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The Trump Effect on Foreign Policy

Summary:
Since the conception of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had received backlash from a number of different political factions. Among these, were the “Never Trump Republicans”. This included the likes of multiple Bush administration officials, including Paul Wolfowitz and Hank Paulson, the latter voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. Often many pundits declare that the GOP has become the party of Trump. This statement bears a lot of truth, given that most of the hardliner Never Trumpers have become irrelevant. Among these are major figures in neoconservative circles, including Bill Kristol, and John Kasich. Watching as their hardliner friends started to fade away, many Republicans who would

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Since the conception of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump had received backlash from a number of different political factions. Among these, were the “Never Trump Republicans”. This included the likes of multiple Bush administration officials, including Paul Wolfowitz and Hank Paulson, the latter voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.

Often many pundits declare that the GOP has become the party of Trump. This statement bears a lot of truth, given that most of the hardliner Never Trumpers have become irrelevant. Among these are major figures in neoconservative circles, including Bill Kristol, and John Kasich. Watching as their hardliner friends started to fade away, many Republicans who would certainly not be characterized as populists by any stretch, had to adapt to the Trump phenomenon. For if they had dissented along with their friends, they too would be pushed to the periphery.

Trump’s conducting of foreign policy well underscores this phenomenon of “necessary adaptation”, for the sake of remaining relevant. Many formerly aggressive Republicans had to adapt to Trump’s volatile “peace through strength” approach regarding diplomacy in say, North Korea. Among one of these Republicans, is Lindsey Graham.

Graham’s history regarding his relations to Trump and various Never Trumpers makes his current stance in the Party all the more peculiar. Graham of course had very close ties to John McCain, one of Trump’s chief opponents in the GOP. His stances are also taken to be more moderate and establishment orientated within the GOP, very much in contrast to Trump’s populist aesthetic. But the gradual pulling of Republicans from the establishment periphery is clearly starting to show. Whether these Republicans are adopting such policies for the sake of not drowning in the shifting political environment, or because they genuinely believe in Trump’s credo, is irrelevant. The fact of the matter is, they are in a position in which they must adapt.

Graham was recently on Fox News, discussing the firing of John Bolton, and potential replacements. Graham started off saying, “The one thing you got to learn about President Trump, that I’ve come to learn, is that he’s unconventional in a conventional way”. This clearly alludes to Graham’s “adaptation” to Trump’s conducting of policy. Graham even went as far to say that “It’s okay, I think, to talk with the Taliban… if there’s a reason to believe they’re going to accept peace and change their behavior”. Such a statement would be seen as a sin in neoconservative circles, for it violates the Bush doctrine- “You’re either with us, or you’re with the terrorists”.

What was even more peculiar for Graham, was to openly tell President Trump “I told the President, you’re right to want to reduce our commitment. You’re right to want to lower our cost”. Graham even went as far as to critique foreign interventionism, proclaiming “18 years later, what have we found? Al Qaeda’s still there. ISIS is there… We can’t do in Afghanistan what we did in Iraq… I’d like to end the war. And the only way you ever end a war is to get the two sides talking”. For a split second, Graham’s sentiment was reminiscent of Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.

This phenomenon has big implications for Trump’s guiding of the GOP. Just in the 2016 election, Graham referred to Trump as a “jackass”. Now, he has realized that to remain relevant within the Party, he must adapt. This is true for many others as well, including Chuck Grassley and Donald Rumsfeld, neither of which one could hardly characterize as populists.

Trump’s “taking over” of the GOP has made its way into foreign policy. It has radically changed the direction of the Republican Party in ways one could have never conceived. Trump has embodied a volatile, “pufferfish” approach in foreign policy, one that could potentially swing the wrong way and lead to great cataclysm. So far however, it has had some implications of restraint, and has forced the neocon establishment to make changes in their conduct.

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