"Isolationism" in the Trump Administration

The Trump administration has included everything from hookers to the "covfefe" Twitter meme to toilets and everything in between. But underneath the frightening, albeit humorous scandals of the Trump administration, there are layers of political theory we can analyze. The media had characterized the Trump administration as “Isolationist”, but what does that actually mean? First, we have to understand what exactly “Isolationism” is.

Paraphrased from Google, Isolationism is the policy of staying away from the desires of other nations, and not interfering in foreign affairs. Isolationism plays into the platform that Trump ran on in 2016: America is first, everyone else is last. While this stance can be considered a selfish and exclusionary one, it isn’t one that is new to American politics. President Washington himself argued for a non-interventionist US government in his farewell address. President Jefferson seconded the Isolationist movement when he came into office, as did President Monroe with his Monroe Doctrine. But how does the Trump presidency fit into the idea of American Isolationism? A contributor to The Hill, a largely non-partisan news source, postured President Trump as an individual trying to withdraw the US from the world stage, creating a new type of Isolationism. However, there's serious questions that come with the affirmation of an “Isolationist” presidency.

How does one rectify the extrajudicial killing of an Iranian citizen in Iraq, stirring up conflict in a region where Americans are already viewed as war criminals and fear mongers? The murder of Qasem Soleimani, justified or unjustified, was a deliberate affront against the Iranian people and directly threatened the national sovereignty of Iraq. These aren’t the actions of an Isolationist president. Some say that President Trump is an Isolationist because he ran on a US withdrawal from an Afghanistan platform in the 2016 election, but sources such as Politico show that strikes against Afghanistan have increased during his presidency. Trump also ordered a raid on a small village in Yakla, Yemen which resulted in the deaths of 10-30 civilians and 1 Navy Seal in 2017, all to purportedly gain intelligence on al-Qaeda. ​Image via Unsplash

All of these actions cost lives, all of them furthered the US agenda, and none of these strikes were on US soil. President Trump is a war-hawk, through and through, and a war-hawk can never be Isolationist. While President Trump may be an interventionist militarily, fiscally he is as Isolationist as possible. Even for largely non-partisan issues, such as foreign aid, President Trump has tried to slash funding. In 2019, President Trump tried to override Congress and pass a 23% cut in foreign aid funding, a move that even hardcore Republicans such as Lindsey Graham admonished. President Trump was even quoted saying that we will only give aid to countries that like us and are our friends. This stance is especially questionable in light of the impeachment trial, wherein President Trump has been accused of withholding military aid from Ukraine to ascertain information on Joe Biden.

In 2018, President Trump gave a speech to the UN, saying, “We’re giving away $54 billion in foreign aid. So we give money to countries, but we don’t give money to our own country, which is another thing that I’ve been complaining about.” If President Trump is such a proponent of public welfare, then why was the release of disaster aid for Puerto Rico (a territory of the US) by the Department of Housing and Urban Development severely delayed? Yes, President Trump is an Isolationist. President Trump will attempt to withhold resources at every occasion if only to ensure that we as a country have a little bit less room in our wallets. President Trump will ignore the cries of our allies and the disaster in our territories if only to furnish the capacity of the US military. When it comes to starting fights, President Trump is as sociable as they come.