There is no American strategic alliance that President Donald Trump won’t seek to undo in the name of … a quick buck? After years of grousing about NATO, this week Bloomberg reports Trump has been privately musing to aides about upending the U.S.-Japan defense treaty that came out of the wreckage of World War II. The 60-year-old pact saw Japan give up its military in return for security guarantees from the U.S., laying the groundwork for decades of regional stability and economic growth. Seems like a pretty good thing, no?
So what’s Trump’s supposed problem with the treaty? “Trump regards the accord as too one-sided because it promises U.S. aid if Japan is ever attacked, but doesn’t oblige Japan’s military to come to America’s defense,” multiple sources told Bloomberg. It’s almost like he hasn’t read the treaty—or anything at all. The short-termism of Trump’s base foreign policy instincts is going to have a long-term impact not just on American foreign relations but the balance of global power. The repeated bartering of hard-won systemic and institutional advantages and the costs that come with maintaining them for quick, cheap monetary gains don’t appear to be rooted in any grand strategic vision of the world other than “money is good.”
Bloomberg’s reporting acknowledges that there’s no indication the Trump White House has made any moves on altering the treaty with Japan, but this is how harebrained Trump ideas become harebrained Trump policies. What are the consequences of Trump’s 24-hour cable news strategic goals? Well, for starters, “scrapping the treaty would risk ceding security of the Western Pacific to China and potentially spurring a fresh nuclear arms race, if Japan decided it needed to protect itself from nuclear-armed neighbors,” Bloomberg notes. “It would also call into question the U.S.’s military commitments to Australia, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and a host of other allies around the world.”