Donald Trump, foreign policy realist?

Donald Trump now enjoys a big delegate lead after the most recent primaries. While Ted Cruz isn’t too far behind, Trump is looking like he will be this November’s leading candidate for commander-in-chief.

The businessman has made international deals, but doesn’t have experience with the military or with heads of state. So what would the Trump doctrine look like?

The candidate’s statements on foreign policy don’t fit neatly into any existing template for American foreign policy –

  • He’s vocally opposed to illegal immigration, but supports moves to attract and keep highly skilled workers from other countries.
  • He has long sounded the alarm over issues like Iran’s nuclear program and China’s trading schemes, but he favors increased sanctions, rather than military action.
  • He supports a hefty Pentagon budget, but he was a critic of the Iraq War and he’s skeptical of regime-change.There does appear to be an underlying theme to Trump’s vision for world affairs: The United States should be the most powerful force, but other capable nations need to start picking up more slack.

Trump points to Libya and Iraq as examples of good intentions gone awry. In both countries, the United States used the military to muscle out oppressive leaders, Muammar Muhammad and Saddam Hussein.

Both countries have since turned into disaster zones, giving safe haven to Islamic extremists and other anti-American interests. That’s why Trump has urged caution in dealing with Bashar al-Asad in Syria, while most other candidates this cycle have called for ramping up the military actions in that country.

Instead, Syria’s neighbors should deal with the mess, Trump said.

“The countries should all get together, including the Gulf states, who have nothing but money, they should all get together and they should take a big swath of land in Syria and they do a safe zone for people,” Trump told CBS during an interview in October.

Trump’s potential Democrat opponents have substantially different foreign policy agendas.

Front-runner Hillary Clinton has an extensive foreign policy resume, but it’s full of missteps and lacks many clear achievements: Clinton voted in favor of the Iraq War in 2002, which even many Republicans now say that was a mistake.

As Secretary of State, Clinton also was the leading cheerleader for many of President Barack Obama’s overseas adventures – Libya, Syria, and more. And it’s widely known that Clinton organized favors for world powers that did political favors for her or donated to the Clinton Foundation.

In short, Clinton has never seen an overseas intervention she didn’t like. As president, she would appear poised to continue burning U.S. resources across the globe without clear objectives.

On the other hand, self-described socialist Bernie Sanders has shown little interest or expertise in foreign policy. He’s running for commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest military power, but until recently he didn’t have a single foreign policy adviser on his campaign staff.

The American Conservative, one of the right-wing’s loudest voices for limited military intervention, recently ranked 2016 candidates on various foreign policy issues: Trump received the best score among the Republican candidates.

So what would a President Trump’s foreign policy philosophy be? As the candidate himself said in the November FOX News/Wall Street Journal debate: “We can’t continue to be the policeman of the world.”

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