A day after he swept 118 delegates in five state primaries, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivered a speech at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday in which he delineated his foreign policy platform, including his plans to halt the growth of radical Islam and mend relations with China and Russia.
The speech, delivered at the invitation of the Center for the National Interest, a public policy think tank based in D.C., was met with criticism by Georgetown professors and students.
Trump said this mindset of re-invigorating Western values will provide the foundation for his decisions in international affairs.
“My foreign policy will always put the interests of the American people and American security above all else. It has to be first,” Trump said. “No country has ever prospered that failed to put its own interests first. Both our friends and enemies put their countries above ours and we, while being fair to them, must do the same.”
Throughout his speech, Trump outlined five main weaknesses of current American foreign policy — the overextension of resources, failure to force allies to pay their fair share, the perceived view of allies’ lack of dependence on the United States, the lack of respect from rivals and a lost understanding of clear foreign policy goals.
“Our foreign policy is a complete and total disaster,” Trump said. “No vision, no purpose, no direction, no strategy.”
According to Trump, U.S. foreign policy declined after the Cold War in a series of disastrous mistakes made in Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Syria, which fostered the development of terrorist organizations, such as the Islamic State group to grow in power.
“It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy,” said Trump, “We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism, thousands of American lives and many trillions of dollars were lost as a result.”
Trump referenced what he views as shortcomings of the Obama administration, such as America’s trade deficit, its military spending compared with other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Iran deal.
“If President Obama’s goal had been to weaken America, he could not have done a better job,” Trump said.
Throughout the rest of the speech, Trump outlined his plans to fix these problems and form a coherent foreign policy in order to pull the United States out of the nation-building business and to emphasize stability.
Government professor Matthew Kroenig said Trump’s speech lacked specificity, comparing it to speeches made by other presidential candidates such as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“If this was meant to be his serious foreign policy speech, he didn’t deliver. The speech was very short on detail and if you compare this major foreign policy speech to Hillary Clinton or some of the other candidates, there’s not really anything there,” Kroenig said. “Look at his strategy for defeating ISIS — he says something about working with Muslim partners, says something about immigration, and then moves on.”
Georgetown’s Senior Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs Daniel Byman also said the speech reflected a lack of detail as well as containing inconsistencies.
“Trump was long on promises and criticisms, but light on specifics and solutions,” Byman wrote in an email to The Hoya. “He often tried to have it both ways, criticizing Obama and the Democrats in inconsistent ways. The speech was more scripted than previous addresses, but it dodged the hard issues.”
Government professor Andrew Bennett identified major inconsistencies in Trump’s address and criticized his campaign tactics.
“On the one hand it seems consistent with his inconsistency,” said Bennett, “He continues to say things that are not compatible with each other over time and within the same speech. The campaign is not the time to be thinking seriously about these issues, the time to think about them is the years and decades leading up to the campaign.”
Nevertheless, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) released a statement praising Trump’s vision for positioning solutions to the nation’s most pressing foreign policy issues.
“I look forward to hearing more details, but in a year where angry rhetoric has defined the presidential race on both sides of the aisle, it is my hope that candidates in both parties will begin focusing not only on the problems we face but on solutions,” Corker wrote.
Georgetown University College Republicans Membership Director Hunter Estes (SFS ’19) said the speech reinforced his fear of a Trump presidency.
“He seems to have gotten so used to the yelling and cheering that occurs at a political rally that any speech which isn’t accompanied by raucous cheers and audience interaction comes off awkward and forced,” Estes wrote in an email to The Hoya. “This speech was an overwhelmingly failed attempt to appear more presidential. However, the statements made today served to reinforce how unprepared Trump is for the highest office in our land and how little weight his words actually carry.”
Kroenig also said he is concerned about the possibility of Trump becoming president.
“If anything I think that the speech should make us even more and not less concerned about what ‘President Trump’s’ foreign policy would look like,” Kroenig said.
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