Trump lacks clear vision, U.S. defense expert says

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Trump lacks clear vision, U.S. defense expert says

South Koreans have watched with alarm as U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has belittled the U.S.-Korea alliance.

Perhaps his most surprising assertion was when he inaccurately claimed during a campaign stop in New Hampshire in October that South Korea paid nothing for keeping some 28,500 U.S. troops stationed on the peninsula, completely ignoring the fact that Seoul has long shared the financial costs.

But according to Peter D. Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University, the infamous real-estate mogul lacks a clear foreign policy vision.

“It’s clear that Trump has not studied the issue closely and has not developed a plan based on sound analysis,” Feaver told the JoongAng Ilbo on Tuesday.

Last week, a growing group of some 100 Republican national security, defense and political experts signed an open letter to oppose a Trump presidency, declaring him unfit for office and expressing concerns that he would diminish the United States’ “standing in the world.”

Feaver, one of the signatories, continued in a written interview, “It appears that [Trump] has not assembled a team of experts to advise him and is currently making pronouncements based on very flimsy evidence. The optimistic scenario is that he is a pragmatist who will adjust once he starts looking at the matter closely. But that is a great risk, and his failure to do the serious work thus far raises doubts about just how pragmatic he really is.”

Feaver previously served as special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform on the National Security Council (NSC) under the George W. Bush administration and as director for defense policy and arms control on the NSC during the Bill Clinton administration.

The following is an edited excerpt of the interview.

Q. You have written that Trump will isolate America from its allies and partners. Can you elaborate?

A. Trump has repeatedly indicated that he thinks our allies and partners take advantage of us. He has insisted that he will demand they make more concessions, offer deeper subsidies for U.S. troops deployed on their border, offer more favorable trade deals and so on.

American presidents have repeatedly asked for these things in the past, and what we have now reflects the fair bargains these presidents have struck. Trump insists he can do dramatically better and promises to withhold U.S. aid and support if he doesn’t get it.

He has also promised to start a trade war with both China and Mexico and possibly Japan, all enormously important trading partners. Doing all of that at the same time could be catastrophic for the global economy, and the world would blame the United States for causing that.

What is your view on the U.S.-Korea alliance, which Trump seems to have summarized as a cost-sharing relationship for keeping American troops in South Korea?

The U.S. alliance with South Korea is an important one that has contributed to stability in Northeast Asia. The need for stability is even more important, given the uncertainties about the leadership in North Korea.

What would happen if Trump is elected president in spite of the warnings by national security and foreign policy experts?

Many of the things Trump proposes to do will be blocked by Congress. Others will be blocked legitimately by his own lawyers or by others like senior military leaders following their own legal obligation to resist illegal orders. Still, others will be blocked by our allies and partners who will refuse to go along with his schemes.

Yet - and this is what is most worrying - it is still the most powerful single political office in the world, and there is so much damage he will be able to do simply by mishandling the inherent powers of the office.

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