The American Interest

Trump’s First Year

A key source of volatility in today’s international system is the propensity of the U.S. government to reject any conventionally ordered hierarchy of American global interests.  Washington’s deterritorialized policy of full-spectrum dominance is based on ideological suppositions that are unreceptive to rational debate.  America’s “global engagement” constantly creates results—notably in Iraq and Libya—that run counter to any conventional understanding of U.S. security interests.

The 2016 presidential election, on the subject of foreign affairs, seemed to confront two polar opposites.  It appeared that Donald Trump, an outsider victorious against all odds and predictions, had an historic opportunity to make a fresh start.  His “America First” campaign was a call for a return to realism based on the awareness that the United States needs to rediscover the value of transactional diplomacy aimed at promoting America’s security, prosperity, and cohesion in a Hobbesian world.

Trump’s strategic concepts seemed less ideologically coherent than Hillary Clinton’s carefully rehearsed orthodoxy, but he was far more the realist in policy detail.  In the early days of his candidacy he repeatedly asked why the United States must be engaged everywhere in the world, playing global policeman.  He raised the issue of NATO’s utility...

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