Foreign Policy and Security Issues in the Trump administration

Executive Summary:

Since the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency, the peace advocacy community has grown increasingly worried and has recognized an urgency to respond. The campaign promises, if kept, will be harmful to the people and planet.

It is still hard to understand Trump’s foreign policy agenda. We are facing a tough-guy approach, where the tools of diplomacy and most of what peace advocates and experts offer are perceived as weakness. It will be crucial to counter the narrative that nonviolent alternatives to war and violence are weak. They must be presented as the strong, intelligent, less costly and effective measures they are.

This briefing is an informational overview of key war and peace issues in the context of the Trump administration. Each issue will be described in a narrative followed by possible responses and key organizations working in that area. The issues and key responses are[1]:

  • Increased troop size and defense spending – opportunity to connect the impact of over-spending on our communities and democracy
  • Nuclear weapons – urgency to make the nuclear threat a key issue to the public again
  • Iran Nuclear Deal – provide proof that it works and continue supporting the JCPOA
  • NATO – challenge to NATO expansion needs momentum
  • Terrorism / ISIS – prepare for a response “the day after” a terror attack; alternatives to military responses
  • Immigration ban – bring back the facts on immigration and threats; connect to U.S. wars and occupations
  • Russia – investigate Trump administration ties while not escalating pre-Trump tensions with Russia
  • North Korea – engagement on multiple levels of diplomacy
  • Militarism narrative – connect to American core values and create alternative narratives

This briefing considers many viable alternatives to wars and militarized approaches to foreign policy and defense issues. We argue that they need to be part of the public conversation, since research suggests that when people know that there are alternatives, they are less likely to support wars and military interventions.[2]

[1] In a rapidly changing political context, the issues, and in particular the responses, can change. This briefing is intended as a working document recognizing such changes.

[2] Hoffman, A. M, Agnew, C. R., VanderDrift, L. E., & Kulzick, R. (2015). Norms, Diplomatic Alternatives, and the Social Psychology of War Support, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 59(1), p. 3-28.


Outline Table

Issue/Threat Urgency/Response Need
Increased Troop Size & Military Spending Congressional budget considerations – no JFF involvement in legislation but focus on public education -Connect military over-spending and the negative impact on social and environmental programs

-Expand our narrative on military over-spending beyond the usual groups

Nuclear Weapons Nuclear experts’ consensus about Trump’s stance on the use of nuclear weapons Public advocacy – raising the issue to the national consciousness
U.S./Iran Nuclear Deal Trump’s disdain for a functioning deal can set back years of diplomacy -Show continued support and proven success of the deal

-Show the costs of a broken deal

NATO An opportunity to discuss the cons of NATO; NATO must be shown as a Cold War relic that creates tensions not security -Continued work; little momentum

-Connected with other militarism issues

Terrorism/ISIS Defense Budget

No new AUMFs

What happens “the day after” an attack- high probability that there will be some sort of attack

-Stop passing vague AUMFs that allow presidents to write a blank check and carpet bomb declared enemies

-Promote the less costly, more effective nonviolent alternatives to combat terrorism

Proactive strategy for day after

Immigration Ban Maintain pressure on ‘revised’ EOs and policy measures -Provide understandable, indisputable facts challenging the EO

-Connect refugees to the U.S. wars that create them

-Show as un-American

Russia Keep pressure on congress/media to continue investigations

Separate Russian interference from anti-Russian sentiments and policies

-Don’t let allegations of Russian relationships or interference slip by
Militarism Narrative Unique opportunity to use resistance against Trump to challenge the broader militarism narrative

Connect to American values

Multiple messaging approaches through different communication channels


North Korea Ongoing threat with between hostile nations

Nuclear weapons always part of the dangerous tensions

Escalated rhetoric and actions

Continue keeping issue in the conversation, especially regarding the dangers or nuclear weapons


Demonstrate North Koreas defensive posture

Foreign Policy and Security Issues in the Trump administration

Working document (version: 5/3/2017)

Prepared by Patrick Hiller and David Prater

Since the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency, the peace advocacy community has grown increasingly worried and has recognized an urgency to respond. The campaign promises, if kept, will be harmful to the people and planet. Unsurprising for Trump’s personality, there never was a pivot from fear and hate driven campaign promises to presidential conduct. Trump, his advisors and his administration officials are determined to follow-through with an agenda that those of us who work for peace, justice and the environment consider highly destructive and dangerous. Daily controversies, which some call deliberate “smoke screens”, should not distract us from the big picture and the sometimes clear and sometimes subtle dangerous policy proposals.

It is still hard to understand Trump’s foreign policy agenda. The following inside-the-beltway perspective sums it up nicely: “We here in Washington continue to try to understand Trump on our terms; we look for intellectual frameworks and policy architectures and historical worldviews. But Trump has made it clear his disdain for American foreign policy as it has been practiced over the last few administrations of Republicans as well as Democrats; his version of national security has much less to do with ideology, and much more to do with what he would call losing rather than winning. It’s about approach, mindset—and who’s doing it—much more than about what’s being done.[1] We are facing a tough-guy approach, where the tools of diplomacy and most of what peace advocates and experts offer are perceived as weakness. It will be crucial to counter the narrative that nonviolent alternatives to war and violence are weak. They must be sold as strong, intelligent, less costly and effective measures.

The “Make America Great Again” rallying call goes hand in hand with Trump’s desire to win wars. It also goes alongside the false depiction of the dangerous times and the exaggerated threats of terrorism. Rhetoric is accompanied by a requested $54 billion increase in the military budget. While we must acknowledge that the perpetual warfare did not start with Trump, the current context suggests that we are facing more of the same with the additional variable of an erratic and impulsive leader. The latter makes the threat of a nuclear war a real and present danger, an assessment shared widely by the nuclear non-proliferation community.

The day after the inauguration, the Women’s March and its sister marches all around the world plotted the beginning of a hopeful trajectory. Resistance did not only take place in the form of those specific protests, but the moral reserve across the social and economic spectrum of America has been awakened. This phenomenon can be considered the mainstreaming of resistance to the destructive Trump agenda.

A challenge to the growing resistance movement lies in the fact that “Trump voters and Trump haters live in two separate media environments”[3]. Die-hard Trump supporters and right wing ideologists are not likely to shift their stance, and will view the resistance and our efforts as opposition. There are, however, millions of people in the so-called “contested grey area” on a continuum of social relations who can and need to be reached by breaking out of the communication silos.

The following will be an informational overview of key war and peace issues in the context of the Trump administration. Each issue will be described in a narrative followed by possible responses and key organizations working in that area.

Increased troop size and defense spending

Throughout his campaign and early into the presidency, Trump has been a staunch advocate for increased troop size and military spending in general. On the eighth day of his presidency, Trump announced a Presidential Memorandum calling for increased military spending through the development of new aircraft, ships and equipment for U.S. armed forces.[4] During his campaign, Trump called for a massive increase of Navy warships, increasing the fleet from 274 ships to 350. Furthermore, legislation reversing Obama-era troop depletion has already been approved, increasing the U.S. Army’s enrollment by 16,000 for a total force just under half a million. By the end of 2018, the Army is scheduled to grow to 980,000 soldiers ranging from active duty, National Guard and Army Reserve.[5]

Trump has advocated for a larger, updated military, citing concerns from terrorist threats, China, North Korea and others. Early in March 2017, the Trump Administration called for a 10% increase ($54 billion) in defense spending. Currently, the U.S. spends nearly $600 billion a year on their military which equates to 36% of global military expenditure and more than the next seven big spenders combined (six of which are allies)[6]. Not only is the U.S. spending much more than others, but the budget is growing with little relevance to geopolitics. China, a country ranked on the short list of Trump’s enemies, met the proposal of one of the U.S.’s largest defense budget increases with their smallest increase in decades (7%) [7].

A boost in defense spending will cause severe cuts in vital U.S. agencies including the Department of State, foreign aid programs and the Environmental Protection Agency. In this scenario, the State Department alone would likely see a 30-40% cut in funding. This is horrific, considering the 10% increase for DOD nearly covers the entire budget of the State Department and USAID.

Fortunately, these actions have already seen pushback from both public and private sectors. David Petraeus, the former CIA director and commander of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and more than 120 other U.S. generals and admirals, penned a letter to Congress urging the necessity of a fully funded State Department and foreign aid program, claiming that “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe…many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone[8].

Mirroring this sentiment, the Washington D.C. based organization Alliance for Peacebuilding argues the cuts to the State Department and U.S. foreign aid would severely damage the ability of the U.S. to prevent and respond to global threats, conflict and violent extremism, as well as cost the taxpayer more in the long run due to the proven economics of high-cost conflict response vs. lower-cost conflict prevention—the Friends Committee on National Legislation found that preventing war is 60 times cheaper than fighting it [9][10]. At the War Prevention Initiative, one of our key arguments is that there always are better alternatives to any military “solution”.


  • Follow the money!
  • Make direct connections between military over-spending and the negative impact on our democracy and communities (e.g. social and environmental programs)
  • Increase in military budget and simultaneously lowering taxes on the middle class not possible without cutting funds to social services. This would be a move against Trump’s base[11].
  • Getting rid of spending caps for Pentagon only will lead to negative impacts on social services (Trump base)[12].
  • Opportunity to get the narrative about military over-spending beyond the usual groups
  • Create stronger ties between movements, especially peace and environmental movement – there is a direct correlation in spending and we can point to the environmental impact of militarism

Key organizations:

  • Alliance for Peacebuilding – can act as the umbrella for 100+ peacebuilding organizations to emphasize lower-cost conflict prevention
  • Pentagon budget working group at Peace and Security Funders Group – needs to assess the current landscape and figure out funding priorities
  • War Resisters League – tax pie chart can gain traction beyond the usual peace activist groups
  • National Priorities Project – tradeoffs calculator can be made far more popular with the right outreach

Nuclear weapons

Trump’s presidency has nuclear experts worried that he will lead the world into a nuclear war. They are worried about his ignorance and skepticism of nuclear arms issues and treaties, as well as lack of knowledge on the United States’ own nuclear capabilities and procedures.[13] Trump’s strongman ideology and his questioning why the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons, justifies these fears. Trump has called for an expansion of nuclear weapons through this tweet: “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

Any buildup of nuclear weapons will abandon decades of diplomacy put into reducing nuclear stockpiles around the world. Even worse, when Trump was asked to clarify his intentions on nuclear weapons, he called for an arms race, resurrecting Cold War mentalities. Around the same time as Trump’s call for more nuclear weapons, Russian President Putin called for the “need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems”.

A bill has been proposed to deny the President first strike capability. Congressional approval before a nuclear attack has always been debated, but Trump’s easily provoked, hair-trigger reactions have led many in congress to seek to deny the President nuclear capabilities without first approving it with congress[14]. In early January 2017, a bill was proposed to prevent any future U.S. funding for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, potentially harming, or severely slowing, the progress of nuclear nonproliferation[15].


  • Making the nuclear threat an issue again
  • Grassroots mobilization
  • Experts from all sides of the political and security spectrum weighing in
  • Legislation
  • United Nations negotiations for a treaty to ban nuclear weapons

Key organizations:

  • Global Zero – launching a new expert initiative and public mobilization campaign to prevent the initiation of a nuclear war.
  • Win Without War – petitioning for support of legislation to block the President from starting a nuclear war without a declaration of war by Congress (H.R. 669/S. 200) – informational for War Prevention Initiative only, as the organizations stays clear from legislative issues.
  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons – leading the organizational charge of the Nuclear Ban Treaty Negotiations at the United Nations.

U.S. / Iran Nuclear Deal

Following Iran’s latest missile test, the Trump Administration imposed new sanctions on 13 individuals and 12 entities with connections to Iran’s ballistic missile program. Although the missile tests did not violate the Iran Nuclear Deal, Trump still took the opportunity to issue concerning threats against Iran, including putting them “on notice”[16]. That specific example of Trump’s aggressive rhetoric influenced the Eurasia Group to estimate the chance of survival for the Iran Nuclear Deal at only 60% [17].

The Nuclear Deal is very important to curbing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and to the stability of regional conflict. In the 18 months since the deal was signed, the facts show that it is working. Iran’s pathways to nuclear weapons remain blocked, their limited nuclear allowance is strictly monitored, 98% of their enriched uranium and more than 13,000 centrifuges have been moved out of Iranian labs and into IAEA monitored storage. Even if Iran decided to make a nuclear bomb today, it would take over a year with their current stockpiles and equipment, compared to only 2 months in 2013[18].

If Trump is truly concerned with Iran’s ability to obtain nuclear weapons, the existing deal is the best chance at preventing that outcome. Under this deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the international community at large, is in place closely monitoring all nuclear activity in Iran and ready to react if Iran acts against the agreement. Most importantly, this agreement was created with a built-in conflict resolution mechanism to address issues that may arise from either party. The mechanism has since been successfully used multiple times over the last 18 months, potentially blocking disputes that may have evolved into deal-breakers. If Trump acts to dissolve this agreement with Iran, all of the security, monitoring and dispute resolution capabilities that are now successfully in place will be destroyed.

If Trump is seeking a chance to practice his imaginary negotiation skills, there is tremendous opportunity to pivot the success of the Iran Nuclear Deal to shape international norms of nuclear nonproliferation and monitoring. Many of the restrictions concerning handling, mining and enriching uranium expire within the next two decades. The current administration can lead the international community in negotiating extended regulations. Therefore, not only curbing future threats from Iran, but advancing nuclear nonproliferation across the globe. Quoting Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy at the Arms Control Association, “the nuclear deal did more than just restrain Iran’s nuclear activities, it reinforced the international community’s resolve to prevent the rise of new nuclear-armed actors. Failing to support and build on the deal would be a missed opportunity to strengthen nonproliferation” [19].


  • Show the continued support for the deal
  • Show that it is working
  • De-vilify the Iranian people
  • Show the costs of a broken deal

Key organizations:

  • Win Without War – a key organization in D.C. to create public pressure and information on Iran Deal
  • War Prevention Initiative – has provided non-legislative briefings outlining the merits of diplomacy over war


Peace advocacy organizations generally opposed NATO as a Cold War relic military alliance. Trump’s comments about the obsolete nature of NATO briefly lead to some hope that there would be mutual interest in getting rid of NATO. Not surprisingly, Trump has used populist rhetoric on this matter, as no change is expected. In reality, Trump’s condemnation of NATO has led some European countries to increase their military spending. Germany increased its troop size by 5% after Trump threatened his wavering commitment to the treaty organization [20].

Although almost all their membership is European and most of their security engagements are in Europe, NATO does not reflect an institution of equals. Rather, NATO military action is initiated by the U.S. and followed by its European members. NATO is also unequipped to confront most of today’s security issues. They have been unable to effectively respond to the ongoing refugee crisis, Ukraine is still on standby, the Taliban are spreading in Afghanistan, and they have done nothing to curb or prepare for the effects of global warming, which many say is humanity’s most pressing security threat. One has to question whether such military alliances have a place in the contemporary world, where viable nonviolent alternatives to military intervention exist. NATO is without doubt a leftover from the Cold War which currently reinforces the war system and plays a role reigniting a new Cold War with the potential for escalation.

Organizations such as NATO were developed to provide collective defense for members. However, if a conflict leads to a war that could potentially drag dozens of neutral countries into battle, then such organizations may be counterproductive. Instead, political leaders, NGOs, and independent activists should petition their governments to strengthen their support for supranational governance organizations such as the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU), rather than falling back on antiquated systems of military alliances that seem to offer more risk than they do security. The ‘soft power’ of the EU has already seen success in their role in Georgia and stabilizing the Balkans; this model should be replicated in the future instead of NATO pulling more countries into war.


  • There is no real momentum to challenge NATO
  • Issue of NATO expansion needs to be kept alive so that in a changed context a challenge can be built quickly

Key Organizations:

  • World Beyond War – can push the grassroots campaigning and petitioning calling for the dismantling of NATO by educating the public

Terrorism / ISIS

Trump has used “strong-man” language to respond to the highly-exaggerated threat of “radical Islamic terrorism”. This has been a populist campaign rallying cry, which goes against expert opinions suggesting that the wording risks alienating moderate Muslims.[21] For example, according to the CIA, designating Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organization may fuel extremism[22].

On the ninth day of his presidency, Trump announced a Presidential Memorandum ordering a new plan to defeat ISIS [23]. Hopefully this plan will not involve the use of nuclear weapons against terrorist organizations, which he has considered in the past[24]. A continuing resolution currently in committee authorizes the President to use all necessary force against the threat posed by ISIS. However, the language of the continuing resolution mirrors the same vagueness of previous Global War on Terror Authorizations to Use Military Force by not specifically targeting threats from ISIS, but rather from ISIS and “its associated forces, organizations, and persons, and any successor organizations”[25]. Recently Trump approved more U.S. lead air assaults in Yemen than Obama had approved in a whole year. In March 2017, the White House authorized the deployment of 400-1,000 Marines and heavy artillery to try and take back Raqqa, Syria from ISIS control. The ramped-up bombing in Yemen and ground troops in Syria highlights a more aggressive use of military force by the Trump administration against Islamist militants[26].

Based on an early examination of Trump’s risk-acceptance, a reasonable assessment expects a more risk-acceptant ISIS strategy and greater use of ground troops.[27] At the same time, Trump’s “America First” approach might also entail a less interventionist agenda. The latter might provide leverage for peace advocates, in that Trump’s base can be engaged around the fallacy of an “America First” narrative when American troops are used for foreign wars. However, the proposed increase in the U.S. military budget is a clear sign of continued U.S. military projection and intervention around the world in the name of battling terrorism.


  • “Preparing for the ‘Day After’” – proactively engage, prepare and mobilize key communities to prepare a response to a potential terrorist attack – policy advocacy (no JFF involvement on legislation); community preparedness at the local level; local and national mass mobilization
  • Continued promotion of less costly (human, social and economic) responses to terrorism must remain a key approach.
  • Deconstructing the myths of a “dangerous world” and “bad guys”

Key Organizations:

  • Win Without War
  • This is an area were movement intersectionality becomes important – refugee rights organizations, civil rights groups, human rights groups and the peace advocacy community need to come together around this issue.
  • War Prevention Initiative – in the background providing strong peace science based content that helps organizations (project: “The Handbook of Nonviolent Responses to Terrorism”)

Immigration ban

Citing concerns over national security and the threat of terrorism, the Trump administration issued an Executive Order on January 27, 2017, indefinitely barring Syrian refugees from entering the United States, suspending all refugee admissions for 120 days and imposing a 90 day ban of immigrants and non-immigrants from seven predominantly Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. This ban was an inhumane, counter-productive and misguided response to terrorism and a blanket suspicion for 205 million people. The War Prevention Initiative issued a press release, condemning the Executive Order and advocating for politics of inclusion and common security of all humans (see appendix “Press Release Executive Order”). Popular protest and legal challenges by the federal appeals court successfully held up the order, and on March 6 the order was revoked and replaced.

A new executive order (March 6, 2017) still imposes a 90-day travel ban for citizens of Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Libya but removes Iraq from the list. However, the ban still does not include countries of 9/11 attackers or any other countries of origin of people that have attacked the U.S. There have been 9 attacks from so-called ‘Islamist terrorists’ on U.S. soil since 9/11, 8 of the attacks were from U.S. citizens, none of them were refugees[28] [29]. The bottom line is that this new order is nothing but a watered-down version of the original one. The D.C. based advocacy organization Win Without War states that the new order fails to address the concerns of the 9th District Court on the original ban, that it still goes against American core values, and that it addresses a non-existing problem with regard to terrorism and national security. A recently leaked document from the Department of Homeland Security corroborates the fact that citizenship is an ‘unlikely indicator’ of terrorist threats towards the U.S., pointing to the ignorance and xenophobia behind this executive order [30]. A week after the second immigration ban was announced, a group of 134 foreign policy experts, including Madeleine Albright and John Kerry, drafted a letter condemning the executive order. In the letter, the authors claim the new ban “suffers from the same core substantive defects as the previous version” and that by targeting Muslim nations, it “will send a message that reinforces the propaganda of [ISIS] and other extremist groups, that falsely claim the United States is at war with Islam”.[31]

The facts are on our side. One Earth Future research found that from 1975 to 2015 the rate of refugees arrested for terrorism-related offenses is 0.00061%. This number confirms that we are indeed looking at a non-existing threat. Some would say the refugee ban is a solution without a problem, but it is a solution to a different problem: the Trump administration cannot succeed without keeping its base in a constant state of fear. Moreover, research shows that refugee influxes in the United States have shown positive contributions to economies.[32] These facts counter the predominant myths about the dangers and negative economic impact of refugees.


  • Provide facts from sources which are hard to dispute
  • Provide facts in an understandable manner
  • Connect the issue of refugees to U.S. wars and occupations – refugees are created by U.S. wars – start challenging what creates refugees
    • Much of this administration’s immigration and national defense narratives are aimed at protecting the U.S. from potential threats posed by refugees. It is critical to those opposing these harmful policies to continue to refute claims that portray refugees as the source of violence, but ignore the wars that create them. As stated above, blanket assumptions citing refugees as terror threats are unanimously and repeatedly disproven. If this administration is truly concerned with any threat posed by refugees, then they must refocus their attention towards ending the wars that create refugees, rather than slamming the door in their faces and denying the fact that many of our bombs are what made them refugees in the first place.
  • From defense to offense – we should be taking in far more refugees than the small quota given the U.S. role in global warfare
  • Point to the clear connections between the travel ban and Islamophobia

Key organizations:

  • Win Without War – frontline advocacy
  • ACLU – frontline advocacy
  • War Prevention Initiative – in the background providing strong peace science based content
  • Indivisible Movement – take on many issues that are of concern to folks on a local level – have been active around the immigration ban as well[33]; they are local and self-organized – probably among the most hopefully opportunities to create pressure on elected officials in their districts
  • Another opportunity to connect the issues and build a strong intersectional resistance movement


The issue of the Trump Administration’s ties to Russia is as complex as it is inscrutable. As peace advocates, our obvious interest is in improving relations with Russia. At the same time, we must be cognizant of the context of relations between the Trump campaign and administration and the Russian interference and influence in the U.S. electoral process. Given that the information on these ties comes from multiple U.S. intelligence services, we cannot disregard political motives behind the revelations and accusations. As analyst Gareth Porter points out, “those war bureaucracies view the conflict with Russia as key to the continuation of higher levels of military spending and the more aggressive NATO policy in Europe that has already generated a gusher of arms sales that benefits the Pentagon and its self-dealing officials.”[34]

The peace advocacy community should use the pressure exerted through the Russia ties while simultaneously being cautious with using information provided by the intelligence community. Most importantly, the peace advocacy community should consider how improvements in the U.S.-Russian relationships can be advanced beyond the top-level political realm. For example, some of the War Prevention Initiative’s close contacts have joined a 2016 citizen diplomacy delegation to Russia. The Center for Citizen Initiatives will send a first ever “Mega Delegation” of up to 100 U.S. citizens to Russia in May 2017.


  • Continued digging into the ties between the Trump circle and Russia while avoiding to build the U.S.-Russian tensions
  • Congressional investigation
  • Independent special investigation

 Key organizations:

  • Investigative media outlets
  • Center for Citizen Initiatives – citizen diplomacy in Russia which can lead to deconstruction of enemy images
  • Congress

North Korea

North Korea is a recurring hazard to nuclear nonproliferation. They too have an instable and inexperienced leader and little is known about the country. Their ICBM tests have slowly improved over the last decade and their aggressive threats are second only to the rhetoric of the new U.S. administration. The Trump Administration has suggested numerous ways to address North Korea, ranging from cyber warfare to nuclear strikes. A leaked White House strategy memo included the possibility of military force or regime change[35]. Senior administration officials have said Trump believes North Korea is the United States’ “greatest immediate threat”, and other outlets have reported the U.S. is considering preemptive strike against the country [36].

Philip Yun, COO of the Ploughshares Fund asserts that there are only lousy options. Taunting Ki Jong-un is dangerous, it is not a policy, and not a solution. He argues that we need to get away from tit-for-tat and rhetoric of escalation. Suzanne DiMaggio from New America suggests that there only is a diplomatic solution. Any belief that this can be solved militarily is a myth.


  1. Engagement with the adversary through multiple levels of diplomacy. If there is a lack of trust as we see between North Korea and the U.S., so-called Track II diplomacy – unofficial mediators without carrots or sticks – can encourage parties to start examining win-win solutions.
  2. Looking at what works. Suzanne Di Maggio, Senior Fellow at New America, suggest that we take lessons from Iran to engage North Korea. The so-called Iran Nuclear Deal is an example of hard diplomatic efforts that led to an agreement which is widely considered successful. While the context between Iran and North Korea is quite different, the fact that hostile nations were able to generate agreements on a certain issue demonstrates that diplomacy works.
  3. Respect the other. Even in geopolitics, respect for the adversary matters. This has nothing to do with personal likeability, but with workable relationships between adversaries. Any immediate de-escalation of tension and future vision of improving the situation on the Korean Peninsula cannot take place without some sort of recognition and respect. The U.S. and North Korea must start regarding each other as legitimate and responsive to each other to move from tit-for-tat to problem-solving approaches to the conflict.
  4. Humanizing the other. Let’s be honest. When thinking about North Korea we see the face of Kim Jong Un and big, threatening military parades showcasing an evil “outlaw” country in the international community – “we are good, they are bad.” One of the most important things we need to do in conflicts is to humanize the other, more specifically 25 million “others” who make up the population of North Korea. While it is hard to actually meet and talk to “the other” in North Korea, we have seen successful citizen-diplomacy initiatives in the context of U.S.-Russian tensions in the past and present.
  5. Focus on interests, not positions. One of the key mistakes people in conflict make is to focus on the positions – what we want, what the other wants. Those “wants” do not define what the conflict between the U.S. and North Korea is about. We need to engage in an arduous process of identifying the real needs, concerns and fears. While I am by now means supportive of a nuclear armed North Korea, and for that matter any nuclear weapons on earth, I ask the reader to consider North Korea’s perception that the nuclear program is what keeps the regime alive.

 Key Organizations:

  • Ploughshares Fund

Militarism Narrative

With the growing and mainstreamed resistance against the Trump agenda, we have an opportunity to make headway in challenging the broader militarism narrative in general. Traditionally this has been an uphill battle with across-party line unity on the overall reliance on military force and a narrative that is deeply embedded in society.

Large areas of the country outside of the politically progressive blue states and urban areas are ill-served by poor information. People in those areas have been more supportive of the current administration, but many of them will bear the consequences of the ill-fated policies (e.g. environmental injustice, dismantling of the U.S. social safety net). People in these areas need to be reached with an alternative narrative which comes to them in the context of their livelihoods. Challenging militarism can be connected to improving their lives. Analysis that connects the dots between the issues of militarism and a variety of other issues such as healthcare, employment, immigration, and the environment can change perceptions.


  • Enter into small-town media environments
  • Messaging around American core values
  • De-couple militarism from patriotism
  • Address war-profiteering by tapping into anti-corporation sentiment
  • Connect militarism to our communities, rather than seeing at through the lens of distant wars

Key organizations:

  • PeaceVoice – building on the successes of finding entry into small town newspaper markets; these are areas where the local newspaper still informs people and is part of local conversations
  • Institute for Public Accuracy
  • World Beyond War – continued outreach with the Alternative Global Security System concept (Nobel Peace Prize nomination based partially on this book)
  • War Prevention Initiative – Peace Science Digest with deliberate outreach program

General Responses – the theme of resistance

The overview of different issues areas should not be taken out of the context of general resistance against the destructive Trump agenda. Many new people are likely to join because they find approaches that suit their immediate context, their values, their capacity, their priorities, and willingness to get engaged. The possible forms of resistance[37] are only limited by creativity. New people are becoming activated and part of the resistance because they feel they have something to contribute. Over time, the currently still very polarized camps of Trump supporters and opponents will be able to come together over American values of democracy, freedom and equality. Most Trump supporters did not vote for hate and fear. The resistance is built on the intersectionality of issues, creating unity for the many groups who are threatened and those who are in solidarity. Some specific entry points are:

  • Call Trump out for lies and credit he is taking with unambiguous facts (e.g. videos, statements, facts)
  • Go after administration officials and advisors based on their lies, conflicts of interests, etc.
  • Keep the momentum of the resistance movement.
  • Separate the Trump administration from career federal workers – they are not political appointees
  • Make progress on the intersectionality of issues and movements
  • Focus on the grassroots level – back to community organizing
  • Bring together identity group leaders
  • Recognize and publicize that the majority of Americans have not voted for this agenda


This broad overview has shown that almost all elements of foreign policy are negatively impacted by the Trump administration. The negative impacts, however, come with opportunities. The challenges and threats are real. Trump operates on simplistic good vs. evil assumptions. It will be an ongoing challenge for us to deconstruct those and provide more nuanced understandings of the complexities found in war and peace issues.

In a different U.S. administration, these topics would have been addressed by the usual groups, including the War Prevention Initiative. We need to be realistic that under a Nobel Peace Prize winning President Obama and his administration, challenges to foreign policy like the increased nuclear weapons budget or reliance on drone warfare were hard to communicate to broader audiences. In that regard, Obama received a lot of undeserved credit and leeway from peace groups for simply not being President Bush. At the same time, we must not forget the actual diplomatic successes like the Iran Nuclear Deal, the normalization with U.S.-Cuban relations and the general reluctance to commit troops.

The key conclusions and recommendations are:

  1. We need to be careful with complacency and backing off when absolutely outrageous proposals (e.g. first “Muslim Ban”) are replaced with perceived less outrageous proposals (e.g. revised “Muslim Ban”). Moreover, the frequency of the destructive proposals must not lead to fatigue in responses. This would normalize policies and proposals that are harmful to people and planet.
  2. With the Trump administration, we can elevate war and peace issues to unprecedented levels and address them in a way that was not possible under Obama and would not have been possible under Clinton.
  3. This moment in time is a unique opportunity for a national, even global convergence of movements and large scale mobilization. It is a “movement moment” which renowned peace scholar David Cortright describes as follows: “I’ve been an activist for 40 years, & I’ve never seen a moment where there is more potential” for creative, constructive action.” The causes are connected, so should the movements be. There need to be nationwide trainings in moving from the theory of intersectionality of issues to the practice – it is now clearer than ever.
  4. Training and organizing on nonviolent civil resistance


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[1] Trump’s Alpha Male Foreign Policy (

[2] See Appendix “Mainstreaming Resistance” for my op-ed on this topic.

[3] ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ author on Trump voters (

[4] Presidential Memorandum on Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces


[5] New in 2017: 16,000 more soldiers for the Army (




[9] Talking Points for the Peacebuilding Community (

[10] Invest in Smart Security (

[11] To Pay For His Military Budget, Trump Will Have to Cut Services His Base Depends On (

[12] Trump’s Phony Populism on Military Spending (

[13] Exclusive: In call with Putin, Trump denounced Obama-era nuclear arms treaty – sources (

[14] Lawmakers Introduce Bill Restricting First Use of Nuclear Weapons (

[15] H. R. 903 To restrict funding for the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, and for other purposes. (


[17] What an unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal could look like ( )

[18] Trump Should Support, Not Disrupt, the Iran Deal (

[19] Trump Should Support, Not Disrupt, the Iran Deal (

[20] Germany to boost army to 200,000 troops amid growing concern over Donald Trump’s commitment to NATO (

[21] New NSC chief pushed Trump to moderate his language on terrorism (


[23] Presidential Memorandum Plan to Defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (

[24] FULL TRANSCRIPT: MSNBC Town Hall with Donald Trump Moderated By Chris Matthews (

[25] 1ST SESSION H. CON. RES. 2 To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its associated forces.

[26] Trump’s Ramped-Up Bombing in Yemen Signals More Aggressive Use of Military


[27] How Will Trump Wage War? What Early Signs of a Risk-Acceptant President Mean for US Military Operations (

[28] What Trump’s revised travel ban misses about terrorist attacks in the U.S. (

[29] Trump’s travel ban executive order, take 2 (

[30] AP Exclusive: DHS report disputes threat from banned nations (

[31]Trump’s Revised Travel Ban Is Denounced by 134 Foreign Policy Experts (

[32] Fact Sheet: Refugees and U.S. National Security (

[33] Indivisible. A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda (

[34] How ‘New Cold Warriors’ Cornered Trump (

[35] White House Options on North Korea Include Use of Military Force (

[36] The US is considering a direct strike against North Korea — here’s how it would go down (