President Trump’s inaugural address has been characterized as “dark” and “unprecedented”. Thankfully it was short and certainly was devoid of much flowery language. One might think Trump’s purpose was not to build inclusiveness, in fact.
Could his purpose have been to simply stir the pot, put everyone on notice, and see who flinches?
Let’s begin with the State and Defense Departments. The following words taken from the inaugural text captures his intent to “reposition” American foreign policy.
We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.
We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.
Most recent Administrations have explicitly advocated America’s role in championing “the spread of American-style democracy” including emphasis on human rights, calling out nations whom our State Department dubs as bad actors. Sanctions, isolation, and even military intervention have followed. Remember nation building in Afghanistan and regime change, followed by nation building in Iraq? One could justly claim these initiatives were intended to advance democracy and improve human rights. After these costly ventures, our eyes find a huge waste of money as well as a dismal failure versus our stated objective.
Putting the scarcity of success aside, each of these previous Administrations has also failed to hold a mirror up and examine just what type of democracy and human rights examples the US projected. For example, the US incarcerates more of its citizens than any other modern country. The US’ use of capital punishment places the country in the company of third world countries. Don’t overlook the convenient use of torture in the aftermath of 9/11. And, healthcare outcomes for African Americans and poor citizens are sharply inferior to whites and wealthy Americans.
So repositioning US foreign policy is not a meritless proposal. The US is not a flawless model and our track record of intervention is abysmal.
Repositioning will not be a walk in the park. The world without some form of American leadership could by default nominate other far less worthy nations into leadership. While wars seem to be part of the human condition, it has been almost 75 years since world wars have been the foreign policy choice of relationship. Repositioning may be akin to putting a stick down once someone has stuck the stick into a bees nest. Dramatic repositioning may be very difficult.
The Trump Administration might also recognize the irony that on Friday, President Trump gave his inaugeral speech and on Monday, as one of his first official acts, the President signed an executive order that reimposes a ban on the use of US funds in any country where the funding might be used to inform those countries’ residents about abortions.
Where did “We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone” suddenly go?