The American Interest

The Birth of National-Globalism

Following President Trump’s maiden speech to the U.N. General Assembly on September 19, ideologically incompatible analysts have found similar reasons to cheer or condemn the 40-minute oration.  To Breitbart’s Adam Shaw it was a powerful, nationalist, full-throated defense of Trump’s “America First” agenda.  To the far more numerous Trumpophobic pundits—like the Chicago Tribune’s David Rothkopf—it was a “disaster of a speech,” replete with remarks that were “antithetical to the ideas and ideals that led the United States to play a central role in the U.N.’s founding in the wake of World War II.”

On closer examination it turns out that Trump’s formal presentation of his foreign-policy agenda to the world was marked both by doctrinal incoherence and by alarming errors of judgment.  It was a disappointing performance exactly because it fell short of treating candidate Trump’s “America First” paradigm as the leitmotif of policy.

“I was elected not to take power, but to give power to the American people where it belongs,” Trump said, and promised to revive “this founding principle of sovereignty.”  Prima facie this sounded like a welcome reiteration of realist principles.  In context it sounded like an opportunistic nod to his base, preceded as it had been during...

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