The rise of Donald Trump and the so called “radical right” in the USA has left a sour note in much of the mainstream media. Comparing him to “Hitler”, or brandishing him a “Fascist” – although, as Thomas Sowell rightly pointed out years ago, ‘fascism’ is very much a left wing ideology – this mainly stems from Trump’s supposedly “dangerous” immigration policy. Mainly because that is what Trump mostly uses as a populist device, changing Pat Buchanan’s (“the Trump of the 90s”) arguments of “Culture War” to arguments which relate more to ordinary, working-class people and which are affecting their lives.
What then is Trump’s greatest strength and greatest policy so far? It is the much less talked about foreign policy Trump has been promoting. It is one of “unashamed non-interventionism”, and a foreign policy that puts “America first”.When he states that Iraq and all of the Middle East ventures were total failures which have destabilised the area, Trump is the only viable presidential candidate saying these things. This goes towards explaining his support amongst veterans when compared to the other presidential candidates.
Do these views resonate with the greater public? Of course they do, Trump wouldn’t be using them if they didn’t! The debate of the Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina is a good example. Here, Trump called Iraq a “big, fat mistake” and claimed George W Bush lied to get into Iraq. He further said that the Bush administration had made up the claim of the existence of “Weapons of Mass Destruction”. The audience booed loudly the n he said this. It seemed at the time like a bad call on Trump’s part, but what happened on the next day? He won South Carolina , where the debate was held, with a 10% lead over his next rival.
After the Brussels terrorist attacks, Trump came out with a critique of NATO, claiming it was “obsolete” and needed “modernising”.This makes Trump one of the first presidential candidates since the 1960s to agree with Gen. Eisenhower, the first NATO commander, that NATO has failed. Gen. Eisenhower stated in 1951: “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defence purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed.”
These statements, then and now, are valid. Do we really need an organisation that was put in place to stop communism when we now live in a world where communism is all but dead? Has it not lost its reason for existing? Weren’t it market forces and cultural shifts that led to the fall of the USSR, instead of NATO’s constant presence?
This is a point UKIP hasn’t addressed as much as necessary. In the election manifesto UKIP talked about independence from the EU, and taking back our sovereignty, but yet never mentioned that we have lost our sovereignty in regard to our foreign policies to NATO.
NATO is the bureaucratic body that forces the Prime Minister to deploy the Royal Navy ships off to non-British areas and tells us to take part in pointless training exercises. NATO is the body that tells us how our army should be equipped and arranged, with targets that are much akin to Stalin’s “Five Years Plan”.
NATO, much like the EU, also decides our foreign policy stances. Look no further than the Ukraine: a matter both the EU and NATO got involved in by backing a coup, rather than just keeping well out, thus making our relations an awful lot worse with Russia and an awful lot better with a tyrant, i.e. the new president of the Ukraine.
UKIP’s overall foreign policy though, looks quite a muddled one as there doesn’t seem to be any sort of consistent foreign policy position. On the one hand Nigel Farage himself has spoken against the bombing of Syria, describing it as a “waste of money”. He also quite correctly predicted the devastation that the intervention in Libya would cause. In interviews overall he has come across as a distinct non-interventionist. However, that seems to be quite different when compared to some others in UKIP.
Take for example Douglas Carswell, who after much deliberation on Twitter then voted for the bombing of Syria in November. The very fact that Carswell couldn’t decide how to vote, and had to rely on Twitter, shows how muddled UKIP policy on foreign affairs is.
This example underlines that UKIP needs to stop prevaricating on the question of foreign policy and take a strong stand on this issue that can separate UKIP from the other major parties. It should be a policy that doesn’t have the Neo-Conservatism of the Tories, that doesn’t have the simple pacifism of the New Corbyn Labour and that doesn’t have the basic idealism of the Liberal Democrats.
What UKIP should have is what Trump is offering: a foreign policy that gives a strong, affordable defence without becoming the world’s police and acting like it knows what’s best for other countries. It doesn’t work and anyway, we cannot afford it.
We need, to paraphrase Trump, a “UK First” foreign policy, a foreign policy that is only acting in the British public’s interest and safety, one that is willing to envisage necessary trade-offs for future peace, such as backing Assad to keep the peace in Syria.
UKIP could learn a lot from Donald Trump, be it something to avoid like his awful use of rhetoric and his other rather flimsy policy positions, or be it something to gain from, like his remarks about NATO. Trump’s foreign policy stands out as the real alternative to that of our political elites. UKIP should follow suit and have an unashamedly patriotic, non-interventionist foreign policy that treats its army with the respect it deserves.