Donald Trump, despite not being perfect (far from it), was useful in making the idea of chronic interventionism and foreign entanglements unpopular, but as much credit as the New Right is given, they are hardly antiwar. The New Right is largely a rejection of the moderates—the neoconservatives and neoliberals—and their exemplars, the Clintons, Cheneys, Bushes, and Romneys. There is certainly an aversion towards our involvement in the Middle East, with Trump telling Jeb Bush in 2016 that, “Your brother lied,” about WMDs in Iraq.
But while they may not be Middle East hawks like the neoconservatives, the New Right are warhawks in other areas and still kowtowing to foreign lobbies. In the White House Trump continued many conflicts, like his silent war in Somalia, launching missile attacks in Syria over false chemical weapon claims, and his veto of a bill that would end United States support in Yemen. The veto of that Yemen bill? Likely the result of his trade adviser Pete Navarro being lobbied by weapons companies. Like in Syria under Obama, the United States is also funding al-Qaeda extremists as part of arminging the Saudi-UAE Coalition in Yemen,which stands a massive contradiction.
Exempting the obvious contradictions in Donald Trump’s policies as president, the “America First” conservatives are hawks in their own right. Not towards Vladmir Putin’s Russia like the Democrats, or Middle East countries like Syria, but rather towards a power in Asia: the People’s Republic of China. Trump was often at odds with China, mostly on an economic level where he declared a trade war. This anti-Chinese rhetoric rotated around the Middle Kingdom being a threat to the United States and its allies militarily and robbing Americans blind economically.
While that could be an issue in and of itself to tackle, America First conservatives have jumped on the China rhetoric as opposition to anything the Democrats want to pass. Marjorie Taylor Green is fond of opposing Democratic spending plans based on her belief they’ll benefit China. She justified her position of non-interventionism in the Russia-Ukraine conflict by claiming that America needs to focus on possible conflict with Russia. Matt Gaetz has been blunt enough to tweet: “China is not our friend.”
The New Right also continues to call for boycotting prominent Chinese events such as the Beijing Olympics, citing claims of a Uyghur Muslim Genocide via rather flawed statistics. The Republicans have gone so far as to make the claim that America needs to further support Taiwan in case of a Chinese Invasion. Donald Trump continues to fearmonger threats of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He defended his claims and thoughts by saying, “I do because they’re seeing how stupid the United States is run. They’re seeing that our leaders are incompetent. And of course, they’re going to do it. This is their time.” The further demand for economic protectionism and economic isolationism from China would only exacerbate the tension. As economist Frederic Bastiat described, “When goods don’t cross borders, soldiers will.”
With supposed antiwar voices in a movement that agrees with the State Department assessment, “China being a threat to our Global Hegemony,” perhaps it is time to acknowledge that while it may be an improvement, the populist New Right is not truly antiwar. It is only a matter of time before warhawks are able to make their way into this new faction as they beat the drums to enter another conflict. If the America First conservatives want to be seen as truly antiwar then they must acknowledge the mistakes made by their leader when he was president as well as abandon the rhetoric that only fuels international tensions. To adapt an Ibram X. Kendi quote (to make it far more relevant): It is not enough to not be neoconservative; one must be actively antiwar.