"Ever since the Second World War, America’s foreign policy, with the possible exception of the Reagan years, has been shaped by consensus. The United States was able to both lead and effectively subsidize the rest of the world. Initially, this made sense when the other major powers were either seriously weakened or under threat from the Soviet Union.
Trump has broken this model. His “America First” approach is crudely stated and has bad antecedents, but, frankly, where was the other strategy getting us? Europe, Japan and our other “allies” were getting rich while we sent our soldiers to fight and die. Playing nice for a generation did nothing to stop North Korea’s nuclearization or Iran’s aggressive expansionism.
Unlike his more idealist predecessors, Trump recognizes that every world leader — including Angela Merkel, Xi Jinping, Emmanuel Macron — seeks to enrich her or his own countries, even at other countries’ expense. Our competitors may be outraged when Americans selfishly play hardball, but perhaps it’s time to be asking for something beyond often empty promises.
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The foreign policy and trade policies of previous administrations benefited mostly the elite districts in the large coastal cities, but did much harm to the middle of the country. Globalism seems less glamourous when it means the loss of millions of jobs.
The addition of draconian climate change legislation under President Obama upped the ante, as Trump, or his handlers, intuited. Even as Silicon Valley and Wall Street looked to capitalize on green policies, vast parts of the country, particularly those dependent on fossil fuel production and cheap power for manufacturing, feared they were about to be abandoned.