Since World War 2, the strategic imperative directing every president's foreign policy has been maintaining America's global empire. That may all change when Donald Trump takes office.
Whether Donald Trump grasps the concept or reality of "American Empire" is debatable. His ignorance of strategic doctrine is surpassed only by his total lack of experience in foreign diplomacy. That is not debatable; it is dangerous.
Trump is a novice operating at the center of a weakened international system with no consensus of global order. Thus a valid question arises; what will America's future role in world be?
Despite the absence of a true north compass guiding his foreign policy, Trump is not without his signature issues. But like his career as a businessman and his presidential campaign, his agenda is transactional rather than strategic. It subordinates America's global leadership role to the short-term national interests.
While Trump's foreign policy can change as fast as the 24-hour newscycle or the time it takes to tweet, there are major currents of the Trump doctrine emerging.
Trump's "America First" agenda is a euphemism for a return to isolationism. Scaling back American foreign interventions, nation building, processing failed states and strategic investments in NATO are in the offing.
Rapprochement with Russia
Trump's embrace of Vladimir Putin signals his approval of an enhanced global role for Russia. It threatens to alter the international equilibrium.
The "Alt White International"
Trump's support and cooperation with rising right-wing ationalist parties across Europe could reshape America's relationship with the European Union.
The "China Syndrome"
Trump is obsessed with the goal of humbling China. He promises level China's unequal trade imbalance, impose higher tariffs on Chinese imports, browbeat Beijing into restraining North Korea's nuclear ambitions and warming U.S. relations with Taiwan.
Thought Leadership Center
America First & Not So Splendid Isolation
America First Foreign Policy
Inauguration day. Overcast skies, occasional rain and the scent of tear gas drifting between protesters and the police. The martial mood matched the moment. The stage was set for Donald Trump to articulate his vision of dark nationalism to arrest American empire's decline.
True to form, Trump broke with his predecessors. He advanced no animating mission of American exceptionalism. No new frontiers to conquer. No thousand points of light illuminating the path to "make America great again."
What Trump offered was a declaration of war and an enemy to be defeated. "For too long" he said, "a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. That all changes -- starting right here, and right now."
But the Washington "establishment," does not exist to protect itself. It serves and protects America's largest corporations and financial houses. Trump's illusion that he alone can defeat the elite establishment and fix America's economic problems is empty populist rhetoric.
Globalization--international capitalism at its most extreme--will continue to ravage the planet pursuing the highest rate of profit. Automation and technology will displace workforces. Factories and humans alike will be mobile. In all things economic, Trump can only alter this reality at the margins, if at all. And there is every possibility that his tariff and trade war policy will exacerbate, not mitigate the crisis,
But when it comes to national security and foreign policy, Trump is a radically dangerous and destabilizing force. As his inaugural address underscored, the panic coursing through intelligence briefing rooms and foreign capitals is the threat Trump poses as Commander-in-Chief of U.S. armed forces and CEO of American empire.
"For many decades." Trump insisted, "we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay."
What Donald Trump outlined is a portrait of American empire in decline. Whether it's the demise of the British Empire or the Roman Empire, the process of disintegration is fundamentally the same.
It starts with rebellions on the periphery of empire. Wars like Afghanistan and Iraq that end in stalemate or defeat and demoralize the homeland.
The cost of maintaining worldwide commitments and defense spending creates unsustainable national debt. Shrinking government revenue leads to severe cuts in services and programs. The public's faith in government institutions plummets. A frightened public reaches out for a maximum leader--a strong man--to magically solve all their problems.
In 2016, America crossed the Rubicon with Donald Trump's election. What little he understands about foreign policy and American empire, he clearly despises.
Trump wants America to be the pre-eminent world power, but doesn't like is the $100 billion price tag that comes with maintaining 800 military bases in 70 countries.
He wants critical sea lanes and underground pipelines open for the free flow of oil from the Middle East, but opposes U.S. interventions and defending "others" borders to ensure that result.
And although American-based global corporations dominate international finance, technology, trade, information systems, culture and research and development, he complains about paying a few subsidies and unfair trade deals. Really!
What Donald Trump wants is American empire on the cheap. His solution to imperial overstretch is his isolationist policy of dark nationalism. From anti-Muslim bans to a new partnership with Russia, to embracing European white nationalist parties, "America First," not "American Empire First" will now inform strategic considerations.
Not surprisingly, Trump's foreign policy and national security agenda mirrors the uber-nationalist, anti-globalist and isolationist views of the Alt-right.
And what is Trump asking from Americans to fulfill his crusade to "Make America Great Again? "At the bedrock of our politics" says Trump "will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other."
What Trump really means is total allegiance to him. Sound familiar? You had better get used to it.
Present at the Destruction From the Beginning
"Trump's Dark Nationalism and American Empire"