This week, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., weighed in on foreign policy at the “Uniting for a Better Foreign Policy Luncheon.” During his remarks, Gaetz presented his interpretation of the “America First Doctrine” approach to foreign policy, specifically detailing how the United States should operate on the world stage. His prepared remarks were as follows:
Thank you to CVA and Vote Vets. Thank you to every veteran and military family member here. Your service to the greatest nation in human history inspires the best within us because you are the best among us. You are the heroes who have paid for the safety and prosperity of your fellow citizens with blood, sweat, pain, sacrifice, and an absolutely unmatched American courage. Your urgent mission now – to advance a pro-veteran agenda – is among the most critical in our country. While there remains much to do, you’ve scored striking victories during the Trump presidency. You’ve mobilized a generation of veterans to vigorously engage in the democracy that remains the most vibrant example of liberty in the world. You’ve converted patriotic energy into meaningful legislation to expand VA Choice – and it is the law of the land today.
You’ve demanded VA accountability— and you got it. Over 10 thousand incompetent, lazy or corrupt bureaucrats at the VA got to hear two of President Trump’s favorite words – “you’re fired!” Your work ensures that our brave service members come home to the hero’s welcome and the receive the hero’s care that they deserve. My district thanks you, especially.
In Congress, I represent the highest concentration of active duty military in America. The Navy’s Blue Angels are my constituents in Pensacola. The fiercest weapons delivered on time and on target by the United States Air Force are developed in my home county at EGLIN AFB – the largest AFB in the world. Almost every part of life in my district is positively impacted by our connection to the military. Air Commandos lead Boy Scout troops. Army rangers coach youth softball leagues. My deacon maintains the flight line. My chief of staff is a military spouse. The neighbor who feeds my cat teaches marines to disarm bombs
It is on their behalf that I say thank you President Trump for rebuilding our military and passing the most robust national defense budget in American history. But a well-funded force doesn’t necessarily need to be so well-worn. Today our military is over-stretched, over-deployed and over-exerted. Growing up where I have, I’ve seen my whole life what endless deployments and unfocused wars really mean for our most patriotic fellow Americans.
Tearful airport goodbyes. Bargaining with God for the safe return of loved ones. Parenting disrupted. Marriages destroyed. Extra psychiatrists needed at our schools. Drug abuse. Domestic abuse. Veteran suicide. Shattered limbs, broken hearts and grieving families at Walter Reed Hospital. Caskets draped in flags. Gold Star families in mourning. Roads, parks and halls of learning named in permanent reverence for the fallen.
The “fog of war” is no fog to me, or any of the 700,000 people I serve. It is not hazy. We see the impact of war everyday among the people we love who shape our lives. It is a stark reminder that the unmatched freedoms we enjoy are not free– they are bought with the blood of American patriots. And it is our solemn duty and highest responsibility to make sure that this sacred currency is spent only when absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, prior to the election of Donald Trump, our decision makers have fallen short of this standard, demonstrating a tragic recklessness with the treasure of our nation and the blood of our patriots. Consider this. Since 2001, the United States government has spent nearly 6 trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Iraq war alone is estimated to have cost 4 trillion—not to mention the immeasurable costs of lost and broken lives. To give you some perspective, 4 trillion dollars was more than our country’s entire tax revenue last year. It would be enough to completely overhaul and modernize our nation’s infrastructure. It is more than the entire market capitalization of Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Facebook combined. It is more than the nation’s entire student loan and credit card debt combined. It is nearly 10 times our enormous 419 billion trade deficit with China—a country that was rapidly expanding economically without firing a shot as we were engaged in far-flung Middle East wars.
We have been in Afghanistan for nearly two decades. It is the longest war in our nation’s history—longer than the Revolutionary War, Civil War and both World Wars combined. American soldiers are dying there who weren’t born when the war started. In Afghanistan, after two decades have passed, trillions spent, and thousands of American lives lost, the situation on the ground is actually getting worse! A recent study for Congress has found that US-backed forces in Afghanistan control just 56 percent of administrative districts, down from 72 percent in 2015.
Civilian deaths are also up—and despite 8 billion spent on counter-narcotics efforts since 2002, the growth of opium fields has not been slowed. One would think the cautionary tales of Afghanistan and Iraq would make the War Lobby and so-called “national security” experts more cautious about US involvement. One would be wrong. Instead, Hillary Clinton, with the support of hawks in the Republican party, launched a regime change operation in Libya, removing the strong-man dictator Qaddafi.
This might sound humanitarian in theory—but there is nothing humanitarian about the slave markets that now thrive in Libya, or the migrant crisis that has wreaked havoc across Europe. The same ‘thought leaders’ were equally desperate for regime change in Syria and the removal of Bashar Al-Assad. Like Qaddafi, there is no question he is an evil human and brutal dictator. The problem with the misguided calls for regime change is the lack of a superior alternative to this dictator—the main beneficiaries of such an intervention would be ISIS, and related terrorist groups fighting Assad.
Luckily, the War Lobby never got its desired intervention in Syria, largely thanks to Donald Trump— the ONLY major presidential candidate who spoke against the idea. The so-called “experts” behind our failed foreign policy have not learned from their mistakes because they have never been held accountable for them. And so today the saber-rattling persists, and is directed toward Venezuela, Yemen, and, most disturbingly, Iran.
As we look to these countries, it is our task to ensure that we don’t just recount the mistakes of past decision makers, but that we learn from them. We must resolve not to start unwise wars or put our military in unwinnable and endless conflicts. We know from tragic experience that oppressors like Maduro, Rouhani, and even Kim Jong Un will use military conflict with the United States to scapegoat their own failures, export violence, and deny the organic desires of their own people to seek freedom.
In Yemen, Syria, Libya, and beyond, we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that unwilling or unreliable local fighters necessitate the involvement of American troops. The examples of Afghanistan Iraq and Libya—just to name a few—teach us that it is an illusion to think that just beyond the life of every dictator lies a peaceful democracy, rather than generations of anarchy, violence, terrorism, and chaos.
The lessons we have learned should not be considered in isolation—to the contrary, taken together, they outline a successful “Trump Doctrine” of American foreign policy.
The Trump Doctrine falls into four pillars.
FIRST – We build and maintain a military edge over everyone. Period.
SECOND – American citizens come first. Foreign nations and special interests, not matter how much we like them, don’t call the shots.
THIRD – National Security begins at home, and national security is always linked to economic security.
FOURTH – An America First policy is not an isolationist or utopian policy. Others must know that we will respond if necessary — and we will win.
FIRST PILLAR—An America First foreign policy is one of caution, common-sense, and peace through overwhelming strength.
I never want to send America’s troops into a fair fight. That means providing the funding, equipment, infrastructure and arms to achieve decisive victory every single time. The United States military must and will remain the biggest, the strongest, and the most lethal fighting force in human history— it cannot even be a question.
SECOND PILLAR—America First means the American people first. This is a simple yet powerful principle: The interests of American citizens come before the demands of foreign interests abroad and special-interests at home.
It means not invading Venezuela because invasion is a popular idea in Venezuela. It means not fighting a proxy war on behalf of a rich Persian Gulf monarchy. It means not sacrificing American patriots on the altar of multinational companies who need a profit boost. In short, a truly America First foreign policy is not a lobbyist first foreign policy, it is not a military-industrial-complex first foreign policy, it is not an armchair cable-news general first foreign policy—it is an America First foreign policy.
THIRD PILLAR—An America First foreign policy must recognize that National Security begins right here at home, right here in our great nation.
As the president rightly points out, economic security is national security. This is why President Trump has worked so hard to secure our industrial sector from intellectual property theft, and refuses to allow our nation and our workers to be taken advantage of with one-sided trade deals. I find it rather amazing that our so-called “trade war”— which is really just a matter of demanding a fair and reciprocal trade policy—is the only War the geniuses in the beltway seem to be against! Focus closer to home means the Trump Doctrine would prioritize securing the US border with Mexico before we send Americans to die on the Saudi border with Yemen.
Stronger borders, energy dominance and a thriving American economy do more for American security than ill-fated interventionist excursions in the name of regime change and nation-building. We should focus our nation building right here in America—rebuilding our nation and strengthening our homeland.
FOURTH PILLAR: an America First foreign policy is not an isolationist foreign policy.
If our enemies mistook a more precise American focus as a disengaged, disinterested, or recoiled America….and tested our resolve or capability…. They would find us recoiled like a viper: ready to strike instantly and with great lethality. Military action, including intervention, is always on the table—but only as a last resort, and only when there is a direct, concrete, and grave threat to the security of the United States or one of our allies. Just as the threat must be clear, concrete and well-defined, so must be the objectives of military operations. We must know what victory looks like in order to achieve it.
Freedom is the most precious thing in the world—and it is for that very reason that freedom must be fought for and won by those who yearn to live it most. Freedom cannot be America’s gift to the world, purchased with the blood of US servicemembers alone.
For oppressed people to live any lasting liberty, they must be the driving force to make it happen. They must fight and die for it. Bury their relatives over it.
Tell timeless stories of national heroes who showed the bravery to win.
Only then, will any people cherish freedom so much that they will not allow a strongman to take it away ever again. Plenty of DC pundits and Beltway Hawks talk in terms of “toughness” to support American military action. They say America has a “moral obligation” to intervene. Real morality and real toughness is standing up to the pro-war special interests and globalist powerbrokers. Real morality is affirming forever that the blood of American troops is not for sale.
As I travel home to North Florida this week, I will meet with commanding officers. They will brief me on the missions and preparations undertaken. If called to combat, my neighbors will go first, and will fight the hardest. But as policymakers, it is our task to fight harder in Washington to understand the deep consequences of US military force both at home and around the world. President Trump is staying true to the instincts he expressed while campaigning as an America First, anti-interventionist Republican.
Today’s wiser, more cautious “Trump Doctrine” will rile up some so-called “experts” in Washington, but it is supported by an overwhelming share of Americans. And President Trump’s measured approach in Venezuela, Syria and Iran will make our nation stronger. We must continue to build upon the Trump achievements in developing a 21st century foreign policy. Elected office holders of both parties have sworn an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. Together, we can do more—and do better.
This means not sending the next generation of patriots to fight unwinnable wars, for unknowable gain. There are always places we could invade, people we could rescue, nations we could build. A clear-eyed look at the threats we face, proves that peace through strength also means strength through peace.
The Trump doctrine means continuing to rebuild our military and maintaining our military dominance. It means listening to the American people, not the siren song of beltway pundits and armchair generals. It means taking a clear-eyed look at American interests, always focusing on the well-being of our own great nation, before we volunteer our brave soldiers to be the world’s policemen. It means knowing that, sometimes, the fight is just, and worth fighting—and knowing that when America fights, America will win.
This plan will make the world safer, more stable, and more self-reliant, instead of expecting — and receiving — American largesse at every turn. The Trump Doctrine means that we must always, always, put America and the American people first. Our heroic servicemen deserve it, and the enduring prosperity of our nation depends on it.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.