By Bob Bennett
President Obama has done everything possible to reduce America’s footprint in the world. Although candidate Donald Trump said he wants to make America great again, when it comes to America’s role in the world, there’s some doubt. Investor’s Business Daily reported that Trump said this, of how he would build up the military:
“We get better than we get now, for no more money. We can build up our military and build it bigger, better and stronger than ever before, and we won’t spend any more money.” This mother of all miracles would be accomplished, he said, “by better negotiating prices for military programs.”
Failing that unlikely event, Trump may prove to be Obama’s ideological successor.
In a March 26th interview with The New York Times’s David Sanger, Trump said, on the topic of defending Japan and North Korea, “We’re not a rich country. We were a rich country with a very strong military and tremendous capability in so many ways. We’re not anymore.”
SANGER: There has always been a segment of Japanese society, and of Korean society that said, “Well, maybe we should have our own nuclear deterrent, because if the U.S. isn’t certain, we need to make sure the North Koreans know that.” Is that a reasonable position? Do you think at some point they should have their own arsenal?
TRUMP: Well, it’s a position that we have to talk about, and it’s a position that at some point is something that we have to talk about, and if the United States keeps on its path, its current path of weakness, they’re going to want to have that anyway with or without me discussing it, because I don’t think they feel very secure in what’s going on with our country, David….
Unless we get very strong, very powerful and very rich, quickly, I’m sure those things are being discussed over there anyway without our discussion.
SANGER: And would you have an objection to it?
TRUMP: Um, at some point, we cannot be the policeman of the world. And unfortunately, we have a nuclear world now…. And, would I rather have North Korea have them with Japan sitting there having them also? You may very well be better off if that’s the case. In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem.
SANGER: But with the North Korea threat you think maybe Japan does need its own nuclear…
TRUMP: Well I think maybe it’s not so bad to have Japan — if Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us.
On March 29th, Anderson Cooper questioned Trump about his assertions to the Times:
COOPER: It has been a U.S. policy for decades to prevent Japan from getting a nuclear weapon.
TRUMP: That might be policy, but maybe…
COOPER: South Korea as well.
TRUMP: Can I be honest are you? Maybe it’s going to have to be time to change, because so many people, you have Pakistan has it, you have China has it. You have so many other countries are now having it.
COOPER: So if you said, Japan, yes, it’s fine, you get nuclear weapons, South Korea, you as well, and Saudi Arabia says we want them too?
TRUMP: Can I be honest with you? It’s going to happen anyway. It’s going to happen anyway. It’s only a question of time. They’re going to start having them or we have to get rid of them entirely. But you have so many countries already, China, Pakistan, you have so many countries, Russia, you have so many countries right now that have them.
At some point we have to say—you know what?—we’re better off if Japan protects itself against this maniac in North Korea, we’re better off, frankly, if South Korea is going to start to protect itself.
Trump cites the cost of defending Japan and South Korea, but he’s seemingly unaware of these facts, published in the Wall Street Journal:
“For the record, Japan spends more than $2 billion a year for the privilege of hosting U.S. forces, while South Korea pays close to $900 million, meaning it’s cheaper to the U.S. to keep our forces there than bring them home. Both countries also field robust military forces of their own, with South Korea having more ground troops (495,000) than the U.S. Army (475,000).”
The Journal adds:
“A nuclear race among historic enemies such as China, Japan and the two Koreas would be inherently treacherous and escalate the risks of a military mistake or a political confrontation.”
They go on to say that, from Harry Truman to George W. Bush, it was understood that “America’s security interests are better served by extending the U.S. nuclear umbrella to allies rather than encouraging them to go nuclear themselves, lest multiple arms races develop around the world…”
Put another way: we know what we would do with nuclear weapons, and what we wouldn’t do, but other nations are unpredictable, even dangerous. Think of Pakistan, the nation that shielded Osama bin Laden for years, having nuclear weapons.
We have to remember that an American president defeated the Soviet Union with not a shot fired, much less an ICBM. He did it by building up American military might, not reducing it.
It is a surprise, therefore to find that the candidate who claims he wants to make America great again prefers not to emulate Ronald Reagan, but Barack Obama.