Quit calling Donald Trump an isolationist. He’s worse than that.

What Trump really believes is far more dangerous.

.. The problem is, Trump isn’t an isolationist. He is a militarist, something far worse. And calling Trump an isolationist isn’t an effective critique.
 .. What united them was their opposition to entering the Second World War after the devastation of the First. Judging the United States capable of repelling any outside invasion, they wanted to steer clear of armed entanglement in Europe and Asia.
.. The first America Firsters, then, were antiwar more than anti-Semitic or pro-fascist, strains that recent critics of Trump overemphasize. True, the group’s spokesman, aviator Charles Lindbergh, railed against “Jewish influence” months before Pearl Harbor. But the anti-Semitic diatribe crippled the movement rather than advanced it, and few America Firsters favored the Axis.
.. Ever since, foreign policy elites have deployed the “isolationist” tag to expel anti-interventionists from the bounds of legitimate debate.
.. It’s often an unfair label, but it’s especially nonsensical when it comes to the current commander in chief: Trump is no isolationist, whether caricatured or actual. Rather than seeking to withdraw from the world, he vows to exploit it. Far from limiting the area of war, he threatens ruthless violence against globe-spanning adversaries and glorifies martial victory. In short, the president is a militarist.
Scholars define militarism, broadly, as the excessive use and veneration of force for political ends, or even for its own sake, extending at times to full military control of the state. (Trump has appointed two Marine generals, Jim Mattis and John F. Kelly, to his Cabinet.) Militarism, the pioneering historian Alfred Vagts wrote in 1937, promotes values “associated with armies and wars and yet transcending true military purposes.”
.. Not even the European Union escapes Trump’s zero-sum squint: He casts it as a German vehicle to “beat the United States on trade,”
.. Previous presidents — Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Nixon — have scorned non-Western cultures and accentuated divergent interests among states. But Trump is unique in seeing America as a victim nation, a net global loser that must now fight back.
His single most consistent political conviction is that other countries have exploited the United States.
.. Trump’s sense of abuse and humiliation is potent. “The world is laughing at us,” he endlessly repeats.
.. Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany did not conquer territory for the thrill of it; their leaders acted out of perceived desperation, believing that they were losing a ruthless competition for power and status.
.. He talks of grabbing wealth from other countries, most vividly in his mantra to “take the oil” in Iraq. “Maybe we’ll have another chance,” he said in a speech at the CIA. Trump may be posturing, but the posture is militaristic.
.. To announce a lust for oil, to chest-thump about torture, to envisage military parades down Pennsylvania Avenue — these do not achieve strategic objectives so much as exalt brute force. “I’m the most militaristic person there is,” Trump said in the primaries. Perhaps he was telling the truth.
.. Drawing a moral equivalencebetween the United States and Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Trump rejects America’s traditional identity as an exceptional nation shining the light of freedom to the world. What identity does he offer instead? While ignoring the Founding Fathers, he constantly invokes the “old days of General MacArthur and General Patton,” the most extreme generals of the mid-20th century.
.. MacArthur and Patton are Trump’s new founders.
.. Trump’s disavowal of nation-building offers little comfort. His predecessors said the same during their presidential campaigns. Trump will avoid large-scale conflict only if he sets limited objectives and acts prudently.
.. “Our military dominance must be unquestioned,”

.. Last year Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, professed “no doubt” that “we’re going to war in the South China Sea in five to 10 years” — and that’s on top of the “global war against Islamic fascism” that he believes to be in its opening stages.

.. When critics seem to assail Trump for being too peaceful, for questioning military alliances and hoping to cooperate with Russia, they reinforce his message. They verify that he’s against not only the establishment but costly wars to boot.
.. a peace candidate turned warmonger, a populist outsider serving arms dealers and autocrats.