Was a Trump Doctrine Unveiled in Poland?
The dominant theme of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was America First. This trope implied that successive administrations had weakened this country economically, politically and militarily, putting the interests of allies, friends, trading partners and the global economy ahead of the American people. Thus, it was necessary to reverse this decline and “make America great again.” Completing the circle, the U.S. could only become great again if the Trump administration focuses on America first.
But how was a policy agenda based on America First to be reconciled with global commitments, relationships and interests and the importance of U.S. leadership to ensure the safety and progress of the current international order? The answer was to frame the challenge as a single, seamless fight for the preservation and extension of Western civilization’s core values. In essence, the argument is that America can be great again only if Western civilization is preserved and strengthened. A policy of America First must be conducted within a framework of Western civilization first.
In his speech on Thursday in Warsaw, Poland, President Trump did more than merely reassure our European allies of America’s commitment to NATO and Article V. What he presented could be called the outlines of a Trump Doctrine, one unlike any articulated by previous presidents.
Based on his remarks, there appear to be eight key principles of the Trump Doctrine.
- American security and well-being are inextricably linked to the health and security of Western civilization and a willingness to assert and defend Western values. The U.S. can be great again only if Western civilization is secure, prosperous and self-assured.
“Our adversaries, however, are doomed because we will never forget who we are. And if we do not forget who we are, we just can't be beaten. Americans will never forget. The nations of Europe will never forget. We are the fastest and the greatest community. There is nothing like our community of nations.”
- Shared values and common culture must be understood, appreciated and even celebrated. This is true not only because of what Western culture has produced over the centuries but because of what it offers in terms of personal liberty and economic opportunity.
“We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression.”
“We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives. And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves.”
- The importance of alliances based on shared values to the fate of the U.S.
“Americans know that a strong alliance of free, sovereign and independent nations is the best defense for our freedoms and for our interests. That is why my administration has demanded that all members of NATO finally meet their full and fair financial obligation.”
- Threats to our security and way of life are increasing in both complexity and severity. These threats are not only physical but also ideological. But threats also arise from within, from a failure to cherish and support core Western values.
“Americans, Poles, and the nations of Europe value individual freedom and sovereignty. We must work together to confront forces, whether they come from inside or out, from the South or the East, that threaten over time to undermine these values and to erase the bonds of culture, faith, and tradition that make us who we are. If left unchecked, these forces will undermine our courage, sap our spirit and weaken our will to defend ourselves and our societies.”
“Our own fight for the West does not begin on the battlefield -- it begins with our minds, our wills, and our souls. Today, the ties that unite our civilization are no less vital and demand no less defense, than that bare shred of land on which the hope of Poland once totally rested. Our freedom, our civilization and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.”
- The West must meet new threats to its physical security and its values by modifying Alliance structures as well as adapting the ways and means employed to conduct the struggle.
“Today, the West is also confronted by the powers that seek to test our will, undermine our confidence and challenge our interests. To meet new forms of aggression, including propaganda, financial crimes, and cyberwarfare, we must adapt our alliance to compete effectively in new ways and on all new battlefields.”
- Adversaries will assess the strength of Western defenses not only in terms of capabilities but also of political will. Hence, the latter must be strengthened.
“We have to remember that our defense is not just a commitment of money, it is a commitment of will. Because as the Polish experience reminds us, the defense of the West ultimately rests not only on means but also on the will of its people to prevail and be successful and get what you have to have. The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
- Give adversaries like Russia a choice to either be the enemy of the West or temper their efforts to undermine the international order and instead find a place in it. President Trump’s brief comments on energy policy vis-à-vis Poland were a dagger pointed at the heart of the Kremlin.
“ . . we are committed to securing your access to alternate sources of energy, so Poland and its neighbors are never again held hostage to a single supplier of energy.”
- Last, in true Trumpian style, the President called on the peoples of the West to push back against the danger of statism and the accretion of power by government bureaucracy.
“Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, our citizens are confronted by yet another danger — one firmly within our control. This danger is invisible to some but familiar to the Poles: the steady creep of government bureaucracy that drains the vitality and wealth of the people. The West became great not because of paperwork and regulations but because people were allowed to chase their dreams and pursue their destinies.”
The challenge for the Trump Administration now is to translate these principles into policies and program. This will begin with the publication of key guidance documents such as the National Security Strategy. But it also must be reflected in statements by key administration officials.
Daniel Gouré, Ph.D., is a vice president at the public-policy research think tank Lexington Institute. Goure has a background in the public sector and U.S. federal government, most recently serving as a member of the 2001 Department of Defense Transition Team.