Trump’s Pox Americana


Roger Cohen, in his Dec. 16, 2016, New York Times column, “Pax Americana is Over,” wrote, “… some things may be emerging from the fog. Trump is not interested in the rules-based international order the United States has spent the last seven decades building and defending. His foreign policy will be transactional. If it profits America, fine. If not, forget about it.”

Mr. Cohen’s predictions were prescient, although a number of other writers, notably Stewart M. Patrick, writing in Foreign Affairs, had reached similar conclusions. While other writers had a more optimistic attitude about the prospects for a Trump administration, a majority seems to have seen what was coming. The people who misjudged were those who thought the election of Donald John Trump would bring a period of renewed prosperity, a return of king coal, manufacturing and high wages. President Trump’s vision of America’s greatness seems to be linked to a time of factory smokestacks and company stores.

The United States emerged from World War II as the greatest economic and military power on Earth. The US was not only the sole atomic power but also a model probity. It’s treaty obligations were honored, its bonds were paid 100¢ on the dollar. The US dollar became the world’s reserve currency because of trust in the United States not to devalue the dollar. English became the language of business and the Internet. The US was the most trusted and respected nation on Earth. This was the Pax Americana, and the President of the United States could truly be called the Leader of the Free World.

While this status might be subject to some levels of erosion, the status of the US lasted for 70 years and would have continued if it weren’t for the election of Donald John Trump, who wants to trade a stable world order for a small commercial advantage. President Trump, when a candidate, proposed to pay off the national debt at reduced prices, and renegotiate military treaties or refuse to honor treaties unless our partners were fully up to date on their payments. Nations that felt militarily secure because they were protected by the US could no longer feel the same security.

Last June the Pew Research Center published a report “Low global confidence in Trump leads to lower ratings for US.” Only 22% of those polled had confidence in President Trump’s judgement in world affairs, compared to 64% of respondents in a similar poll who trusted President Obama. Even in the US more people had confidence in Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel than in President Trump.

This lack of confidence in Trump leads to lack of confidence in the US, which in turn leads smaller nations to lose faith in the value of treaties with the US and consider the benefits of an alliance with a regional power.

Last May President Trump, at a meeting of NATO members, failed to explicitly affirm the US’ commitment to Article 5, which states that an attack on one member state is an attack on all. While the Pentagon hurried to reassure the NATO members, inevitably the smaller nations must have had some doubts about how far they could rely on the US. The President of Montenegro (population 622,000) is entitled to wonder if the US would really go to war in Montenegro’s behalf, and might want to sign a friendship pact with Russia. President Putin aspires to turn back the clock to when Russia was the heart of the USSR and a few client nations would fulfill some of his wishes. Other major arms exporters include Germany, France, China and the UK. According to the Congressional Research Service: “In worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2015—to both developed and developing nations—the United States was predominant, ranking first with $40.2 billion in such agreements or 50.29% of all such agreements. France ranked second in worldwide arms transfer agreements in 2015 with $15.3 billion in such global agreements or 19.16%. The value of all arms transfer agreements worldwide in 2015 was $79.9 billion.”

The implications are obvious – for decades, the US has been the primary arms supplier to NATO nations, but if there are doubts about the dependability of the US to defend NATO members, other nations are available to supply modern weapons to NATO forces. President Trump has sacrificed American world leadership, both moral and economic, and very likely taken a major market away from an industry that supported him. The world may never be the same.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living in New York. Email

From The Progressive Populist, September 1, 2017

Blog | Current Issue | Back Issues | Essays | Links

About the Progressive Populist | How to Subscribe | How to Contact Us

Copyright © 2017 The Progressive Populist

PO Box 819, Manchaca TX 78652