America First: The Detrimental Effects of American Primacy

Within his article “Pull Back,” Barry Posen explores the goals of the United States’ current global policy. According to him, the United States is influenced by the desire to maintain American primacy. He states, “Republicans and Democrats may quibble over foreign policy at the margins, but they agree on the big picture: that the United States should dominate the world militarily, economically, and politically, as it has since the final years of the Cold War…” (Posen 1). The bipartisan support for the recent bombing of Syria reflects this shared sentiment.

Despite running on an “America First” platform, the Trump administration has demonstrated that like the administrations before them, Trump’s team will utilize a “militarized and forward-leaning foreign policy” (Posen 2). Early April 2017, President Donald Trump authorized missile strikes against the Syrian government in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s usage of chemical weapons against the Syrian people. The bombing demonstrated American strength and the willingness of the United States to involve itself in foreign affairs. What does this mean? The United States, as an international actor, is motivated by its own interests: national power. The Syrian bombing acted as a stage for a show of the United States’ military might. As stated by Posen, America’s hegemonic culture – its desire to be the best – is costly. And detrimental. Posen cites that 180,000 American troops remained stationed outside of the United States (Posen 1). He, also, states that the United States continues to expand its military budget. Furthermore, he posits that this display of national power causes the United States to make many, formidable enemies.

The Russian government promptly condemned the attack on Syria. Similarly, China has expressed displeasure towards the event. Within his article, Posen alludes that the threat posed by the United States “has driven unnatural partners to cooperate” (2). As Posen concludes, the United States’ current foreign policy strategy is ultimately harmful to American interests by isolating the United States from strong, potential allies (see: China). Moving forward, foreign policy under the Trump administration would benefit from a more “restrained” strategy in which it will refrain from excessive and expensive military use.

(That being said, the precedent set within the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency are not promising.)

–  Rekea

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4 thoughts on “America First: The Detrimental Effects of American Primacy

  1. Rekea, this is a really nice analysis of this piece and the Syria example is obviously so relevant. I agree that it is in the US’s self interest to collaborate with historical allies, and that Trump’s actions make that fairly difficult to maintain.

    However, it is interesting to consider the implications between the US and Russia at the moment. Some would maybe go as far as to call us “frenemies”! I wonder if there is any correlation between Trump’s actions and the allegations (facts) about shady activity between Russia and Trump during the election. It will surely be interesting to see how this plays out. Hopefully it can be a lesson!

    -KV

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  2. I really liked your use of the Syrian example to illustrate America demonstrating its might and power- I agree that it is very much a show. However- it does seem that during the campaign, Trump would tote the rhetoric of ‘America First’ in the context of disengaging our involvement from international situations and focusing on problems at home- a sort of isolationist approach. But, I think you hit the nail on the head in concluding that our intervention in Syria was very much a performance more so than it was a stand against Russia and Assad.
    -Katelyn

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  3. I really enjoyed your connection to Syria, as it is extremely relevant and really hit your point well. It is a strong example for the desire to maintain global dominance, which exists on both sides of the political aisle. Given Trump’s “America First” policies, it will be interesting to see how it plays out in terms of military dominance and the affects it has on our allies and enemies since the actions in Syria seem to go against his previous stances. Although its hard to tell where Trump really stands, giving even more uncertainty to areas such as foreign policy. I’m interested to see where our foreign policy goes in the next four years. I’m with you and my fingers crossed for the future of US foreign policy after the first 100 days of his presidency.
    -Jane

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  4. Hey Rekea,

    Your point about US actions potentially driving “unnatural partners to cooperate” is definitely something to be analyzed. I think there is a real potential that Trump could cause a significant alliance to form, composed of these “unnatural partners,” in order to counter his more active and militarized U.S. foreign policy approach. This also seems to be a theme in Friedman’s book and is definitely something to consider for those who think America will comfortably continue being the world hegemon well into the future.

    – Vlad

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