Trump’s September UN speech got coverage, not for depth of its content but for the laughs from delegates over his braggadocios self-praise in its opening. There was however, considerable substance to it. I think that it was an important speech. Trump outlined what an “America First” foreign policy looks like to the rest of the world. It is a sea change from that world order which had dominated global geopolitics over that period of time. That world order has been called the ‘American Century’.
There is some similarity between this moment and the beginning of the last century when England and her Empire had become the pinnacle power of the previous century. At that moment in the period prior to WWI, the ‘Brits’ longed for a “Splendid Isolation” where it could withdraw from what it saw as the petty conflicts of the world which held no importance, yet lamenting their being drawn into participation in. Alas, their withdrawal did not prove so splendid and the great disorder that followed with WWI created the void in which the U.S. rose to power, initially reluctantly so, to what became the “American Century.”
The U.S. stands today pretty much where the Brits did then. The Brits are withdrawing again from an alliance with the rest of Europe choosing isolation from demands on their immigration policy and sovereignty. It will not work out for them any better than it did last time. Brexit will be a British disaster. This new U.S. foreign policy, voiced by Trump at the UN, reflects the personal character and philosophy of our President. He has many stalwart supporters. Many Americans feel like the U.S. has done too much for too long for too little in terms of respect and compensation for all of the good it has done the world since WWII. These Americans take the war of terrorism personally in that we contribute our blood, our guts and our treasure to maintain security and stability in the world and we get taken advantage of for this contribution.
The world will look back on the last half century during this period of U.S. hegemony as resulting in the greatest renaissance in global advancement of the human race in human history. More peasants have been lifted from poverty into a “consumer class”…a great number of them Chinese, than in any prior experience. Instead of feeling self-gratification for doing good, many Americans feel taken advantage of. Personally, I believe that is a short-sighted view of our recent history as this country has benefited greatly from championing peace and stability to much of the world. Yet others, including our president, see the glass as less than half full.
Trump told the UN congregation, “Few give anything to us.” Donald’s message to the world in his worldview is that this period of U.S. contribution, something for nothing, is now over and this country was not going to provide the free lunch for others in the world who do not step up and contribute themselves (NATO). The U.S. will no longer be taken advantage of (patsy). When there is a void of global power we will not step into it as we have done. The result will be a new global disorder until it is sorted out. In my opinion, they have absolutely nothing to be laughing about.
Many Americans view this as a lack of respect and appreciation for what the world has shown us for what we have done for them. There is resentment in the U.S. public over having to “police the world”. He tells them that we have the military strength to protect our isolation…superior military technology and an ability to reach out and touch anyone in the world doing us ill in the form of a missile, battle carrier group, or special forces operations (soon to include Space). Our military can quite literally do it all.
Trump told them that, “We reject the ideology of globalism and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism”… taken to mean ‘everyone is now on their own relative to self-interest and country’. He trumpets change, saying that there will be no regard for “old dogmas” (institutions such as the UN and WTO) and “so-called experts” (real economists and diplomats). Conditions that dictated U.S. direction during the past century have changed.
As I have noted, we no longer depend on oil from the mid-East but there we still are with the U.S. military in that region defending the right of countries that are dependent on mid-East oil to access commerce in the region under our protection. Why? Because that is what we have done and the rest of the world is more than willing to let us continue to do it.
The irony is that these countries, include trading partners that we consider competitors such as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, India and the country that is being pushed into becoming a new cold war adversary…China. We are defending Chinese oil transit everyday coming through the Strait of Hormuz en route to China. The price of U.S. oil is discovered as West Texas Intermediate-Cushing OK while the Mid-East oil price is called Brent for a reason. There is trade between the two as prices are arbitraged but ironically our U.S. Navy guarantees safe transit for Brent oil as well as the growing U.S. oil exports, including surging LNG shipments to Europe and Asia.
Shale oil technology has unleashed a resurgence in U.S. oil production that has us competing with the Saudis as the top global oil producer. Given these circumstances, with U.S. energy independence (in which ethanol played a role) achieved, it makes total sense that our global geopolitical foreign, military and trade policies need to change. The question is how, in what ways? Are we like Great Britain ready to concede our hegemony along with our responsibility in the world? If so, who will step up in this century? Or does the world suffer through another Great Disorder as occurred early in the last century while that is determined?
David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.
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