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Wrong: Trump Is Not an Isolationist

June 23, 2019 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

An increasingly popular accusation among members of the U.S.
foreign-policy establishment and their allies in the news media is
that Donald Trump’s administration is abandoning
America’s global leadership role and placing the country into
an isolationist cocoon. The latest proponent of that thesis is New
York Times columnist David Brooks, who asserts flatly that “America is
withdrawing from the world.” He adds that the negative
results of that course “are there for all to see.”
Brooks cites as examples China’s increasingly aggressive
treatment of Hong Kong, a variety of Russian misdeeds, and
Iran’s (but notably not Saudi Arabia’s or
Israel’s) disruptive behavior in the Middle East. He contends
that America’s alleged abandonment of the “liberal
international order” will likely lead to even more widespread
unfortunate consequences.

There are several problems with the argument that Brooks and his
ideological brethren are propounding. First, the concept of a
liberal international order is at best aspirational and at
worst fictional
. The reality is that it has been little more
than a convenient façade for U.S. hegemony exercised through
Washington’s network of military alliances and U.S.-dominated
international political and economic institutions. The United
States and its allies have routinely violated the supposed norms of
a rules-based international order whenever such action seemed
convenient.

Second, the notion that Trump’s foreign policy has been a
dramatic departure from those of his predecessors since World War
II is a myth. That is especially true regarding security issues.
Although the president’s rhetoric toward Washington’s
longtime allies has sometimes been abrasive and less collegial, his
actions have differed little from the post-World War II norm. There
certainly is no credible evidence that he is orchestrating a
withdrawal from Washington’s multitude of global security
commitments and initiatives.

Despite the accusations
from Trump’s critics, Washington remains as hawkish and
interventionist as ever.

Indeed, allegations of a retreat into isolationism are
especially bizarre as America seems poised on the brink of war with
Iran. And those making the “abandonment of global
leadership,” “retreat from responsibility” and
“embrace of isolationism” arguments have considerable
difficulty citing concrete Trump administration actions that
correspond to those cliches. Where, exactly, have such examples
taken place?

Despite Trump’s rhetoric in the 2016 election campaign
that the U.S. intervention in Afghanistan should be terminated, he
promptly reneged on that position, and
Washington’s war in that country goes on with no apparent end
in sight. Likewise, the United States maintains a military presence
in Syria and still pursues the increasingly quixotic effort to
unseat Bashar al-Assad’s government. Indeed, U.S. military
action escalated, with air and missile strikes on Syrian government
forces.

Nor has Trump terminated the Obama administration’s policy
of making the United …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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