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A nation must think before it acts.
It is hard to avert one’s eyes from the flaming train wreck that is the Donald Trump presidency. But with respect to foreign policy, Trump’s rise has raised a question that will endure even after his time in office ends: What is the future of American internationalism? After all, for all the discussion today of how Trump’s foreign policy has proven more mainstream than his campaign rhetoric promised, the fact remains that in 2016 the American people elected a candidate who scorned or ridiculed many aspects of the foreign policy traditions that the United States has followed since World War II — free trade, alliances, promotion of democracy and human rights, a commitment to a positive-sum global order, and others. So was Trump’s triumph simply an aberration, or does it signal that American internationalism is politically dead?
This is the question I explore in a recent report for War on the Rocks. But suffice it to say that the answer is ambiguous — that there is evidence to support two very different interpretations of this issue.