President Donald Trump unveiled his national security strategy after nearly a year in office on Monday, and made clear that his administration will undo a number of policies set in place by his predecessors.
Presidents generally wait two years before presenting a national security plan, a world view which typically encapsulates an administration’s foreign policy and diplomatic priorities as key elements of a larger security plan.
Critics have charged that the Trump administration lacks a coherent foreign policy. He has also damaged the State Department’s ability to be an effective diplomatic vehicle with budget cuts, leaving key posts vacant and publicly undermining and humiliating Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on several occasions.
On Monday, Trump announced a new relationship with the world, including an effort to move away from a policy of engagement.
“With the strategy I am announcing today we are declaring that America is in the game in and America is going to win,” said Trump, who reminded viewers that America had voted for him and that his election meant that Americans have “rediscovered your voice and reclaimed ownership of this nation and its destiny.”
He also doubled-down on his calls to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, defeating “Islamic terrorism and ideology,” closing what he called “immigration loopholes,” and promoting prosperity.
The nearly 70-page national strategy released on Monday lays out Trump’s “America first” vision as something that can be achieved by viewing the world as being in “perpetual competition” with the United States, reports the Associated Press, which described the plan as one that “emphasizes that U.S. economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might.”
He started his speech by slamming the failures of previous administrations on familiar themes — immigration, the nuclear agreement with Iran, and jobs going overseas — and trumpeted pulling out of multilateral deals as the way forward.
“We have withdrawn the United States from job killing deals such as the transpacific partnership and the very expensive and unfair Paris climate accord. During our trip to Asia last month I announced that we will no longer tolerate trading abuse…I declined to certify the Iran deal to congress,” said the president.
Trump’s plan presents a binary view of the world, even in the case of complex issues in regions such as the Middle East.
Here, the administration considers that if Israel is not responsible for all of the problems in the region, then it’s responsible for none. The draft viewed by the AP states that, “for generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”
It does not seem to recognize Iran’s nuanced position — Iran also helped fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, for example — or that it’s possible for a country to be viewed as problematic on some fronts but cooperative on others. But the president made the victories over ISIS an American victory, achieved only after he went on a trip to the Middle East last spring.
“We have dealt ISIS one devastating defeat after another. The coalition to defeat ISIS has now recaptured almost 100 percent of the land once held by these terrorists in Iraq and in Syria. Great job. Really good. Great job. Great job. Really good. Really good. Thank you. Thank you,” said Trump.
According to the document, Russia and China, countries Trump has alternately praised and accused of trying to “rape” the United States, are “determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence,” Reuters reports. It’s unclear how the administration will try to get China to help apply pressure on North Korea to shut down its nuclear and ballistic missile programs while treating it as a “strategic competitor.”
The draft strategy makes no mention of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections, nor did the president in his speech, although he did say that the United States will seek “to build a great partnership” with China, Russia and “other countries”.
Trump’s strategy document also directly undoes former president Barack Obama’s 2015 strategy plan, which viewed climate change and urgent threat on national security. Trump removed climate change as a threat, instead mentioning the importance of “environmental stewardship.”