The vision of the new American president, Donald Trump to "put America first" captures the shift in the American role in the world that has been going on for the past 25 years.
For all the policy nervousness it is causing here and in other capitals, this new vision is not a bad thing. In fact, I would argue, it is both timely and good.
To make this point, consider the role the U.S. has played internationally in the last century and consider what may lie ahead in the next century.
One hundred years ago this April, the U.S. joined World War One and emerged as a major actor on the international stage. A generation later, U.S. involvement in World War Two was the key factor in the defeat of fascism and the biological race theory that underpinned its European form.
Then, in the 40 or so years from the end of that war, when the European colonial powers were spent and communism swept through much of the world, the U.S. held the torch for freedom, democracy and human rights.
Americans acted in the world with a sense of manifest destiny that was underpinned by the Christian idea that it should be a "city on a hill," an example of goodness for all to see. This was why, in contrast to the mean-spirited victors in World War One, whose vengeful punishment of Germany led directly to the rise of Nazism, Americans after World War Two felt called to be forgiving and do good. They helped rebuild their shattered allies and generously lifted up their defeated enemies, notably Japan, Korea and Germany, and turned them into their closest friends.
At the same time, the Americans stood against Soviet communism, which sought to win over as much of the world as it could for its utopian view of state organization.
Because of its internal contradictions, communism suffered a moral collapse from within. By the end of the 1980s, it was over.
Had communism prevailed, horrors such as those wrought on the Chinese, Cambodians and North Koreans would have played out all over the........