is a columnist for National Review Online, a contributor to the Washington Examiner, and a former panelist on The McLaughlin Group. Email him at TRogan@McLaughlin.com

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