“Trump and Obama share much more than either would care to admit”

William Inboden writes that Trump’s “foreign policy” mirrors that of President Obama.

He opens, “One of the enduring fascinations of American history is how a presidential candidate can campaign as a fierce critic of his predecessor, only then to embrace the main features of his predecessor’s foreign policy once in office. Such was the case with Eisenhower’s adoption of Truman’s Cold War strategic framework, or how President Obama adopted most of George W. Bush’s counterterrorism architecture. With Donald Trump’s recent elaboration of his beliefs on national security policy before the Washington Post editorial board, the substantive similarities between his views and Obama’s are inescapable”.

Inboden goes on to write “Before Trump gave his interview, I made some similar, admittedly provocative, points about these echoes of Obama when speaking last week on a panel at last week’s International Studies Association conference. Reading the transcript of Trump’s discussion with the Post editors alongside President Obama’s much-noted recent interview with the Atlantic reveals some markedly similar convictions and policy preferences between them”.

Inboden goes on to note that despite obvious differences in tone and style, there are “many similar beliefs and positions that Trump and Obama both hold are bracing. Consider: Both are very leery of American involvement in the Syrian civil war, or the Middle East more broadly; Both see Russia as an important partner in the fight against the Islamic State and in restoring regional order in the Middle East, and neither favours taking strong measures against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; Both have called for more even-handedness and balance by the United States on Israeli-Palestinian matters, instead of America’s traditional full-throated support for Israel; Both downplay the promotion of democracy and human rights; Both are skeptical of many traditional U.S. allies and alliances, and are very explicit in demanding that U.S. allies do much more burden-sharing”.

Inboden contends that “Both are less enthusiastic about free trade then their White House predecessors of both parties (admittedly, Obama came around to promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but this was only after he had earlier expressed significant reservations about it, voiced skepticism about NAFTA, and delayed and renegotiated the FTAs with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama); Both support the diplomatic and economic opening to Cuba; Both are very skeptical of stability operations and nation-building efforts. In his May 2012 declaration that the “goal that I set — to defeat al Qaeda, and deny it a chance to rebuild — is within reach,” and announcement of America’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Obama called instead to “focus on nation building here at home.” Trump repeated Obama’s call almost verbatim, which in Trump-speak was rendered as “I don’t think we should be nation building anymore…I just think we have to rebuild our country.” Obama supporters and Trump supporters, who otherwise share almost nothing except mutual disdain, will no doubt not welcome this analysis. But in national security policy, substance matters more than style, and on substance Trump and Obama share much more than either would care to admit. Indeed, for all of their other differences and reciprocal dislike of each other, the candidate who is most aligned with President Obama’s foreign policy, and who as president would be most likely to continue the main outlines of the Obama Doctrine, is Donald Trump”.

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2 Responses to ““Trump and Obama share much more than either would care to admit””

  1. “The Clinton Doctrine is better equipped than that of Obama or Trump” | Order and Tradition Says:

    […] writer goes on to describe the “Obama Doctrine” what is in effect a quasi-isolationism, “The crux of the Obama Doctrine has been to seek multilateral intervention when possible […]

  2. Order and Tradition Says:

    […] the lengthy and costly wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Opposition to it is one of the few things that Barack Obama and Donald Trump can agree on. Both believe that “nation-building begins at home,” as the president so often says. And yet, […]

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