Despite all the lies and distortions, President Donald Trump has spent his first week in office assembling a coherent and well-planned framework for foreign policy. It is hiding in plain sight—frequently missed in the storm of tweets and the attacks on domestic enemies. Read as a whole and in detail, with attention to their larger single-minded purpose, Trump’s executive orders are the blueprints for the most significant shift in American foreign policy since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.
The latest drafts of executive orders, several of which the president will reportedly sign Friday at the Pentagon, are bold and breathtaking in their reach. They are strategic and transformative. They are also poised to destroy the foundations for the last 70 years of American-led peace and prosperity. The orders question the very ideas of cooperation and democracy, embodying an aggressive commitment to “America First” above all else. So much for the “defense of the free world,” and the “march of freedom”—obvious soft-headed “loser” ideas for the new team of White House cynics.
Trump is launching a direct attack on the liberal international order that really made America great after the depths of the Great Depression. It is a system of multilateral trade and alliances that we built to serve our interests and attract others to our way of life. Through the European Recovery Program (the Marshall Plan), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (now the World Trade Organization), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, among other institutions, the United States led a postwar capitalist system that raised global standards of living, defeated Soviet communism, and converted China to a market economy. Through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Europe and a web of alliances in Asia and the Middle East, the United States contained aggressive states, nurtured stable allies, and promoted democratic reforms when possible. American power is unmatched around the world because it can work through consensual relations with partners in every region. None of our rivals have as many friends, and none of our rivals can count on as much support abroad.