Future historians may one day write about the “Trump Revolution” in foreign policy.  President Trump broke with cajoling and complaining to China about its predatory economic policies.  He chose tariffs, the harassment of major Chinese corporations, and a diplomatic warm-up with Taiwan.  The Biden administration has, so far, stuck with those policies or even extended them.  President Trump broke with just trying to coerce North Korea through decades of ineffective economic sanctions.  He chose to talk to the North Korean dictator after North Korea demonstrated that it had acquired both inter-continental ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons in spite of those sanctions.  He did this in spite of much expert opinion that the barbarian Kim should not have been allowed an audience with the emperor without having made some kind of offer of tribute.  Now, President Biden has expressed a willingness to meet with Kim.  President Trump openly disparaged the value of NATO (as opposed to Britain) and behaved rudely when Angela Merkel came to call.  President Biden leads a revived NATO not because Vladimir Putin launched a war of aggression in Ukraine, but because the Ukrainian people chose to fight and have a leader of commanding moral authority. 

            The Biden administration and those that come after it [1]will have to deal with the Trump legacy, but also with current and future problems.[2]  Covid, the troubles of global supply-chains, pressures to shift off Russian energy exports, and now Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian food exports look to have unpredictable long-term consequences as well as harsh short-term ones. 

            One lesson for all concerned might be that advanced countries that depend upon imported  energy sources (oil, natural gas) give hostages to fortune.  At the moment, that energy comes from Russia (in the case of Central and Western Europe) and the Persian Gulf (in the case of China).  That dependence opens energy-importers to pressure from the exporters.  Over the long-run, European countries that substitute American energy sources for Russian ones merely make those countries vulnerable to American pressure.  While the Messiah tarries on “green” energy, it is possible that nuclear power will become the energy source of choice for those desiring national or regional independence.  Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island offer alarming examples of what can go wrong, but that doesn’t mean that people will not find solutions.[3]

            American politics seems to have been tilting toward protectionism since the Trump administration.[4]  Yet protectionism clashes with the American-sponsored international economic system created since the Second World War.  Individuals in many foreign countries are powerfully attracted by American democracy and economic opportunity.  Hence the tide of immigration that is one force troubling American policy.  That isn’t the same as many foreign countries being attracted by those things.  This matters because a dynamic American economy that is open to foreign goods plays a vital role in holding other countries to American leadership.  Most of America’s current economic troubles—chiefly inflation—will pass in a few years.  Will the United States still be a pro-free trade nation afterward? 

            “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.” 

[1] Please God, not Kamala Harris. 

[2] Walter Russell Mead, “Managing a World Order in Crisis,” WSJ, 24 May 2022. 

[3] For example, figure out everything that the Soviets did, then don’t do any of those things. 

[4] Please God, not “the first Trump administration.” 

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