A Bullish and Incoherent View of the World

UNITED STATES - APRIL 27 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about his foreign policy positions during an
UNITED STATES - APRIL 27 - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks about his foreign policy positions during an event sponsored by The Center for the National Interest, at The Mayflower Hotel, in Washington, Wednesday, April 27, 2016. (Photo By Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

Donald Trump's first major foreign policy speech did nothing to calm the world. On the contrary, we are even more terrified than before.

Here in Europe, we are continuously bewildered by the ever-more fumbling efforts from Cruz and Kasich to provide a real alternative to Mr. Trump. We are now waking up to the real possibility of a Clinton-Trump race this fall.

With just one candidate standing in the way of a Trump presidency, the world is, to borrow Trump's favorite term, totally terrified.

As such, America's allies were glued to the screen as Mr. Trump promised to lay out a more detailed foreign policy program. He had even acceded to using a teleprompter during his speech, rather than just "winging it".

The fact that it was a big deal that Trump had taken the time to ponder his plan for America in the world, says a lot about how accustomed we have become the madness of this campaign. Crazy is the new normal.

I listened carefully for signs of logic, perhaps hints of a path towards vaguely reasonable policy views. Not surprisingly though, Trump's foreign policy vision is as bullish and incoherent as the rest of his ideas.

Bullies never tolerate dissent

In Trump's world, the playground is only quiet when a strong bully rules the area. That bully is America, and it must regain its supremacy: "Our military dominance must be unquestioned, and I mean unquestioned, by anybody and everybody", he said yesterday.

Trump envisions a world where America alone dictates the rules. These rules must always favor Americans: "A Trump administration will lead a free world that is properly armed and funded, and funded beautifully", he concluded.

He noted that he prefers to promote regional stability in the Middle East, not radical change. In other words, dictatorial regimes that quell dissent are favorable as long as they ensure stability.

Concerning Russia, Trump also favors a similar narrative. As long as America puts on a tough face, Mr. Putin will somehow suddenly become more agreeable, and concerned with U.S. interests. It is unclear what the GOP-contender will do if this does not happen.

When it comes to military means, Trump is sometimes seen as more reluctant to use force than Clinton. Yet, he cautioned yesterday that he would "not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must only fight to win." It's unclear what "winning" means in this regard.

Rampant Schizophrenia

Whereas Trump's bullish rhetoric is scary, his near-schizophrenic views of the world are simply mindboggling.

Trump maintains that America has "to be unpredictable", while simultaneously promising to replace "randomness with purpose" and "chaos with peace". Similarly confusing, he maintains that he will drastically increase military spending, while also identifying savings and cutting costs.

He boasts that "Americans must know that we're putting the American people first again on trade." - while he only started to buy Trump-paraphernalia from domestic producers after he had launched his campaign.

Moreover, he assures us that America must be "clear-sighted about the groups that will never be anything other than enemies", but at the same time ensures that "we are always happy when old enemies become friends", without clarifying who belongs in which category.

Trump concludes that America's allies feel that they can no longer depend the United States, yet maintains that unless these countries pay up more, they can no longer depend on the United States. He praises generations of Americans that have "saved the world", but at the same time promises to renege on such responsibilities unless Americans are "treated more fairly".

Obviously, these comments are not coherent, and they reveal a truly odd assumption: The belief that America can somehow retract from the world, much like a company could abandon merger-talks if a deal stinks.

Talking about China, Trump noted, "we can both benefit or we can both go our separate ways", as if the world's two economic superpowers could choose not to deal with one another.

Chaos and Schisms

America no longer has clear foreign policy goals, Mr. Trump argues. However, as is the case with his domestic policy proposals, the candidate offered few details on how he plans to merge his inconsistent views and harsh rhetoric with actual, realistic solutions on the international stage.

Instead, he appears to take the same approach as on the campaign trail, namely saying that we must trust that he has the skills to make the impossible happen:

"I'm the only one - believe me, I know them all, I'm the only one who knows how to fix it", Trump said in his speech.

Like many skeptical observers outside the United States, I don't believe in Mr. Trump's word. On the contrary, I fear that his foremost foreign policy skill will be to spawn chaos on the international stage and create schisms with otherwise traditional allies, particularly in Europe.

After eight years of Obama, a Commander-in-Chief that is largely revered and respected by America's European allies, it is easy to forget the split that occurred under George W. Bush. In fact, the Iraq War created a deep gulf between the White House and a number of central allies.

While Mr. Trump seems somewhat less conflict-hungry than his Republican predecessor, his foreign policy views indicate that he would make the United States a far less stable power broker in the world.

The last thing the world needs now is an incoherent bully in the White House.