It was encouraging to see, in the wake of Trump’s performance in Helsinki, that many on the right were outraged and willing to say so publicly. Particularly shocking was Trump’s disparaging of his own security services, demonstrating a willingness to sell out fellow Americans as a concession to a foreign dictator. Is this the behavior of an American patriot?
Perhaps that bracing scene will reawaken the right’s willingness to articulate and defend a more palatable form of patriotism, which celebrates American strength within the context of a broader vision. Neoconservatives, who had such a vision, were sometimes accused of being starry-eyed idealists, and those accusations seemed especially plausible in the later years of the George W. Bush administration. The neocons understood, though, that America’s global influence would be massively increased if we promoted a principled agenda that most human beings would want to support. We’re not a gunpowder empire. Alliances, trade agreements, and transnational organizations have always been a huge part of America’s geopolitical strategy, so it’s ironic that Trump and his supporters would be so eager to disparage them, ostensibly in the name of patriotism.