If you like Donald Trump’s cranky, whiny and petulant view of how to run the country, you’ll like how he’ll deal with the rest of the world.
There’s no real strategy behind Trump’s arguments – no new set of alliances or regional focus, no emphasis on trade as opposed to military strength of vice versa. At least there is no strategy in terms foreign policy professionals would recognize (which, in fairness, is not necessarily a bad thing.) With basically every other country the demand is for respect and fairness because under the current rules we are humiliated and cheated.
This is precisely the same policy, posture and strategy Trump brings to America itself: white identity politics aimed at taking back what other rising or new groups in American society have taken away from the guys who used to be at the top of the heap. It is more or less the identical vision, only with the humiliated party looking to set things right transposed from within American society to the globe.
Seeing America as humiliated and abused by foreigners is no more healthy, productive or based in reality than the idea that middle aged whites are under the heel of minorities and millennials. It’s all of a piece. Most people will get tripped up by the scaffolding of foreign policy talk around this basic worldview. That’s mainly beside the point. Trumpism at abroad is basically identical to Trumpism at home. We shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking that will be any less toxic abroad than it is at home.
The personalization of foreign policy — making it about hurt feelings — is what led us to the disastrous policy towards Cuba after the revolution in 1959 and has taken over fifty years and cooler heads to prevail over a mindset that acted as if Fidel Castro stole our lunch money. Going around with a chip on our shoulder will only invite confrontation with those who think they can hurt us, and it will alienate allies who, surprisingly, may not agree that we are the only country on the planet.
Mr. Trump basically boiled it down to “America First.” To students of history or those of a certain age, that’s a direct lift from the isolationist movement of 1940-1941 that fought FDR’s attempts to fight Hitler before Pearl Harbor. They were not without their charms: while many members were sincerely dedicated to keeping the peace and America out of war, a number of America Firsters were xenophobic, thinly-veiled racists and anti-Semites, and impressed with how well Herr Hitler had revitalized Germany. They rallied behind celebrities such as Charles Lindbergh who warned America that we were being conned into war by a cabal of “international money interests.” (They knew how to dog-whistle, too.) And we all know how it ended.