End the Cold War

Now that the election is over, libertarians can counsel the new president on positions and policies that they believe will create a better world. I doubt very much that counseling Hillary Clinton would have been a fruitful project had she been elected, but Donald Trump is a very different story. He has yet to translate his creative impulses and politics into hardened doctrines and policies.

A useful political approach is to articulate general positions that have sound fundamentals and then to derive practical policies from them. They won’t please everyone and they will be imperfect. The practical policies will involve compromises and side payments to overcome objections; but if they are grounded incomprehensible and sensible basic positions, then they can attract support and overcome the objections that are bound to be raised by the opponents of the policies. Trump also can’t get his way without exerting a variety of political and economic pressures upon his domestic foes. He has to be prepared to fight dirty.

A prime example is ending the Cold War once and for all. That’s a general position that makes sense and has voter appeal, more than enough to outweigh the opposing voices that want to maintain and even extend the Cold War as Cold War II. Trump cannot end the Cold War without some courage and without expending some political capital. But success will rapidly rebuild whatever capital he at first expends.

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He can articulate the story in simple and understandable terms. He could even start with World War II when the U.S. and the Soviet Union were allies. He can point to the cooperation and treaties passed even when the two were Cold War antagonists. He can inform Americans that Communism is basically dead in Russia and that it lay at the basis of that antagonism, at least insofar as it involved a competition over many countries. (Communism lives on in China but in a transformed manner that requires separate consideration; that requires a separate general position.) Trump can elaborate the story to take note of NATO’s expansion, European fears and the bellicose positions of the neocons. He needs to marginalize his opponents who want the Cold War to continue as the Cold War II that it has become. He needs clever political ways to do this, of which direct appeals to the American public are but a part. He needs allies in Congress and he needs to pressure certain belligerent voices therein.

The details of how he can successfully go about this belong to Trump and his skilled political operatives. The general procedure is to make clear that America intends to end the Cold War in its newly-extended form of Cold War II because such a move is beneficial to Americans, Russians and the world’s peoples in general.

Many policy alterations then follow from setting this goal, such as removing sanctions on Russia, recognizing Crimea as Russian, removing the many antagonisms of NATO, muzzling NATO’s more wild voices, reducing missile batteries that ring Russia, cooperation in a number of other spheres, etc. Most all of these are what Clinton could never have done or would not likely have ever done, based on her rhetoric. Trump can clearly demarcate himself and his new party while winning new support by clearly going after this one component of making the world a more peaceful place, which is by burying the Cold War.

There are other important areas in which Trump can stake out general positions that are both sensible and possible, and that will meet with reasonably general support from the American public, even though there are going to be some virulent objections being voiced. Trump can reduce the American role as the world’s policeman and end military engagements in scores of countries. He can do what Obama promised to do before he reneged and did the opposite. He can end the War on Terror while transforming it from a set of military operations into more appropriate police operations that rely on a different set of methods to locate terrorists.

Trump very much needs to set priorities for what problem areas to attack, because his resources are limited and he faces many entrenched interests. He should not get bogged down in issues of lesser importance like immigration or labeling China as a currency manipulator. There are many such issues but he needs instead to use clever means to root out the entrenched persons and ideas that are the larger enemies of Americans, the larger risks to peace and the larger barriers to unlocking American creative potential. Hillary quickly conceded and that is good, but Trump’s gracious words to her should be his last both to her and to the oligarchs and politicians who stand in his way and will attempt by every trick in the book to block the kinds of changes that good libertarians might propose to end Obamacare or to end the reign of “intellectual property” or to end the Cold War, once and for all. Trump has to be prepared to use the Justice Department and Congressional hearings as threats to marginalize those powerful interests. He has to be prepared to use executive orders, tax policies and regulatory changes as weapons against establishment interests that stand in the way of the priorities he sets. Politics is a game of warfare by coercive means other than outright violence, and Trump has to be prepared to play the game that he has chosen for himself.