Trump’s ‘America First’: Keeping the World Safe for Democracy


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Since the post-World War II era, the United States has taken on the leadership of the free world.  Understanding, as President Woodrow Wilson once said that “The world must be made safe for democracy,” the U.S. fostered initiatives such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which provided a continued American military presence in Europe and was — in many respects, the materialization of the League of Nations originally conceived by President Wilson after World War I.

It is with the creation of NATO that the U.S. has been able to prevent the Soviet Union from conquering the whole European continent — and from making too much headway in the Middle East as well, despite Afghanistan, for example, not being part of NATO. Even today, NATO continues to defend countries susceptible to Russian threats, such as the Baltic states. 

Recently, however, the free world has begun to wake up to the new threat posed by China and the regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). So much so that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month called for the formation of a “new alliance of democracies” to counter it. 

While Pompeo did not call for the dissolution of NATO, he did seem to express some  skepticism that it can still be relied on — so long as Turkey, the most powerful NATO member state after the U.S., remains a part of it. The concern seems to be that Turkey may no longer share ‘Western values’ — since it now is reverting back to some kind of Ottoman sharia-based empire in order to implement the hakimiyyat Allah (the reign of Allah on earth). This was made expressly manifest on July 24 when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan converted Hagia Sofia into a mosque and his hosting a large Hamas delegation on Saturday, as well as providing its terrorist-linked members citizenship, according to media accounts in the United Kingdom.

Redeployment of U.S. Troops

It was originally perceived that one of the challenges to Pompeo’s proposal — which really envisions America’s continual role as the leader of the free world — was the apparent isolationist stance adopted by the Trump Administration and its emphasis on an ‘America First’ approach to foreign policy. For example, President Trump plans to withdraw 9,500 of the 34,500 U.S. troops stationed in Germany by September. His justification is Berlin’s failure to meet the goal set by NATO of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense — as of  last year, only nine of the thirty member states had met the two percent goal, and the majority of other nations had put in place plans that targeted the goal by 2024. 

It was also reported that he was considering pulling U.S. forces from South Korea, where there are about 28,500 troops on the peninsula. The principal reason given for this is the President’s insistence that South Korea is not contributing its fair share to defense spending.  The Trump administration has thus been asking South Korea to increase its contribution to the U.S. mission there from last year’s $926 million to $1 billion or more per year. 

The truth of the matter is that Trump is redeploying the troops to other NATO countries — 1,000 in order will be sent to Poland; others military personnel will be sent to Italy and Belgium. As for pulling troops out of South Korean, it is ‘Fake News.’ According to one White House Senior official and another Senior Pentagon official, there are no immediate plans to do so.

Taking China On

Some of us remember when then-president George W. Bush sat on the sidelines while the CCP violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators 30 years ago at Tiananmen Square. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Chinese people who were expecting the U.S. to support them instead were killed by the Chinese military, and many thousands of others were imprisoned.

Trump, on the other hand, has been taking on China. In addition to the imposition of sanctions on the CCP for human rights violations and restrictions to U.S. companies — such as Apple and Ralph Lauren — for their complicity in such violations, the Trump administration has also tracked down and imprisoned numerous Chinese spies working covertly in the U.S. (in corporations and academia): 

  • Juan Tang, a Chinese scientist who had been in hiding at China’s San Francisco consulate after being accused of hiding her ties to the Chinese military when she applied for a visa to work in the United States;
  • Li Xiaoyu and Dong Jiazhi, two hackers who together collaborated with the CCP to steal hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of sensitive information from private companies and individuals in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Jun Wei Yeo (known as ‘Dickson Yeo’), a political consultant in the U.S. who, according to the U.S. Justice Department, was a key figure in a Chinese government scheme to gather private and oftentimes sensitive information about targeted U.S. citizens. 

Trump has also gotten the U.S. Commerce Department to issue new rules that curb the Chinese mega-company Huawei Technologies access to foreign-made chips — the new norms prohibit non-U.S. companies from selling any chips made using U.S. technology to Huawei without a special license since the company’s telecom equipment could be used to spy on Americans.

Working With Other Nations

The U.S. has also been conducting joint drill naval exercises in the South China Sea, along with India, Japan, and Australia. This strategic cooperation — perhaps a preview of the “new alliances” that Pompeo spoke about — demonstrates a shared commitment to maintaining and further strengthening a free and open Indian-Pacific trade route in the face of what can only be seen as a growing Chinese threat. 

Another manner in which President Trump has sought to curtail China’s influence has been through his support of Taiwan (officially the Republic of China). Recently U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar met with President Tsai Ing-wen along with senior officials including Health Minister Chen Shih-chung and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu to assure closer security ties and trade agreement with the U.S.

Let us also not forget that the Trump administration brokered the agreement between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the State of Israel decided to establish full diplomatic relations with each other — the only other Arabic nations to have full diplomatic ties with Israel are the Arab Republic of Egypt the and Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy may present a risk the country’s credibility — as a guarantor of the free world — especially in its unilateral decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and thereafter threatening the ‘snapback’ of UN sanctions against Iran. Such measures could subsequently impede any new “alliance” as envisaged by Pompeo or others who have been warning about the growing threat from China.  

Yes, the European Union member states do view Trump’s ‘America First’ as an isolationist policy. At the same time, they realize that if America does not take the steps to ensure that the world remains safe for democracy, no other country will. Hopefully, Trump will continue take the necessary steps re-assure our allies that they can still rely on the U.S. as the leader of the free world.

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Mario Alexis Portella is a priest of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Florence, Italy. He has a doctorate in canon law and civil law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome; he also holds a M. A. in Medieval History from Fordham University, as well as a B.A. in Government & Politics from St. John’s University.

Quotes and sources not cited may be found in my book Islam: Religion of Peace – The Violation of Natural Rights and Western Cover-Up.

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