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The price of ‘America First’ has become clear

18 7 5
06.04.2020

The COVID-19 outbreak has just exposed, with remarkable clarity, the bankruptcy of U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda. His administration’s efforts to block or reroute shipments of medical equipment from non-U.S. customers demonstrate a selfishness and short-sightedness that is virtually unprecedented in modern U.S. history.

“America First” was always a tone-deaf concept. It was first used by U.S. politicians in the first half of the 20th century to justify refusal to join the first and second world wars. Whatever merits the policy may have had — there is a case for a less interventionist, more constrained foreign policy — the movement was tainted by its supporters’ anti-Semitic and pro-fascist inclinations.

Undaunted Trump said from the start of his candidacy that his presidency would stand atop an “America First” agenda. He made it a theme in his inaugural address as well as other major international speeches he has given. His 2019 speech to the United Nations General Assembly warned that “The future belongs to patriots. The future belongs to sovereign and independent nations,” adding that “The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them or replace them.”

Foreign policy will always calibrate between nationalism and an internationalist outlook. (Trump prefers the term “globalist” for the latter, a word he considers more pejorative.) But the refusal to see how an international outlook can advance national interests is a dangerous blind spot in the president’s — and his supporters’ — thinking.

National security isn’t just the product of a single nation’s strength, no matter how that strength is calculated. Countries are stronger when they are protected by an order that is larger than themselves alone: That is the logic of alliances, international institutions and international law. The United States has for the last 75 years helped construct and lead that order, to protect its interests and to position........

© The Japan Times