Does Donald Trump summon his inner Richard Nixon? One could draw this conclusion from the recent announcement by the Trump administration of the withdrawal of 2,000 US troops from Iraq, more than a third of the deployed total, following a similar statement on the exit of a third of the some 36,000 soldiers from Germany. This, in turn, followed announced troop withdrawals from Afghanistan in June, cuts from Syria, continued threats to withdraw US troops from South Korea, and implicit threats against Japan if Tokyo does not help. more to the American presence of some 50,000 troops.
It’s tempting to explain it as America first trumps the transactional worldview in which alliances are not meant to expand defenses, but are simply businesses that should either make a profit or end. But maybe, just maybe, there’s more at stake here. Perhaps by denigrating and denigrating the allies, Trump is forcing them to do more. Trump can point, like Nixon after the American loss in Vietnam, to a more realistic and balanced American role in a multipolar world, where allies and partners do more and the United States less.
As Nixon prepared to downsize in Vietnam, his Vietnamization of that war, he announced what would become the Nixon Doctrine in a 1969 speech in Guam. While declaring that the United States will remain a Pacific power, honor its treaty commitments (but not assume new ones) and expand nuclear deterrence, Nixon said the United States will look to the nation directly threatened with ‘assume primary responsibility for its defense, to which the United States would assist.
Thus, as it evolved, the Nixon Doctrine sought to have regional allies in Europe, the Saudis and Iran in the Middle East, and the East Asian partners had more responsibility in regional security. One prominent scholar described it as a downsizing plan without political disengagement.
Whether or not it is the intention to win too, that seems to be its effect. We see that Europe is focusing more on strengthening its own defense as Japan, Australia, India and the ASEAN countries weave a new network of intra-Asian security cooperation.
Ravaged by the social and economic impact of the coronavirus, political polarization and overextension in endless wars, the United States may face a situation not entirely different from what Nixon saw 50 years ago. . If so, the challenge may be the same: how to step aside while retaining a leading role in the United States, a sort of Primus inter Pares (first among equals). Maintaining a prominent, albeit more circumscribed, global role for the United States will be essential in managing an international system whose fabric seems increasingly torn.
Of course, like a Rorschach test, an inkblot can be just an inkblot, although the perception can be read there. Of course, there is no Trump doctrine. The decisions of presidents are often more like a jumble of impulsive acts coming from the gut, based on long-held opinions, regardless of facts or logic. And there are legitimate fears that the premature withdrawal of US troops from places like Iraq, not conditioned by events on the ground, could backfire as it did under President Obama, leading the states. – United to reintegrate more troops.
Yet, in any case, they all point in one direction: reduce the presence of US troops abroad and push allies and partners to shoulder more of the burden. It is a reflection of a multipolar world in which other major players like China, Europe, Russia or India seek a broader voice but, often, not a responsibility or, in the case of the China, an imperative role. The overwhelming superiority of the US military somehow makes the US answer the call when the world dials 911. Shifting the burden and pooling more responsibilities, especially in Europe and Asia, will likely be a problem. essential to a stable balance of power favoring American interests.
It seems to follow public opinion. No surprise there: It was Trumps insight that the $ 6 trillion in blood and treasure on choice wars with no obvious benefit, and the 2008-2009 mortgage meltdown and Great Recession brought on by the elites, were (and remain) a source of anger and resentment.
Most polls suggest that the American public is neither isolationist nor interventionist. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs poll since 1974 shows that more than two-thirds of the public supports an active U.S. role in world affairs, but also wants other nations to do their fair share.
The challenge is to find the right balance for a leading American role that is effective and has public support. Some believe that restoring the world that existed before Trump would do the trick. It is an illusion; history has no going back. The 70-year-old international system shows the cracks and tensions of its age. While a renewed U.S. commitment to more reciprocal global cooperation would help, it needs surgery and reinvigoration.
Whether this administration or the next US administration was able to find that Goldilocks was not too committed, not too little, but just the right amount, would be a tall order, even in a world that is not falling apart. . Yet a lot depends on the answer to this question. President TrumpDonald John TrumpCrowd targets chant ‘lock him up’ at Obama at Trump rally Governor of Nevada: Trump ‘takes reckless and selfish action’ by organizing rally Michigan Lieutenant Governor denounces response by Trump to Coronavirus: He’s ‘a liar who killed people’ MORE, warts and all, may have stumbled in the right direction.
Robert A. Manning is Principal Investigator at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center for International Security and its Foresight, Strategy and Risk (FSR) initiative. He was Senior Advisor to the Deputy Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific (1989-1993), Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs from 2001 to 2004, as a staff member Department of State Policy Planning. from 2004 to 2008 and in the Strategic Futures Group of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) from 2008 to 2012. Follow him on Twitter @ RManning4.
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