early and often

Let’s Keep Vivek Ramaswamy Away From the Nuclear Codes

Presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy rapping at the Iowa State Fair. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Of the many strongly held precepts of Donald Trump’s MAGA movement, among the least distinct involve U.S. foreign policy. Yes, the MAGA worldview involves an intense nationalism that rejects moral principles or long-term alliances and instead embraces a heavily armed truculence along with a rejection of messy and expensive “forever wars.” But a lot of what you hear Trump supporters promote is really just a projection of the 45th president’s Jacksonian self-image as a man who makes “foreign policy” unnecessary. He is confident he can terrify potential adversaries into peaceful coexistence via the certainty that he would kill absolutely every one of them without a moment’s hesitation if he deemed them a threat to his idea of America’s interests. Trump also believes himself to be a diplomatic genius of world-historical dimensions. Who needs stable alliances or international organizations when you have a combination of Bismarck and Talleyrand in the White House?

So if you are interested in what kind of foreign policy the U.S. might have while in MAGA’s grip once the 45th president is no longer in the picture, it’s instructive to look at some of his younger allies. A few of the more self-consciously cerebral Trump acolytes like Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance seem inclined toward some kind of America-led network of cultural reactionaries cooperating to stamp out Marxism, Islam, and “wokeness” (not necessarily in that order) while restoring Christian civilization defined as a traditional patriarchal social order. But for a Trump-like shoot-from-the-hip approach to this dangerous world, you should take a look at his young campaign-trail sidekick and enforcer, Vivek Ramaswamy. He’s no longer just Some Dude spending his fortune on a vanity campaign for president: He’s now running third in the national RealClearPolitics polling averages.

Ramaswamy, whose campaign was originally an extension of his Fox News–boosted book-selling crusade against “woke corporations,” made his first big foreign-policy mark earlier this summer when he began promoting a U.S. deal with Vladimir Putin whereby Russia would be given much of what it wants in and around Ukraine, as the New York Times explains:

He says he would pursue an agreement that would offer sweeping concessions to Mr. Putin, including ceding most of Ukraine’s Donbas region to Russia, lifting sanctions, closing all U.S. military bases in Eastern Europe and barring Ukraine from NATO. In exchange, he would require Russia to end its military alliance with China and rejoin the START nuclear treaty.

It kind of sounds like something an Adderall-fueled college student might come up with while playing Risk in a dorm room late at night. But he doubled down on the idea during a high-profile discussion with Ukraine-hating Tucker Carlson at the Iowa Family Summit last month. Let Trump suggest he would magically end the Russia-Ukraine war on “day one” of a revived presidency: Ramaswamy has a plan.

His next big foray into the geopolitics of a Ramaswamy administration involved another front in his cold war with China: Taiwan. Here, the young tech tyro has developed a proposal that is truly Trump-like in combining a threat of massive violence with an expression of ultimate indifference toward the fate of foreigners, as the New Republic explains:

Ramaswamy told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on Monday that he wanted to move to “strategic clarity” on Taiwan. He argued that China only wants to invade Taiwan for two reasons: to control the semiconductor industry and to resolve the Chinese civil war.

Ramaswamy said, “Do not mess with Taiwan before 2028, before the end of my first term,” when he believes he can achieve semiconductor independence in the U.S. …

[The candidate] said he intends to make his stance clear by dramatically upping the firepower around Taiwan during his first term. This includes moving destroyers and guided missile submarines to the Taiwan Strait, attempting to form a military alliance with India, and even “putting a gun in every Taiwanese household.”

But once he’s rid the U.S. of dependence on Taiwan’s semiconductor industry? Well, notes TNR, then it’s America first:

“[T]hat commitment [to defend Taiwan] is only as far as 2028 … and we will not take the risk of war that risks Americans’ lives after that for some nationalistic dispute between China and Taiwan.”

So the message to Beijing is unmistakable: Leave Taiwan alone for four years and then be our guests to a nice rousing invasion!

After critiquing Ramaswamy’s foreign-policy notions, conservative foreign-policy writer Tom Rogan condescendingly remarked, “[I]t has potential, but Ramaswamy’s foreign policy agenda needs some work.” Until then, we should probably agree to keep this Trump apprentice away from the nuclear codes and reject a foreign-policy framework based on wild swings between military aggression and isolationism.

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Let’s Keep Vivek Ramaswamy Away From the Nuclear Codes