Trump the conservative-internationalist. Henry Nau, George Washington University. https://www.henryrnau.com/

Sep 16, 2017, 04:26 AM

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Trump the conservative-internationalist. Henry Nau, George Washington University. https://www.henryrnau.com/

Trump's foreign policy is more coherent and conservative than many acknowledge. It seeks to realize a conservative-internationalist world order that builds on national sovereignty rather than international institutions and uses the military to strengthen diplomacy rather than engage in nation-building. On the main borders of freedom, Trump seeks to devolve more responsibility to U.S. allies. This transition is long overdue and won’t be achieved without breaking a few eggs. Europe and Japan are vastly more wealthy today than they were in 1950, yet they still do not carry a proportionate share of the world’s defense and trade responsibilities. Trump zeroed in on that fact during his trip to Europe. When he left, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, seemed to have gotten the point: “The times in which we could totally rely on others are to some extent over. . . . We Europeans must really take our fate into our own hands.” Notice the adverbs. By “totally,” she confirms that Europe free-rides excessively. By “to some extent,” she acknowledges that the American commitment is still there. By “really,” she suggests that this time Europe might actually mean it. Trump got her attention without significantly placing the alliance itself in doubt. On the peripheral borders of freedom, Trump has to avoid further Iraqs and Afghanistans. American voters have made it pretty clear over the past 70-plus years that they will not accept long wars in relatively remote regions where the threat and battle lines are ill defined (such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq) even after an attack on their own soil (such as 9/11). Spreading democracy in the Middle East or southwest Asia is simply not feasible at any acceptable cost, and what is worse, it diverts resources from higher-priority threats to American freedom. Trump’s nationalism offers some needed discipline. It is not universalist. Commitments vary depending on how much the national interests of the world’s democratic republics overlap. They overlap a great deal on the borders with authoritarian powers Russia and China. Here Trump calls for strong and more balanced defense commitments, reinvigorated economic growth, and diplomatic realism. The objective is to defend freedom’s gains over the past 70 years. They overlap less in more remote parts of the world where the primary interest is to defeat terrorism, not to spread democracy. Here Russia and China may assist. The objective in the Middle East is to keep terrorism on the run, not to run Russia out; the objective in Northeast Asia is to lock Pyongyang in, not to lock China out. Most important, contrary to conventional wisdom, Trump’s nationalism is not anti-globalist. As McMaster and Cohn write, “America First does not mean America Alone.” Rather, it means globalism built on nationalism, free countries taking care of themselves and sharing common values. Trump can revitalize America’s republican nationalism. He can offer a conservative vision of the world that builds on Jefferson’s idea of “sister republics” living side by side in peace without large global institutions. Such conservative internationalism protects the American people by securing borders at home, killing terrorists wherever they emerge, strengthening republican allies, worrying more about the rollback than the spread of democracy, cooperating as needed with authoritarian powers, and doing the things at home that build strength and character—creating jobs and economic growth, promoting military modernization, and urging Americans to renew their loyalty to one another by their loyalty to the nation. As...