The Brilliant Incoherence of Trump’s Foreign Policy

Published in THE ATLANTIC

“A favore della libertà, del progresso nazionale, e dell’onore, sia pubblici sia privati”, è il motto di The Atlantic, storica rivista statunitense, fondata nel 1857, con base a Washington, la prima a pubblicare articoli di riformatori e abolizionisti. Oggi a completare la rivista, c’è un curato sito internet, con aggiornamenti quotidiani su politica estera e interna, scienza, tecnologia, economia e cultura contemporanea.

Ogni vent’anni, o giù di lì, gli Americani si chiedono quale sia il proprio posto nel mondo, se intervenire o restare a guardare. Trump ha promesso ai suoi cittadini di fare entrambe le cose, dimostrando, sin dai primi goffissimi passi, una brillante incoerenza. 

Every 20 years or so—the regularity is a little astonishing—Americans hold a serious debate about their place in the world. What, they ask, is going wrong? And how can it be fixed? The discussion, moreover, almost always starts the same way. Having extricated itself with some success from a costly war, the United States then embraces a scaled-down foreign policy, the better to avoid overcommitment. But when unexpected challenges arise, people start asking whether the new, more limited strategy is robust enough. Politicians and policy makers, scholars and experts, journalists and pundits, the public at large, even representatives of other governments (both friendly and less friendly) all take part in the back-and-forth. They want to know whether America, despite its decision to do less, should go back to doing more—and whether it can.

The reasons for doubt are remarkably similar from one period of discussion to the next. Some argue that the U.S. economy is no longer big enough to sustain a global role of the old kind, or that domestic problems should take priority. Others ask whether the public is ready for new exertions. The foreign-policy establishment may seem too divided, and a viable consensus too hard to reestablish. Many insist that big international problems no longer lend themselves to Washington’s solutions, least of all to military ones. American “leadership,” it is said, won’t work so well in our brave new world.