Why Trumpism Worries Foreign-Policy Wonks
The internationalist retort, of course, is to blend this all together: U.S. participation in the global economy necessitates U.S. global leadership, and a consequent willingness to regularly use force. But the relationship is not as tight as neoconservatives would have you believe. The central pillars of the world economy outside North America are Europe and East Asia. The United States can maintain a middling commitment in these places without sprawling elsewhere, most obviously the Middle East. U.S. dependence on Persian Gulf carbon is diminishing rapidly due to fracking and renewables, and carbon needs to be significantly more expensive globally anyway due to its alarming global warming externalities. In short, U.S. participation in the global economy need not mean hegemony outside a few core areas—and certainly not in the Middle East, given the high cost of U.S. dominance there and the declining value of its one serious export.
For U.S. allies, this is a weird time. The next American elections, for the legislature, occur in 2018. Traditionally, the president’s party loses. A large anti-Trump wave could stop much of this. Conversely, a moderate legislative defeat, followed by Trump’s reelection in 2020, would lock in these grand strategic shifts. The wisest course for allies now is likely to ignore Trump’s outbursts whenever possible, smile gamely, make a few face-saving concessions, such as Shinzo Abe’s American jobs program, and hold tight for 2018. If the orange storm does not subside by then, it may be time to consider more autonomous national strategies.
Robert Kelly (@Robert_E_Kelly) is an associate professor of international relations in the Department of Political Science at Pusan National University. More of his writing may be found at his website.
Image: Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates talks to soldiers in Wardak Province, Afghanistan. Flickr/U.S. Army