PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania — Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, dazzled in yet another speech in which he outperformed expectations here on Wednesday laying out a strategic vision for the United States under a Trump presidency when it comes to foreign and defense policy.
The speech, which stunned media figures, pundits, and those throughout the political class, only seemed to get better as every line went by.
After an introduction from retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Trump opened the address by harkening back to a key theme of Ronald Reagan’s vision for the U.S. role on the world stage: Peace Through Strength.
“Today, I am here to talk about three crucial words that should be at the center of our foreign policy: Peace Through Strength,” Trump opened his remarks by saying.
Trump said that America can and should achieve a “stable, peaceful world with less conflict and more common ground” with his proposals of a “new foreign policy focused on advancing America’s core national interests, promoting regional stability, and producing an easing of tensions in the world.”
“This will require rethinking the failed policies of the past,” Trump said. “We can make new friends, rebuild old alliances, and bring new allies into the fold.”
Trump noted how national security leaders are rallying around his campaign, and against the campaign of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, specifically citing the Tuesday letter from 88 retired U.S. generals and admirals endorsing him for president.
He noted these leaders “know both how to win – and how to avoid the endless wars we are caught in now” and called for a new vision of “realism” in the Middle East.
“In a Trump Administration, our actions in the Middle East will be tempered by realism,” Trump said. “The current strategy of toppling regimes, with no plan for what to do the day after, only produces power vacuums that are filled by terrorists. Gradual reform, not sudden and radical change, should be our guiding objective in that region.”
Trump called for alliances with any nation that wants to join the United States in “destroying” the Islamic State and “Radical Islamic terrorism” in general.
“We should work with any country that shares our goal of destroying ISIS and defeating Radical Islamic terrorism, and form new friendships and partnerships based on this mission,” Trump said. “We now have an Administration, and a former Secretary of State, who refuse to say Radical Islamic Terrorism.”
He then reiterated his plan to ask the generals in the U.S. military to “immediately” after he takes office, “present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS.”
Perhaps most importantly, Trump used this address before the Union League here in Philadelphia to weave together a coherent string connecting all of his previous major policy addresses—on crime, national security, jobs and the economy, defeating radical Islamic terrorism, trade and immigration.
“This will require military warfare, but also cyber warfare, financial warfare, and ideological warfare – as I laid out in my speech on defeating Radical Islamic terrorism several weeks ago,” Trump said of his plan to destroy the Islamic State.
And he noted that he will not engage in an “apology tour” like President Barack Obama has—and Hillary Clinton would—but instead show the world how “proud” Americans are.
“Instead of an apology tour, I will proudly promote our system of government and our way of life as the best in the world – just like we did in our campaign against communism during the Cold War,” Trump said. “We will show the whole world how proud we are to be American.”
Trump also connected all of this with “immigration security,” referring back to his immigration policy speech in Phoenix last week.
“At the same time, immigration security is a vital part of our national security,” Trump said. “We only want to admit people to our country who will support our values and love our people.”
All of these connected, Trump said, are “the pillars of a sound national security strategy.”
From here, Trump ripped Hillary Clinton as “trigger-happy,” and “unstable.” He said:
Unlike my opponent, my foreign policy will emphasize diplomacy, not destruction. Hillary Clinton’s legacy in Iraq, Libya, and Syria has produced only turmoil and suffering. Her destructive policies have displaced millions of people, then she has invited the refugees into the West with no plan to screen them. Including Veteran healthcare costs, the price of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan could total $6 trillion, according to a report in the Washington Examiner. Yet, after all this money spent and lives lost, Clinton’s policies as Secretary of State have left the Middle East in more disarray than ever before. Meanwhile, China has grown more aggressive, and North Korea more dangerous and belligerent. Russia has defied this Administration at every turn. Putin has no respect for President Obama or Hillary Clinton. Sometimes it has seemed like there wasn’t a country in the Middle East that Hillary Clinton didn’t want to invade, intervene or topple. She is trigger-happy and unstable when it comes to war.
Clinton’s “reckless” actions, Trump said, fit a pattern of conduct that is “simply disqualifying” and and render her “unfit to be Commander-in-Chief.” He went on:
Hillary Clinton is just reckless – so reckless, in fact, she put her emails on an illegal server that our enemies could easily hack. Then Clinton’s team used a technology called bleachbit to acid wash her emails. They even took a hammer to some of her 13 phones, to cover her tracks and obstruct justice. These email records were destroyed after she received a subpoena to turn them over. In the FBI report, she claimed she couldn’t recall important information on 39 occasions. She can’t even remember whether she was trained in classified information, and said she didn’t even know the letter “C” means confidential. If she can’t remember such crucial events and information, she is unfit to be Commander-in-Chief. Her conduct is simply disqualifying. She talks about her experience, but Hillary Clinton’s only foreign policy experience is ‘failure.’ Everywhere she got involved, things got worse.
Trump, then, in systemic detail, shredded what he called “Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy legacy.” He said:
Let’s look back at the Middle East at the very beginning of 2009, before Hillary Clinton was sworn-in. Libya was stable. Syria was under control. Egypt was ruled by a secular President and an ally of the United States. Iraq was experiencing a reduction in violence. The group that would become what we now call ISIS was close to being extinguished. Iran was being choked off by economic sanctions. Fast-forward to today. What have the decisions of Obama-Clinton produced? Libya is in ruins, our ambassador and three other brave Americans are dead, and ISIS has gained a new base of operations. Syria is in the midst of a disastrous civil war. ISIS controls large portions of territory. A refugee crisis now threatens Europe and the United States. And hundreds of thousands are dead. In Egypt, terrorists have gained a foothold in the Sinai desert, near the Suez Canal, one of the most essential waterways in the world. Iraq is in chaos, and ISIS is on the loose. ISIS has spread across the Middle East, and into the West. Iran, the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism, is now flush with $150 billion dollars in cash released by the United States – plus another $1.7 billion dollars in cash ransom payments. In other words, our country was blackmailed and extorted into paying this unheard-of amount of money. Worst of all, the Nuclear deal puts Iran, the number one state sponsor of Radical Islamic terrorism, on a path to nuclear weapons. This is Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy legacy.
After that, Trump noted how the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama foreign policy agenda has led to degradation of the United States military by grinding down the resources that the government spends on defense,and eliminating the size and might of the U.S. armed forces. Trump continued:
President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also overseen deep cuts in our military, which only invite more aggression from our adversaries. History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength. Under Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, defense spending is on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy since the end of World War II. We currently have the smallest Army since 1940. The Navy is among the smallest it has been since 1915. And the Air Force is the smallest it has been since 1947. When Ronald Reagan left office, our Navy had 592 ships. When Barack Obama took office, it had 285 ships. Today, the Navy has just 276 ships. The average Air Force aircraft is 27 years-old. We have 2nd generation B-52 bombers – their fathers flew the same plane. Our Army has been shrinking rapidly, from 553,000 soldiers in 2009 to just 479,000 today. In 2009, our Marine Corps had 202,000 active Marines. Today, it’s just 182,000. Our ship count is below the minimum of 308 that the Navy says is needed to execute its current missions. President Obama plans to reduce the Army to 450,000 troops—which would hamstring our ability to defend the United States. It takes 22 years on average to field a major new weapons system. In 2010, the US spent $554 billion on non-war base defense spending. In the current year, we are spending $548 billion – a cut of 10% in real inflation-adjusted dollars. This reduction was done through what is known as the sequester, or automatic defense budget cuts. Under the budget agreement, defense took half of the cuts – even though it makes up only one-sixth of the budget.
To fix this problem, Trump said that as soon as he takes office he will work to end the sequester:
As soon as I take office, I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. This will increase certainty in the defense community as to funding, and will allow military leaders to plan for our future defense needs. As part of removing the defense sequester, I will ask Congress to fully offset the costs of increased military spending. In the process, we will make government leaner and more responsive to the public. I will ask that savings be accomplished through common sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks – and that protect hard-earned benefits for Americans. Government-wide, improper government payments are estimated to exceed $135 billion per year, and the amount of unpaid taxes is estimated to be as high as $385 billion. We can also reduce the size of the federal bureaucracy through responsible workforce attrition – that is, when employees retire, they can be replaced by a smaller number of new employees. We can also stop funding programs that are not authorized in law. Congress spent $320 billion last year on 256 expired laws. Removing just 5 percent of that will reduce spending by almost $200 billion over 10 years. The military will not be exempt either – the military bureaucracy will have to be trimmed as well.
He will also, he said, put pressure on NATO allies to pay to increase their defense forces—and put pressure on other U.S. allies to pay for U.S. security they are currently provided. Trump said:
Early in my term, I will also be requesting that all NATO nations promptly pay their bills, which many are not doing right now. Only 5 NATO countries, including the United States, are currently meeting the minimum requirement to spend 2% of GDP on defense. Additionally, I will be respectfully asking countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia to pay more for the tremendous security we provide them.
Also, he will free up funding for “disposal additional revenues” by “unleashing American energy.”
“The Institute for Energy Research cites a ‘short-run’ figure of as much as $36 billion annually from increased energy production,” Trump said.
Trump said he will use such new revenue to rebuild America’s military might and increase the armed forces. He continued:
We will build an active Army of around 540,000, as the Army’s chief of staff has said he needs. We now have only 31 Brigade Combat Teams, or 490,000 troops, and only one-third of combat teams are considered combat-ready. We will build a Marine Corps based on 36 battalions, which the Heritage Foundation notes is the minimum needed to deal with major contingencies – we have 23 now. We will build a Navy of 350 surface ships and submarines, as recommended by the bipartisan National Defense Panel – we have 276 ships now. And we will build an Air Force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, which the Heritage Foundation has shown to be needed to execute current missions – we have 1,113 now.
And he called for a development of a new “state of the art missile defense system,” a policy priority that has been worse than ignored by Obama and Clinton. Trump said:
Under Obama-Clinton, our ballistic missile defense capability has been degraded at the very moment the US and its allies are facing a heightened missile threat from states like Iran and North Korea. As these potential adversaries grow their missile programs, US military facilities in Asia and the Middle East, as well as our allies, are increasingly in range, with the United States homeland also potentially threatened. We propose to rebuild the key tools of missile defense, starting with the Navy cruisers that are the foundation of our missile defense capabilities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The Obama-Clinton administration tried repeatedly to remove our cruisers from service, then refused to modernize these aging ships. We will start by modernizing our cruisers to provide the Ballistic Missile Defense capability our nation needs; this will cost around $220 million per modernization as we seek to modernize a significant portion of these 22 ships. As we expand our Navy toward the goal of 350 ships, we will also procure additional modern destroyers that are designed to handle the missile defense mission in the coming years.
Trump said all 50 states would be involved in the rebuilding of America’s military—calling it a “fifty-state effort”—and detailed how the U.S. will also increase the Pentagon’s “cyber capabilities” since Hillary Clinton “has taught us all how vulnerable we are to cyber hacking.” Trump said America must “enforce all classification rules, and enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified information.” Trump detailed how these efforts will create many new jobs, and those jobs should go to “young Americans”—including those who are struggling most in the inner cities like here in Philadelphia. He went on to say:
Hillary Clinton put her emails on a secret server to cover-up her pay-for-play scandals at the State Department. Nothing threatens the integrity of our Democracy more than when government officials put their public office up for sale. We will also make it a priority to develop defensive and offensive cyber capabilities at our U.S. Cyber Command, and recruit the best and brightest Americans. One of my first directives after taking office will be asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all relevant federal departments, to conduct a thorough review of United States cyber defenses and identify all vulnerabilities – in our power grid, our communications systems, and all vital infrastructure. I will then ask for a plan to immediately protect those vulnerabilities. At the same time, we will invest heavily in offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt our enemies, including terrorists who rely heavily on internet communications. These new investments in cybersecurity, and the modernization of our military, will spur substantial new job creation in the private sector and help create the jobs and technologies of tomorrow. America must be the world’s dominant technological powerhouse of the 21st century, and young Americans – including in our inner cities – should get these new jobs.
He also said he will do everything in his power to ensure that veterans—and current servicemen and women—have the best possible medical care and education.
“We must also ensure that we have the best medical care, education and support for our military service members and their families – both when they serve, and when they return to civilian life,” Trump said. “Our debt to our men and women in uniform is eternal.”
Then Trump delivered one of his best lines ever, speaking directly to veterans and military personnel: “To all those who have served this nation, I say: I will never let you down.”
“We will protect those who protect us,” Trump said. “And we will follow their example of unity. We will work across all racial and income lines to create One American Nation. Together, we will have one great American future. We will be one people, under one God, saluting one American flag. America will be a prosperous, generous and inclusive society. We will discard the failed policies and division of the past, and embrace true American change to rebuild our economy, rebuild our inner cities, and rebuild our country.”
Trump wrapped the speech with two separate standing ovations, and by using a few variations of his campaign slogan.
“We Will Bring Back Our Jobs,” Trump said. “We Will Make America Strong Again. We Will Make America Safe Again. And We Will Make America Great Again.”