A Nonpartisan Analysis of Trump’s Foreign Policy

Graphic by Jacob Rozowsky

By Alec Liberman

Opinions Writer

The initial weeks of Trump’s presidency have been… well, they’ve been an experience. Trump has signed executive orders ranging from highly anticipated to completely surprising. It’s far too early to include an approval statistic, as he has only been the president for about three weeks. It is clear, however, that the country is polarized, partly because of his social and economic policies. As a result, I will do my best to remain politically neutral in this article and provide a rational, detailed explanation to everything I say. Please bear with me.

Over the last few weeks, there has been quite a lot of focus on Trump’s foreign policies– in other words, how he deals with other countries’ governments. One of the most prominent policies put forward has been the so-called “Muslim ban”, heavy restrictions on immigration and travel from seven Muslim-majority countries.

I’ll get to that later, I promise. For now, it’s important to step back, and talk a little about what Trump has promised.

Throughout his campaign, Trump maintained the position that we need to establish– or, in some cases, restore– good relations with our allies (including Japan and Israel) and other emerging powers (such as Russia). I wholeheartedly believe that this is a positive goal. At the end of the day, the United States will be better off if it knows that there are countries with whom it has good relations, countries that will support it should support be needed.

Hand in hand with that comes the restoration of our word. Under President Obama, the weight and validity of US pledges eroded significantly. As unfortunate as it is, we are no longer seen as a country that keeps its promises. Trump hopes to change this; promises that can be backed give the United States greater foreign influence.

On the subject of foreign influence, Trump has made some strong statements about NATO. He has stated multiple times that NATO has lost its role. However, he has never explicitly stated that he plans on pulling out of it. He’s said that he “would consider it” and the like, but more important is the backing for his statements.

Current NATO guidelines state that all member states should spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. As of July of 2016, only five out of the 28 countries in the alliance do so. These include Greece, Poland, Estonia, the United Kingdom, and, you guessed it, the United States.

The US is currently spending 3.6% of its GDP on defense; for reference, Germany only spent 1.19% of its GDP on defense last year. Long story short, this means that US taxpayers end up paying for some of Europe’s security. What Trump wants to do is to make all members pay, thereby relieving the burden on US taxpayers.

This is an issue I am conflicted on. From a fiscal standpoint, I stand with Trump; we need to do everything we can to reduce governmental spending of taxpayer money and make life easier for our own citizens, putting US citizens before European ones. From a moral standpoint, I’m not sure that’s the case.

There are countries in Europe that are spending a few tenths of one percent of their GDP on defense (Iceland, Spain, and others); some of these countries are not able to adequately defend themselves because they have other issues to deal with. While all NATO countries committed to taking the 2% guideline more seriously in 2014, there are undoubtedly countries that need help. I just don’t know if it is our burden to help them.

Helping other countries and sending them money ties closely with the idea of free trade, another topic that the Trump administration has chosen to focus on. He has made some strongly protectionist statements about free trade, largely because he believes that free trade is biased against the US.

It is still unclear as to whether or not he’ll try to negotiate free trade agreements more in favor of the US or attempt to dismantle them completely. This is a very tricky topic because on one hand, if Trump is indeed able to negotiate free agreements so as to make them actually free and symmetric, this would be a good thing and advance our economy.

On the other hand, if Trump implements tariffs on imports and other similar protectionist measures, this will be a long-term loss, because it will reduce competition for our domestic manufacturers and therefore reduce incentives for innovation, progress, and growth of productivity. While it would be a short-term gain by creating some domestic manufacturing jobs in some industries, it will be at the price of other jobs in other industries, so it will be equivalent to the redistribution of jobs and therefore redistribution of income.

However, at the end of the day, the United States has a duty to maintain the safety of its citizens. I believe that compassion to refugees, regardless of their origin, comes second to that. The US imposed similar restrictions on travelers from West Africa during the Ebola epidemics. That measure was certainly justified; this one less so.

Russia is an important trading partner of the United States. Relations between the two powers is an incredibly important topic– I can’t stress this enough. Unfortunately, it is still too early to say with a large degree of certainty as to what will happen between the two.

Rumors are circulating about Russian involvement in the presidential elections and ties with the Trump administration. These statements range from contacts of the Trump campaign with Russians before the elections, all the way to Russia dictating to the Trump administration as to what Russia wants it to do.

There is no argument when it comes to Russia dictating US policies and actions. Russian meddling with United States politics is not a good thing by any means. I believe that there should be a bipartisan investigation into the matter, and that if anything unlawful is found, it should be dealt with accordingly.

That being said, I am in favor of normalizing relations between Russia and the United States, subject to Russia terminating their expansionist policies in Eastern Europe. Until Russia does so, I do not believe that sanctions should be reduced or lifted. Expansionism is not what the modern-day United States stands for, and we should make that very clear to everyone.

With that out of the way, we come to possibly the most important issue at hand: Trump’s executive order applying restrictions on seven Muslim-majority countries.

First things first, this policy is not solely Trump’s creation. It is a broadening of the 2015 Obama administration measure which issued restrictions on travelers– although the measure did not restrict individuals from entering our country, just that they were not eligible for a visa waiver– who visited the seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen). While there were no new countries added to the list, the new measure did restrict citizens from those countries, not simply travelers to those countries, from entering the United States.

The major problem is that governments in these countries are either non-functioning or hostile. Therefore, we cannot rely on the information provided (if any) by these governments about people who want to travel to the US. It is for this reason that he called for temporary suspension of travel from these seven countries to the US until proper vetting of all travelers is in place.

Quite frankly, I think calling this order anti-Muslim isn’t rational. If it were, it would apply to all Muslim-majority countries, including Indonesia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, not to mention our NATO ally Turkey.

I can understand Trump’s reasoning for such a measure. There is a high probability that an organization such as ISIS will attempt to infiltrate the US. Given a lack of information about travelers from these seven countries, they would be likely conduits for such infiltration.

Of course, the risk of such a thing happening is not at all high; very low, actually. Of course, terrorists may (and do) come from other countries. However, if a terrorist infiltrated the United States pretending to be a refugee, probability dictates that they are more likely to pose as a traveler from one of the seven countries.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I do not support this measure. I think that it is, at its core, well intentioned, but horribly executed. I am not labeling Muslims as terrorists or saying that travelers from the seven countries are, either. To do so would be nothing short of ludicrous and not something a rational person would say in a thousand years.

However, at the end of the day, the United States has a duty to maintain the safety of its citizens. I believe that compassion to refugees, regardless of their origin, comes second to that. The US imposed similar restrictions on travelers from West Africa during the Ebola epidemics. That measure was certainly justified; this one less so.

Unfortunately, some US citizens and green card holders were caught in this restriction process. While labeling the measure as a “blanket ban” would be inaccurate, there were undoubtedly things that could have been carried out differently. The President must insure that people who have a need– and in some cases, a right– to get back to the United States have an opportunity to do so. Halting travel is not the solution we need.

But the fact remains that, however low, there is a risk of a terrorist attack with perpetrators originating at one of the seven countries. What Trump ultimately wants is a safe United States. He wants a country where we can go outside and not be scared of an attack on our lives.

What I don’t think Trump realizes is that our country is already like that. Never in my life have I walked on the street and feared that I would die in the next moments. I am almost positive that I will not have such a fear for the considerable future. As such, I think that this procedure does much more harm than good.

The recent measure makes it nearly impossible for well-intentioned, help-requiring people to get a new chance at life. It makes travel an incredibly torturous experience for anybody with roots connecting to those seven countries. As such, it is up to us to help change the status quo. I ask my peers that they stand up for what they believe in, whether or not they support the measure. If you think that it is needed, explain your case. If you think that it is flawed, do the same.

It is ultimately up to us as citizens of the United States to dictate what the government does, and how the government acts. After all, that’s why we elected it.