U.S. President Donald Trump's first National Security Strategy (NSS) document is a precious tool to understand his conceptions of the U.S. and the world. He displays a rather nationalistic point of view in this document, which was published last week. Because of its populist tone, the document gives the impression of saying many important things without, in fact, saying much. In other words, this text does not really explain how Trump will make the U.S. safer and stronger. It just keeps saying that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world, as if repeating it incessantly will turn it into fact.The strategy document insists that individual players on the international scene are threats, and stresses the importance of controlling the flows of international finance. It does not talk much about ideas or ideologies that could threaten the U.S.'s predominance. Even though American values are mentioned a couple of times, the strategy document does not explain what those values exactly are.
We can guess that American values are about pluralism, liberal democracy, protection of human rights and minorities, but Trump's document does not mention those as core values that the U.S. must always cherish. The Trump administration seems to instead cherish an idealized image of white and wealthy Americans, those who live in suburban houses, own cars and have kids and eventually a dog. The second American value for Trump is money. He believes his dollar is his power, and once he pays, he has the right to say or do anything he likes. He conceptualizes life as a simple transaction, and his perception about world affairs is not very different from that. He thinks if the U.S. gives money to an international body or a country, it must receive something concrete in return, as if the international political scene was a supermarket.
Trump loves to repeat from whom he will protect his country: Iran and North Korea. Moreover, he identifies radical religious terrorism as a serious threat. Maybe China could help the U.S. in dealing with the North Korean threat and Russia with the Iranian one. However, the U.S. cannot ask for help from these two major powers because China and Russia are said to be America's greatest rivals in the world. In fact, by reminding that Iran and North Korea are on the black list, and by openly saying that cooperation with Russia and China is unlikely, Trump is simply pushing Iran and North Korea more toward Russia and China. How will this help the U.S.?It is unclear how America will be great again in a world where the U.S. is adopting antagonist policies against almost every country in the world, except maybe for Saudi Arabia and Israel. Such an atmosphere will not favor stronger commercial ties, either, but the U.S. needs more international trade if it wants to finance the infrastructure projects Trump campaigned on.
Trump seems to have a whole different perception of globalization, as well. His globalization is about projecting American military presence around the world, using a number of countries as outposts and always making more money than everyone else without caring about other players' needs. He dreams about a quite nationalist and hegemonic America. The problem is he does not inspire confidence among traditional U.S. allies and everything he does, in fact, serves Russia and China's interests.
I would prefer writing about something other than Trump for my last column this year. Let us hope 2018 brings better news. Nevertheless, Trump's National Security Strategy means that the U.S. will continue losing its prestige and power as long as Trump remains in the White House. The moment his presidency ends, his successors will be able to blame him for everything that does not work in U.S. foreign policy. Only then, the U.S. will be able to reclaim its place as the leader of universal values and international cooperation.
I wish you all a happy New Year.
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