“America is in the game, and America is going to win.”
Those were the words from the President of the United States yesterday. To be clear, this is the president of the most powerful country in the world, referring to global economic reach and overall military power as a game.
That dynamic was characteristic of the difference between the Trump administration’s recent report on national security and Donald Trump’s speech on national security, according to The New York Times. In an opinion piece later on, the Times would label Trump’s speech a “farce,” a grandstanding act similar to his campaign rallies that offered contradictory positions on foreign policy in an effort to rile up his voter base. That piece looked to Rex Tillerson’s inconsistent messaging when dealing with North Korea and the strife that surrounds the Secretary of State position as indicative of the Trump administration’s ineffective and unhelpful foreign policy.
In the speech itself, Trump outlined four “pillars” of his administration’s national security strategy, and they aren’t likely to surprise you. Starting with border security before moving on to economic security and military might, Trump’s strategy would seem to be the same as his campaign promises: make vague assertions of increasing America’s power and wealth, and also a border wall. No wonder the internet was more interested in the way he drank water with two hands than in the speech itself.
Trump and his administration also pointed to rising threats from nations like China and Russia, as well as rogue nations like North Korea. NYT found the tone of the administration’s report markedly similar to Cold War era thinking in its treatment of some of the most powerful nations in the world as adversaries. And while no mention was made of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea (something generals have mentioned recently was a possibility), Trump has been adamant that the USA is “locked and loaded” on that front. As he said in the speech, Trump believes the only way to achieve peace is for the United States to possess “unrivaled power.”
The United States, of course, is already far and away the most powerful country in the world in terms of military and economic might. We have enough firepower to end the lives of every human on the planet, and the whims of our stock market affects the fortunes of nearly every other country on the planet. But this doesn’t really go along with Trump’s message that we must rip up every unfair trade agreement and simultaneously give even more money to the military. Instead, the administration’s report states our country will not permit any more “economic aggression” on the part of foreign nations. On the military front, Trump’s attitude draws a noticeable parallel to the philosophy of deterrence, which also advocated for “unrivaled power.” The administration’s report, however, notes that deterrence is significantly harder to achieve thanks to other nations possessing cheap, effective weapons, including cybertools. But the document avoids talking about the use of cybertools by Russia to influence an American election. Weird.