What Trump Gets Wrong With His 'Turn Enemies Into Friends' Foreign Policy

Well, at least he wants to call “radical Islam” by its name. I’ll give him that. But then there’s that silly, misleading bit about how we Americans love it when former enemies become friends.


Most of the time this is said with regards to Germany and Japan, our leading enemies in the Second World War that are now close allies. If you put it that way it’s just a happy story, and it fits with Trump’s theme of making ours the happiest times … ever. But it so drastically oversimplifies the subject that it’s worrisome, because he suggests that our current unpleasantness with Russia and China can be transformed if we sit down and make a deal. You know, the sort he’s so fabulous at making.

The enemies-to-friends/allies story about Germany and Japan came about only after we destroyed them in a world war, not because FDR and Truman struck wonderful deals.

Enmity is like that. The former Axis partners we destroyed gave way to different governments, both under our occupation. Without their defeat, neither Nazi Germany nor Imperial Japan would have become America’s friends, let alone allies.

The dealmaking theory of making friends out of enemies has just been tested by Barack Obama, and it hasn’t worked out very well.

We have “normalized” relations with Communist Cuba, but all the benefits seem to have gone to Havana. Our occasional calls for greater toleration of pro-democracy movements have been dissed, the Castros have told everyone to forget about anything like pro-capitalist reforms, and Fidel even summoned the energy to lambast the American president.

Obama has avidly pursued friendship with Iran for more than seven years, and the Khamenei regime still chants “Death to America.” Indeed, Khamenei just rejected Obama’s latest entreaty for a friendly meeting. It isn’t at all clear that there will be a get-together between Obama and (figurehead) Iranian president Hassan Rouhani in September at the United Nations.


No friendship. Not even good diplomatic manners from Tehran.

Khamenei does not want friendship with us. He wants to destroy us. It behooves us to challenge the Tehran regime — but the only time Trump mentioned regime change, he said it leads to “chaos.”

Trump seems to believe there is a significant difference between American values and American interests, but that is not accurate. Our interests are advanced when our values are embraced: our friends and allies tend to like freedom and democracy, while our enemies are typically opposed to our values.  That includes the radical Islamists and the radical secularists from North Korea to Bolivia.

Trump promises to talk to Putin to see if friendship is possible, and to cut short the conversation if there is a lack of enthusiasm in Moscow. Then what? He may have some private scheme, but he isn’t talking about it, just like he had nothing serious to say about defeating ISIS. Nor did he discuss the urgency of challenging the doctrines of ISIS and al-Qaeda.

So far, at least, his foreign policy doesn’t inspire much confidence in this house.



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