The American Interest

Dismantling the Empire

History never repeats itself, but we may compare certain pivotal events in the quest for meaning and order in an apparently chaotic world.  Ronald Reagan’s victory in 1980 and Donald Trump’s unexpected triumph in 2016 differ in countless, relatively insignificant ways, but they share one key characteristic: True Americans have risen against an anti-America of moral, cultural, spiritual, and civilizational decline.  After an awful interlude, filled with disasters at home and abroad, there is an instinctive patriot in the White House.

In foreign affairs, Trump’s victory should be reflected in a radically new grand strategy.  “America First” is not a triumphal slogan of exceptionalist grandomania shared by the duopoly of yore.  It is a call for a return to diplomatic realism based on a recognition that the United States is a great power—for the time being (but not forever), the globally predominant power—in a world of lesser powers that act in accordance with the rational aims of promoting their security, prosperity, and cohesion in an Hobbesian world.

In practice, the first task is to improve relations with Russia—which is essential—and to establish a workable modus vivendi with China, which is highly desirable.  Outreach to Russia is vital to the definitive settlement of the European civil war that erupted in 1914, continued in 1939,...

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