Elias: Reprieve from U.S. Dominance

Trump’s nationalist policy has the international community jumping for joy.

by Chantal Elias | 2/22/19 2:15am

 As a loather of the current President of the United States, I was surprised by my ability to find merit in one of Donald Trump’s main policies. While pondering the consequences of American dominance (a favorite activity of mine), I realized that, in a twisted sense, “Making America Great Again” is the answer to my prayers. I am an advocate for the reduction of power of nation-states and the growth of pan-global institutions. I believe that the dominance of one nation should be a fixture of the past and the remains of an old world order. 

At his State of the Union address, President Trump reiterated his commitment to “Make America Great Again,” a slogan that has remained steadfast throughout both his campaign and presidency thus far. His MAGA cries have driven away many Americans, with their calls for nationalism over international cooperation and the strengthening of a state sealed in by high barriers to entry, both literally and metaphorically. Despite the troubling nature of this nationalism, enveloped in this dogma is the hint of an America that is less involved abroad in countries’ domestic issues. Since the nation’s shift to an interventionist strategy after World War I, Americans have taken it upon themselves to be the defenders of democratic government and values around the world. Such an understanding has led to extensive American influence in foreign elections, development efforts and a continuous global U.S. military presence. It has been the general understanding that if the U.S. does not step in, who will? 

The answer to this question really should be the United Nations. In the wake of World War II, country leaders identified a gaping hole in the maintenance of international peace. The founding of a global institution tasked with the sole goal of keeping the peace was intended to reduce inter-state conflict and to mediate hostility by replacing violence with diplomatic discussions. It is evident, though, in hindsight, that the U.N. founding framework is far too constraining. 

Unless a country grants the U.N. access into their country, the international body can have little influence on scaling down violence and restoring peace. To compensate for the shortfalls of the U.N., the United States has utilized its independent nationhood and ready access into foreign countries to establish itself as the champion of peace. For this, people should be thankful. American service has been fundamental in maintaining relative world harmony since the mid-20th century. It is not the past I am interested in criticizing, but rather the current world order and how the future of world peacekeeping should be guided. The reality is that, along with the meritorious traits of American foreign missions, oodles of problems have been created in the recipient nations as a result. 

U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Vietnam, Syria, Philippines, Kosovo, Somalia, the majority of Latin American nations, Yemen and Iraq (to name just a few) has been crippling for nations that want to have agency over the running of their country. More often than not, the initial American participation is not the issue, but rather its prolonged presence. The 1975 Operation Condor is one of the best examples of American involvement gone awry. In pursuit of democratic hegemony, the U.S. implemented a policy of suppression to political opponents in South America in order to eradicate the threat of Communism. It is estimated that at least 60,000 deaths can be attributed to Operation Condor. One must ask, if America had not gotten involved, would the death count have been so high? Is American participation abroad causing more problems than it is solving? Of course, I am not proposing that the international community remain silent when confronted with violence. Rather, I am suggesting that the United Nations be the body that intervenes, not the U.S. — a country that has its own agenda and a host of complex international relations to manage. 

It is not a stretch to hypothesize that nations with a history of U.S. presence are jumping for joy at the prospect that the U.S. may be scaling back its foreign involvement. Certainly, it is almost impossible to imagine a world in which America is not the leader and biggest stakeholder in every conflict. But there is a fundamental problem with the United States taking on the role of the United Nations. It creates an unfair global power balance, puts a strain on U.S. resources and creates a host of problems in the recipient nations. If anything, continuous foreign intervention has been one of the biggest perpetrators of international dislike for this country. 

Moving forward, it’s important to capitalize on President Trump’s goal to scale back foreign involvement to construct a new framework of world peacekeeping. At the simplest level, no one knows who is in charge. The global consensus seems to be, however, that the dominant voice of peace should not be a nation but rather an international organization that is representative of the world’s voices. As the United Nations exists today, its mandate is not sufficient enough to replace the role of America. The U.N. principles should be rewritten to allow U.N. peacekeepers to enter a country without having to gain the government’s approval. There must be a set of guidelines that outline when it is acceptable to enter a nation, what to do when a government has gone rogue and the duration in which foreign entities should be involved in domestic affairs. More likely than not, if these changes are not made to the U.N., and Trump follows through with his policy, the world will be left without a voice to take charge of international affairs. 

So while Trump sees his nationalist policy as an opportunity to make America stronger, I see it as a chance to reflect on the global power dynamics and to consider the future of international decision-making. As Trump seeks to prop up America by building internally, U.S. involvement on the international stage will take a hiatus. If tackled carefully, this may give us a chance to “Make the World Great Again.”