“The way in which party platforms are written is very, very ambiguous. I respect Pat Buchanan’s position, but the world is changing. Trotsky once said, ‘you may not like war, but war likes you.’ It is a very difficult and dangerous world and no platform today can determine what a President will face in the future and how he must respond.” – Herb London, president of the London Center for Policy Research.
By John Gizzi | July 22, 2016
CLEVELAND – Although it received relatively scant press attention next to Donald Trump’s powerful speech accepting the Republican nomination for President, the Republican Party platform plank on foreign policy (America Resurgent: page 41) is nevertheless newsworthy, thought-provoking — and to those considered part of the GOP’s foreign policy “establishment,” rather disturbing.
Taking its lead from Trump himself, the platform takes the unprecedented step of warning fellow members of the NATO alliance to “fulfill their commitments and meet their need for greater investment in their armed forces.”
Moreover, in unprecedented language regarding NATO and other multilateral organizations, the platform says the U.S. “must always reserve the right to go its own way.”
Although the platform is critical of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, the document nevertheless takes its lead from Trump in promising only “adequate assistance” to Ukraine rather than the full military assistance Republicans in Congress denounce President Obama for refusing to provide.
In what easily can be called a direct slap at the policies of the last Republican president, George W. Bush, the latest platform denounces “nation building” in Iraq and other countries.
Along the same lines, there is no call in the document for authoritarian rulers such as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s to respect human rights and individual freedom. Again, this is a sharp break with the agenda of the last Republican president.
An argument could be made that these platform planks sculpted at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland are nothing short of a return to the non-interventionist agenda of the GOP right up to the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.
Perhaps a more prescient analogy could be made to the foreign policy view of insurgent Pat Buchanan when he sought the Republican nomination for president in 1992 and ’96. Decrying what he called the “Pax Americanus” worldview that he charged typified the GOP establishment he was challenging, Buchanan opposed virtually all of the military interventions by the U.S. —from Desert Storm to the former Yugoslavia.
“Why do we Americans seem more desperate to defend these countries than their people are to have us defend them?” The columnist-candidate once said, “Is letting go of the world we grew up in so difficult?”
“It says all the right things, notably ‘we won’t be the policeman of the world’ and ‘we won’t engage in nation-building,’” concluded Herb London, president of the London Center for Policy Research. “And it also says we will begin building up our military and it has one of the strongest statements in support of Israel—again, all good stuff. And it does conclude that we must put ‘America First’ — although I hate that term because it suggests Charles Lindbergh and the isolationists before World War II.”
But, London quickly added, “The way in which party platforms are written is very, very ambiguous. I respect Pat Buchanan’s position, but the world is changing. Trotsky once said, ‘you may not like war, but war likes you.’ It is a very difficult and dangerous world and no platform today can determine what a President will face in the future and how he must respond.”