‘America First’ puts freedom and leadership last

(CNN)In his joint address to Congress, President Donald Trump began to elaborate his vision of an “America First” foreign policy. Some of his foreign policy pronouncements were familiar and reassuring: He spoke of the importance of alliances, global stability and learning from mistakes. But upon close reading, Trump’s brief treatment of international affairs in the speech revealed a blinkered conception of US self-interest that will alienate the world and ultimately render it more threatening to US security.

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Finally, Trump’s vision contrasts starkly with Ronald Reagan’s, set out in his farewell address, of a “city on a hill” where, “if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here.” Music to the ears of Vladimir Putin, Xi Xinping and authoritarian leaders, Trump’s hands-off approach to people caught beneath the yoke of repressive societies contrasts even more sharply with John F. Kennedy’s appeal in his inaugural address: “To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.”
Relying on Cabinet appointments, tax cuts and corporate subsidies to help the wealthy, Trump made clear his vision of diplomacy is not beholden to a practical, a political nor least a moral compulsion to uphold many decades of US leadership worldwide as an exemplar and defender of freedom.

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Trump has been told — but refuses to believe — that American global leadership is not a public service to the rest of the world but rather an insurance policy for our own people, one that has kept war, plague and economic devastation mostly off-shore for many decades. Trump’s disdain for the burdens and benefits of US global leadership — so clearly articulated in his declaration that his job “is not to represent the world” — won’t simply leave a gap. The space created by the United States’ withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, its equivocations on the Paris Climate pact and its insults toward the United Nations is already being filled by China, Russia and others.
By ceding the United States’ global leadership role, Trump may ensure his successors cannot claim it back.

Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/05/opinions/trumps-worrying-foreign-policy-nossel-opinion/index.html

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