Skip to main content

Carla Norrlof is the author of America's Global Advantage and an associate professor at the University of Toronto

By electing Donald Trump as President, the United States is embarking on a historic shift away from Pax Americana, the liberal international order in place since the Second World War. Mr. Trump has promised to renegotiate international treaties from trade to the environment to security. If he sets his agenda in motion, far-reaching consequences await.

Global warming, trade wars, currency wars, wars of religion, shooting wars and – sorry, we cannot rule this out – great power confrontation is on the table. With Republican control of Congress, Mr. Trump has the power to enact policies that will cause great disruption.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Trump believes America has lost its greatness and that he can restore it by applying business tactics to world politics. By playing hardball in negotiations, he thinks he will get better deals for the United States.

President Trump is not the first to pursue an aggressive line with commercial partners and allies, but he is the first to question the institutional fabric of the postwar order.

Every president since 1945 has supported Pax Americana, which promises peaceful interstate relations and an open world economy backstopped by U.S. military power. Today, bipartisan support for that vision is under the gun.

We're not flipping between President Carter and President Reagan. This is a tectonic shift. The political consensus for Pax Americana in the Beltway was so strong that policy-makers failed to imagine that American democracy could smack it around, much less give it a knockout punch. Mr. Trump has delivered a death blow to that certainty. It will forever change U.S. foreign-policy debates.

By egging on the isolationist alternative, he shifted the political needle toward a middle road of selective engagement. That strategy proposes to restrict America's foreign entanglements to situations where core U.S. interests are at stake. Ironically, Mr. Trump has forever placed the Obama administration's policy of restraint on the political map.

On trade, he advocates protectionist measures against China, which in the worst-case scenario could spark a generalized trade war where all countries raise barriers. Mr. Trump also rejects the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the agreement regulating trade between 11 other Pacific Rim countries. And he says he is ready to use exchange-rate policy for export advantage. If other countries try to limit the damage, we will also have a currency war on our hands. The dollar's role as global reserve currency could come under attack. And given Mr. Trump's skepticism about climate change, it is unlikely that the U.S. will remain in the recent Paris accord.

Mr. Trump ran a divisive campaign, proposing to ban immigration of Muslims from so-called "terror states," creating backlash with Muslims that could provoke a religious war.

Story continues below advertisement

His failure to distance himself from white supremacists and his incendiary remarks about Mexicans will haunt America for a long time.

One of the United States's unique advantages is its geographical position, far removed from hostile rivals. Proposing to build a giant wall to keep neighbours out is not the best way to maintain friendly relations. Further away from home, Mr. Trump has suggested yanking U.S. troops from their forward positions, abandoning allies in Europe and East Asia, creating a power vacuum in key strategic regions and a window of opportunity for a free-for-all land grab.

The United States's main geopolitical rivals, China, Russia and Iran, are watching. The president will work to prevent further territorial claims in the South China Sea. A wise policy. But threatening to water down security pledges to Japan and South Korea, encouraging nuclear proliferation and potentially stimulating an arms race in Asia is reckless. North Korea has endorsed Mr. Trump's East Asia policy, which could set off a major power collision.

In the Middle East, Mr. Trump pledges support for Israel primarily by strong-arming Iran on the nuclear deal through more sanctions. Other than bombing "the hell out of ISIS-controlled oil fields," he has hinted that his counterterrorism policy consists in handing Syria to Russia. If Russia gets a free pass in the Middle East, Europeans will have to live next door to Russia in a time when U.S. security guarantees are strictly quid pro quo.

The new president-elect is essentially promising an end to American leadership in the world, which in the long run poses a serious threat not only to friends and allies, but to America itself.

Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter