Barack Obama has already put forth a hesitant attempt to reduce America’s international commitments. The tone of hostility focused on globalization in the election leads one to assume that this trend will grow stronger.
The wall Donald Trump wants to have built on the border between the U.S. and Mexico is to be one hand higher that the Great Wall of China; it will be “the greatest wall that you’ve ever seen,” so great that the thankful American nation will call it “Trump’s Wall” one day. Mexico is to pay for the wall. If Mexico refuses, then the U.S. will seize money transfers from Mexican immigrants, raise duties, and stop issuing visas for trips by Mexican business persons (and diplomats). Trump’s way of making America “great again” consists of sealing the country off to foreigners and degrading others.
In Trump’s eyes, despite his having become a billionaire in a globalized America, the U.S. is not a winner but a loser in the process of globalization. The reason? Incompetent and corrupt Washington politicians made bad deals to America’s disadvantage. As president, Trump would not invite the Chinese president to state dinners, but rather would buy him a hamburger at McDonald’s and then lead in with some straight talking. Jobs have to be brought back to the U.S. from China, Mexico and Japan, and trade deals must be renegotiated.
Military spending is to increase, to ensure no one gets the idea of starting a fight with America. The time for “freeloaders” like Germany, Japan, South Korea or Saudi Arabia to profit from American security guarantees is over: “We can’t keep defending everybody.”* America will withdraw from Afghanistan. In contrast, Trump wants to work closely with Putin to fight terrorism in the Middle East. Trump wants the targeted killing of the family members of terrorists and the implementation of torture on a massive scale.
For someone with these types of xenophobic, radical positions to have the best chance of becoming the Republican presidential candidate must be more than an accident. This is the case among Democrats as well, especially the old-left Bernie Sanders, who is underscored by the fact that he caricatured Hillary Clinton as the minion of globalized big business — Wall Street. Like Trump, Sanders sees America as the victim of globalization. According to Sanders, free trade and competition are evils that have degraded opportunities for American workers. Pressed by this rhetoric, Clinton herself, the probable presidential candidate for the Democrats, has taken the side of free trade opponents. As president she could become a hostage to this positioning.
If America increasingly paints itself as the victim of globalization, and if this siege mentality takes the place of cosmopolitanism, then the Pax Americana, the far-reaching world order guaranteed by America, will come to an end. The Pax Americana is dependent on America having a positive perspective toward globalization: free trade standing for economic progress and stability, migration for value, and cosmopolitanism for a global network of alliances. Trump’s rise and Sanders’ surprising victories are a warning signal. Hesitantly, Barack Obama has already tried to reduce America’s international commitments, and has therefore fallen into conflict with the security establishment in Washington. Whether President Clinton can reverse this trend is in no way certain.
*Editor’s note: This quote, although accurately translated, could not be verified.