Libertarians and other advocates of a noninterventionist foreign policy—or its close cousin, a policy of realism and restraint —have grappled with how to respond to the candidacy of Donald Trump. Some of Trump’s policy positions are refreshing and sensible. His hostility to wars for regime change and nation building are a gratifying contrast to the enthusiasm for such ventures that both neoconservative Republicans and humanitarian interventionist Democrats have exhibited in recent decades. Trump’s insistence that America’s longstanding allies in both Europe and East Asia do far more for their own defense also has at least the potential to significantly reduce the republic’s excessive and obsolete security burdens. Finally, his desire to avoid confrontational relationships with major powers such as Russia and China is a rare voice of prudence among America’s political elite, and it has understandable appeal to noninterventionists.
But there are other Trump positions that are deeply disturbing, if not outright offensive to the kind of noninterventionists (or “cosmopolitan realists”) who have filled the ranks of Cato’s foreign policy program. Trump’s hostility to free trade is both disappointing and myopic. But his stance on immigration is even worse. His proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico to keep out undocumented Hispanic migrants is not only impractical, it conveys a message of hostility to such populations. Trump’s stance on Muslim immigration, especially his call for a “temporary” ban, conveys such hostility with even greater clarity.