by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Carolina Journal Radio listeners already know what National Review Online readers are learning this week: George Washington University professor and former Reagan administration staffer Henry Nau believes that President Trump is pursuing a coherent foreign policy.
You know the old saw: No one knows what Donald Trump thinks, even if his name is “Donald Trump.” True, but let’s try. If we can get beyond the man’s personality, we see that Trump’s foreign policy is actually very conservative and deserves more support from conservatives of all stripes.
Despite the ridicule it has received, “America first” is a good starting principle for American foreign policy. At the Center for the National Interest in April 2016, Trump said, echoing Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher before him, that “the nation-state remains the true foundation for happiness and harmony.” It is the only building block of a truly free — that is, decentralized — international system that accommodates genuine multicultural diversity. In America, Europe, and elsewhere, it is also the incubator of freedom. As Walter Russell Mead writes in the Wall Street Journal, “nationalism — the sense that Americans are bound together into a single people with a common destiny — is a noble and necessary force without which American democracy would fail.” …
… His globalism, however, is nationalist, not universalist. Every country differs. In Saudi Arabia, Trump said: “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.” Shared bonds are constituted from the bottom up, from the roots of the people and the nation, not from the top down, from the rigid ideology of cosmopolitan elites and perfectionist plans of global bureaucrats. And shared bonds are forged in struggle, not preordained by history: “Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of Communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of radical Islam.”
Trump does not reject globalism, in other words, but roots it in nationalism.