By Jessica McHale
Traditionally, American presidents have encouraged diplomacy and peace through treaties and international agreements before resorting to threats or violence, as that is one of the most significant shared values demonstrated by democracies (regardless of whether the state being dealt with is also a democracy.) However, American foreign policy has experienced a powerful and incredibly dangerous shift away from this established practice since the inauguration of President Trump. Although Trump’s foreign policy endeavors have often remained unexplained and sporadic, one focus of his has proved consistent throughout his 8 months in office: his habit of retreat, which runs contrary to America’s historical precedent for international affairs. This switch in America’s approach to foreign policy is incredibly harmful. From his abandonment of peaceful dispute resolution frameworks to his withdrawal from previously established international treaties, agreements, and organizations, Trump is actively weakening the United States and its position as a global hegemon.
To justify his international approach, Trump claims that Americans need to reclaim American jobs and set the example that America must put itself first. He discredits the notion that the United States has some sort of moral responsibility to help other, less fortunate states (which are often in their position due to toxic Western imperialist endeavors), mostly relying on the argument that American innovation and economic advancement is hindered by international interference.
Firstly, prematurely retracting from diplomatic means and resulting to threats and eventual violence posits significant economic consequences. Not only is war incredibly costly, but international isolation and protectionist policies are also economically harmful to the United States considering how heavily we rely on necessary resources (including human capital) from other states to fuel our own economy as well as provide raw materials and final goods to American companies. The current international world order is remarkably characterized by state-to-state dependency and one state’s reliance on another for economic means is not as zero sum as Trump would like to argue. The more the United States presents itself as unwilling to compromise with other states and promote peaceful decision-making, the less other countries are going to commit to economic partnerships that benefit the American economy.
In addition to economic considerations, Trump’s foreign policy agenda of retreat also demonstrates severe political repercussions. His complete dismissal of participating in any method of international cooperation that does not directly impact the United States in a positive manner has cut important strategic political allies and will continue to do so. As the United States has historically served as an exemplar of democracy and diplomacy, other states will soon begin to mock the U.S.’s new approach of disruptive behavior and political discord which can potentially become the new norm, resulting in little urgency to promote cooperation. The loss of life due to war and intrastate disagreements over politics is just one of the many severe consequences of states pursuing policies purely according to their own interests. At its worst, this tactic can lead to a dystopian disregard of state autonomy. At its best, it leads to a superiority complex and ignores the desperate need of assistance for states victim to extreme poverty, violence, and turmoil. Although cooperation and the prospect of peace through diplomatic means is one of the core tenets of liberalism, pro-Trump realists should also discover the need to eschew support for Trump’s routine abandonment, as mediation and partnership increasingly become a matter vital to state security and survival, and as Trump’s retreat has often allowed for other countries to gain economically and politically.
Trump’s policy of retreat is also socially harmful. His persistence in building a wall along the US-Mexico border, blocking US travel from Middle Eastern citizens, and rejecting DACA have demonstrated his disregard for foreigners, especially those who can offer little to the United States and who have historically been discriminated against. This sort of retreat has caused especially harmful relations regarding race and citizenship status throughout the United States. Whether he intended a negative impact or not, his desertion within this realm of foreign policy has caused severe domestic issues aimed toward normalizing harmful behaviors toward immigrants and minorities, especially those connected in some way to the countries he attempts to distance from the United States.
The arguments put forth by Trump and his supporters that foreigners and international involvement are hindering the U.S. economy are simply untrue. Not only do immigrants complete a significant portion of jobs within the United States economy deemed as unwanted by Americans, but they also (unfortunately) provide this work for lower wages than American citizens, allowing companies to benefit from larger profits which ultimately supports our overall GDP. Additionally, as was discovered after the disturbance ensued by Trump’s desire to alter the HB1 visa provision (predominantly from tech companies that chiefly rely on the minds of foreign engineers and innovators), the American economy is greatly dependent on foreign employment for our own success and technological advancement over other states. Ultimately, Trump’s tendency to retreat from the global community actually does not in fact put “America First,” but rather it weakens our stance within the global community while providing economic, political, and social consequences.