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“America First” Exposes Itself

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Manheim, PA, USA © BasSlabbers

June 24, 2017 20:00 EDT

There is growing international awareness that America is a net taker, cleverly nurturing its own prosperity at the expense of global prosperity.

I recently returned from a month of travel in Europe. While there, I searched far and wide for anyone who had a good word for Trump and managed to find one guy in Scotland who seemed a bit intoxicated and thought that Trump was a man of the people. Beyond that, nothing and no one. He seems to have single-handedly turned US friends into skeptics and moved skeptics to scorn.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom collectively gagged on the realities of its decision to leave the European Union, seemingly revolted at the prime minister holding hands with Trump on a forced march to uncharted territory. With terrorist attacks as a backdrop, the UK voters seemed to question their original decision, perhaps in part because of Trump’s enthusiasm for their EU exit. In the aftermath of the vote, Trump was quick to postpone a planned visit to London.

While Americans are fixated on US-centric press coverage of all that is Trump, there really is a larger world out there, and that larger world seems to be catching on. As Trump and his merry band of unprincipled incompetents are “making America great again,” everybody else can free themselves at last from any notion of America’s greatness. Trump’s crude efforts to define an international moral imperative with “America first” at its core have finally awakened the world to the reality of the last 70 years — it has always been about America first.

Before Trump, the packaging of “America first” was so much smoother, lulling many into the notion that following America’s lead without qualm or question provided a magic path to a better world. And tagging along was made so much easier by an America so willing to pay so much for so little.

Now it seems that Trump’s “America first” rants may have finally begun to neuter the beast. The process is incomplete and the beast is hardly dead, but there is a real possibility that it will be a long time before America is positioned to force-feed the world its venal, violent and self-absorbed international agenda.

From killing fields to climate change, Trump has energized peoples and their governments to forge new alliances and explore new solutions, now freed of America’s morality-laced refrain that pitted “our values” against “their values.” There is growing international awareness that America is a net taker, cleverly nurturing its own prosperity at the expense of global prosperity.

However, it is one thing to see a wary world react to Trump’s ignorance and bile, but quite a different thing for that reaction to forge a constructive agenda that leaves “America first” in its wake. I continue to believe there is some hope that the rest of the world can become a better place without America’s self-proclaimed leadership, and with or without America’s engagement.

It is essential to progress in confronting today’s difficult international issues that America’s leadership be questioned and rejected, both at home and abroad. After 70 years of “leadership,” the world should collectively be shouting “enough” — enough ill-conceived and deadly military adventures, enough arms profiteering, enough mega pollution, enough moral crusades and enough pretending that there can be no other way forward.

And this is the juncture where Trump is actually playing a constructive role. Since it is essential to distrust America before it can ever be trusted again, it is essential that there be a megaphone so loud with a message so clear that it cannot be ignored. Trump is that megaphone, an unwitting agent of change sowing the seeds of international distrust of America as never before. And, better yet, there are no American international “giants” around to even try to undo the damage.


I do not know where this will lead. Since Trump is an unwitting agent of change, extremely erratic and shamefully ignorant, tomorrow’s headlines can shred hope very quickly. At home, Americans who are resisting Trump’s domestic agenda with renewed fervor cannot lose sight of the perils that exist overseas. And while Trump’s brutish version of “America first” is producing a significant backlash, it can just as easily be stoked to xenophobia and deadly consequences.

As America’s influence wanes and Trump’s incapacity to govern becomes more evident, other leaders around the world will have to take notice whether they want to or not. From Syria to Afghanistan, the US can do little more than continue to kill. In Israel and Palestine, the laughable Prince Jared has been dispatched as America’s newest peace envoy. In North Korea, they loved every minute of the initial full Trump cabinet meeting, marveling at how much he had already learned from the supreme leader.

It would be easy to go on, but Trump remakes the point every day. He is unqualified for any public office and his glorification shames America. Within the land, there is a growing sense that this presidency will not end well. As for me, I never turn my back on dangerous animals and will not turn my back on this one. Those who oppose Trump must continue to resist, every day in every way.

If we stay this course, this shameful chapter in America’s history may yet lead to a new enlightenment and a world in which America is not first, but is one nation among many seeking a better world.

*[A version of this article was also featured on Larry Beck’s blog, Hard Left Turn.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: BasSlabbers

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