Trump is an internationalist, not a globalist

When it came to Washington’s pundits, President Trump’s recent address before the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was just another indication that the “nationalist” and “xenophobic” White House occupant was intent on bringing down the post-World War II liberal international order. It marked the beginning of the end of the Age of Enlightenment, and signaled the coming apocalypse.

The American president, they pontificated, should have celebrated the “United” part of the UN, not the “Nations” part. He should have been extolling the promise of globalism in his speech, not the virtue of the nation-state or national sovereignty.

In the Washington Post, the reliably partisan E.J. Dionne was not surprised that Trump won applause when he said that countries should always put their own interests first”. “Selfishness is popular,” Dionne explained. “Russia's Vladimir Putin and China's Xi Jinping no doubt nodded approvingly when they were briefed about Trump's words.”

What Trump is not is a globalist who thinks that a country should sacrifice its own interests to advance fanciful principles advanced by a globalist elite composed of the academics and CEOs who attend Davos conferences and who have little regard for their fellow countrymen.

Actually, no one would have been surprised if British Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron were giving President Trump the high five, when he stated, “As president of the United States I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always and should always put your countries first.”

Western leaders may extol international cooperation during speeches. But in reality they remain committed to protecting their nations’ interests. 

For years, proponents of the notion that the nation-state was dead, have been urging France and Britain, who are both members of the European Union (EU), to give up their seat in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to be represented there by an EU official. “You’re kidding? Right,” has been the response from London and Paris. We put Britain First and France First.”

Indeed, every U.S. president has put America First and would have saluted Trump when he asserted that the American government's “first duty is to its people, to our citizens - to serve their needs, to reassure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values.”

Even President Barack Obama, the darling of the One-World crowd, put America First and dismissed cherished notions of globalism, when he sent American drones to destroy targets in Pakistan or kill one of its residents, Osama bin Laden. Pakistan’s sovereignty went out of the window of the Oval Office when it came to U.S. interests.

Contrary to the myth perpetrated by some critics about President Trump’s so-called “nationalist” agenda, the post-1945 liberal international order, including the UN and other multilateral institutions, was not based on globalist principles, but on an internationalist vision that assumed that governments could and should cooperate if and when they conclude that it’s in their national interest to do so.

Moreover, the veto-yielding powers that were granted to the U.S. and the other permanent members of the UNSC, enshrined another important realist norm, that the big military powers have the right and the obligation to make the decisions on international war and peace, whatever are the views of the rest of the world.

Like all previous presidents, Trump isn’t a globalist. Like them he is an internationalist, committed to cooperating with other nations to achieve common goals based on mutual interests.

And that’s how to understand his America First agenda. He didn’t pursue the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and embraced a tougher posture in trade negotiations with China, the same kind of approach President Bill Clinton took when pursuing his trade dealings with Japan.

Trump also suggested that it was time for Americans to reassess the structure and goals of NATO, an organization that what was established in 1949 with the aim of containing the Soviet Bloc. In that context, his call for shifting more security and financial to the other free-riding NATO members, has been a theme advanced by all of his predecessors.

Trump is an internationalist, and his repeated reference to how all states ought to prefer their own interests, was a specifically internationalist message. He said that the best international policies would emerge when each, having regard to its own interests, cooperates with all other countries.

What Trump is not is a globalist who thinks that a country should sacrifice its own interests to advance fanciful principles advanced by a globalist elite composed of the academics and CEOs who attend Davos conferences and who have little regard for their fellow countrymen.

Dr. Leon Hadar is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, and a former research fellow at the Cato Institute.