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Fuel to the Fire: How Trump Made America's Broken Foreign Policy Even Worse (And How We Can Recover)

September 21, 2019 in Economics

By John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, A. Trevor Thrall

John Glaser, Christopher A. Preble, and A. Trevor Thrall

Fuel to the Fire critiques the past 30 years of U.S. grand strategy, assesses Donald Trump’s worldview and foreign policy, and concludes with a proposal for avoiding the errors of the past.


Here are key ideas from our book, and what they mean for policy makers.

1. Primacy doesn’t pay.

For the past several decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War, U.S. leaders have pursued a foreign policy built on American military dominance – the doctrine of primacy. The strategy hinges on the belief that overwhelming American power—and especially military power—is the linchpin of global order.

But U.S. military power is not necessary for maintaining peace and prosperity. The international system is safer, and the international economy more durable, than the advocates of primacy allow. International trade operates independently of U.S. efforts to manage it and Americans’ ability to access global markets is not contingent upon, and therefore does not justify, the enormous expenses that purport to keep the global commons open.



The costs, meanwhile, go well beyond what U.S. taxpayers spend on the nation’s military. Americans enjoy fewer freedoms at home and are exposed to greater risks on account of the militarism on which primacy depends.

On the whole, primacy is synonymous with military hyperactivity. America’s frequent interventions have caused many observers, both at home and abroad, to question U.S. global leadership.

Rather than relying on a single dominant nation to punish bad actors, Americans—and the rest of the world—should favor an arrangement whereby the many beneficiaries of a peaceful global order contribute meaningfully to maintaining it.

2. Despite his rhetoric, President Trump’s foreign policy is a continuation, not a break, with the past.

As Donald J. Trump rose to power, his foreign policy vision, such as it is, was considerably out of step with the Washington, DC, foreign policy community. He even occasionally stumbled upon some of the same arguments frequently made by advocates …read more

Source: OP-EDS