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The Post-American Order

14 125 252

The 2016 election was hardly the first time that the U.S. political system alarmed many of the United States’ partners broad. After the election of 1832, the British complained that the United States was governed by “demagogues and non-entities,” and versions of that grievance have been repeated regularly by allied leaders since. Yet this time is different. During the presidency of Donald Trump, the United States’ friends have, for the first time, begun to hedge their bets in clear and consequential ways. A second term for Trump would accelerate such moves, with the result of transforming the international order for good.

Even before the start of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, support for the United States had plummeted to historic lows. Over the past six months, Washington has shown both indifference to the magnitude of suffering among its own citizens and sharp-elbowed selfishness in its approach to global cooperation on vaccines, medical supplies, and more—decimating support for both U.S. leadership of a mutually beneficial international order and global aspiration to the American way of life.

If Trump is reelected, his “America first” foreign policy will have been validated, and the result will be an America snarling into decline. The admiration for the United States that reduces the cost of everything it tries to achieve in the world will evaporate, and other countries will move on, shaping a new order to protect themselves from a self-seeking, often hostile United States. Washington will find that it has squandered an international order that was built to enhance its security and sustain its prosperity and instead faces a world without the institutions, alliances, and goodwill that have long bolstered U.S. interests. The president and the Republican leaders who support him will have to take responsibility for what they have wrought: a new order that excludes the United States.

Projecting forward from the Trump foreign policy decisions of the last four years makes clear the damage that could be done in a second term—and what that damage will mean for U.S. leadership. Convincing countries to align their policies with those of the United States will become more difficult because the United States will no longer represent common ideals. Allies will not want to station U.S. military forces in their countries or join coalition operations with the United States. Pardoning war criminals and vituperating against the International Criminal Court—as Trump has done over his first term and will likely continue doing over a second term—will make it less likely that other powers see the U.S. military as a........

© Foreign Affairs

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