During his brief tenure as president of the United States, the most compelling question for Donald Trump has been how he will reconcile the U.S. role as leader of the Western world with his “America First” agenda. There is no necessary contradiction between a desire to “Make America Great Again” and global leadership, but there have been fears that the U.S. would turn its back on the world in pursuit of narrowly defined nationalism. If last week’s Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg is any indication, the worst fears are justified. Trump has no interest in global leadership, and is prepared to endure international isolation as he doggedly follows his instincts and his agenda.
Disdain for multilateralism has been a core component of the Trump presidency; he believes that the U.S. can bring its might to bear more effectively and force outcomes more congenial to U.S. interests in bilateral settings. He believes “the global community” is a rhetorical trick to impose excessive and unfair burdens on his country.
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