20 January 2017   Leave a comment

President Trump’s Inaugural Speech today contained a clear signal about how he thinks about American foreign policy.  He said:

“We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.

“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our product, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs.

“Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength.”

The words hearken back to the Administration of Warren G. Harding whose campaign slogan, “A Return to Normalcy”.  The Harding years brought an abrupt end to American involvement in world affairs after World War I.  The word, “protection”, also has an unfortunate resonance with the benighted economic policies that led to and aggravated the Great Depression.   The rest of the world will likely parse out these words to an incredible degree to discover their true meaning.  I will also confess that I personally never thought I would hear the phrase “American carnage” in an Inaugural Speech.

The choice of “America First” as a slogan is singularly unfortunate.  It was the name of an organization in the United States that was adamantly opposed to US participation in World War II.   But many of its members were also highlly sympathetic to the war aims of Adolf Hitler;  according to Susan Dunn, America First was “the name of the isolationist, defeatist, anti-Semitic national organization that urged the United States to appease Adolf Hitler.”  It is most likely that President rump is unaware of the historical context of the phrase.

America First Conference, Chicago, 1941

Related image

The German response to the election of Donald Trump has been among the most negative in all the European countries.  Chancellor Merkel is perhaps the last leader of prominence who continues to support the liberal world order.  The assessment of Mr. Trump and his Cabinet officers is breathtakingly gloomy.  According to Spiegel:

“Government officials in Berlin speak of an ‘astounding mixture of arrogance and naiveté’ when discussing the conversations they have had with counterparts in the incoming administration. Shortly before Christmas, Merkel’s foreign policy adviser Christoph Heusgen traveled to the U.S. for talks with Michael Flynn, tapped by Trump as national security adviser. Around one year ago, Flynn was a paid speaker at an anniversary party for RT, the Russian propaganda broadcaster.

“Heusgen’s first impression of Flynn was sobering. At a conference of conservative parliamentarians in Berlin on Wednesday, Heusgen said that some members of the incoming administration ‘don’t have an exhaustive understanding’ regarding ‘certain problems facing the EU and their backgrounds.’ In other words: The new president’s team doesn’t have a clue about Europe.”

We will see the consequences of a lack of knowledge and an indifferent attitude more quickly than we suspect.

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Posted January 21, 2017 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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