The United States’ allies are about to find out what real unilateralism looks like and what the real exercise of U.S. hegemony feels like, because Trump’s America does not care. It is unencumbered by historical memory. It recognizes no moral, political or strategic commitments. It feels free to pursue objectives without regard to the effect on allies or, for that matter, the world. It has no sense of responsibility to anything beyond itself.
Is this what the American people want? Maybe. Many these days call for greater realism and less idealism in U.S. foreign policy. Here it is. Trump’s policies are pure realism, devoid of ideals and sentiment, pursuing a narrow “national interest” defined strictly in terms of dollars and cents and defense against foreign attack. Trump’s world is a struggle of all-against-all. There are no relationships based on common values. There are merely transactions determined by power. It is the world that a century ago brought us two world wars.
The United States’ adversaries will do well in this world, for Trump’s America does not want war. It will accommodate powers that can harm it.