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Trump Can Learn From Predecessors' Foreign Policy Playbooks


U.S. President Donald  J. Trump, Connecticut
U.S. President Donald J. Trump, Connecticut

Newsmax, 22 Dec 2017 - President Trump’s Dec. 18, 2017 "National Security Strategy"compares favorably with those of his immediate predecessors. Trump’s has "teeth," per J. Brodsky in The Hill (the hill.com) on the same day the president spoke….

In my Newsmax article of Dec. 12, "Trump Must Call Out Iran’s Abuses in Wake of Jerusalem Speech," suggests a way to reach out to the Iranian people, "Mr. President, deflect attention away from Jerusalem by calling attention to human rights abuses of Tehran. Your NSC staff is aware Iran specializes in detaining political prisoners, as evidenced by the following volume, and as stated on Dec. 10 in "Human Rights Day and Iran’s Suppression."
A book by the National Council of Resistance of Iran is titled, "Iran: Where Mass Murderers Rule: The 1988 Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners and the Continuing Atrocities."
I agree with Trump’s NSS statement, "Economic securi¬ty is national security¬." That said, there must also be a human rights component to our national security. President Trump: Rip a page out of President Gerald R. Ford’s playbook on the crucial role of human rights in facilitating the collapse of the USSR.
Now think about the third basket of The Helsinki Final Act. It emphasizes human rights, including freedom of emigration and reunification of families divided by international borders, cultural exchanges, and freedom of the press.
Soviet leaders wanted to focus on the first basket. It includes 10 principles, covering political and military issues, territorial integrity, the definition of borders, peaceful settlement of disputes, and implementation of confidence building measures between opposing militaries.
But western countries, led by the United States, won the day. How? By getting human rights into the Final Act, we laid the seeds for human rights broadcasts and pierced the Iron Curtain, ultimately leading to the fall of the Wall separating East and West Berlin. Human rights became the long spear in the tent. As the Bible states, when, as a young man, King David slew Goliath the giant, the King took his armor and put them in his tent and used the long pole (1Samuel 17:54).
Now on to President Barack Obama.
Regarding Obama, Brodsky states, unlike President George W. Bush, "The 2010 Obama NSS concentrated on engagement with Iran’s government — something sought 'without illusion.'" Ditto for 2015, when the White House was testing its Interim Joint Plan of Action [nuclear deal with Iran], while negotiating a final nuclear deal, all while declaring the nuclear file as the greatest source of instability and violence in the Mideast and putting the regime’s meddling in the neighborhood on the back burner.
Brodsky is spot on. Fortunately, Trump’s NSS places the nuclear deal on the back burner and Tehran’s interventions in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria on the front.


The Way Forward


First, and most importantly, this study shows when you issue threats, their credibility is lessened when there is no practicable means to implement them. Team Trump warns those voted against us, we would cut their funding, and they know there is not the slightest chance we would follow up. The irony is Trump criticized Obama for not following up on his threat to bomb Assad’s chemical weapons. So, Trump could take a page from his own playbook.
Second, when Trump’s National Security Council and the NSC staff draft his NSS, they, pay due respect to documents of past presidents. Trump does contrast his approach to Obama but not others, except implicitly in a reference to "peace through strength."
Third, which is last, but not least, think human rights as the long pole in the tent. Putin is just as vulnerable to accusations of violating human rights of his citizens as were his predecessors. President Trump, exploit this vulnerability. If not you, who? If not now when? Now is the time, and you are the man.


 By Raymond Tanter

Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan.