Donald Trump wanted 'America First.' He got 'America alone.' - Macleans.ca
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Donald Trump wanted ‘America First.’ He got ‘America alone.’

Scott Gilmore: Trump cancelling his trip to Britain is a watershed moment, marking a sad decline of the ‘Special Relationship’ and American power


 

British Prime Minister Theresa May meets U.S President Donald Trump during the G20 summit on July 8, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

What has been the most important country-to-country alliance of the last 200 years? You might say the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. But for all the ensuing carnage that unleashed, its duration could be measured in months.

There was the Moscow and Beijing alliance that helped define the Cold War. But that was off and on, and it was never quite clear if they were really on the same side.

The Canadian at the back of the class eagerly waving his hand wants to talk about the “world’s longest undefended border and largest trading relationship,” but neither of those facts are still true and the Ottawa-Washington nexus has very little influence beyond North America.

I would argue that the British-American alliance has been, by far, the most important bilateral relationship in the world for at least the last century. America sprung from Britain and even two direct wars never pushed Washington to cut those strong cultural and strategic ties. The direct ties between presidents and prime ministers dictated the outcome of the both the First and Second World Wars.

America’s strong influence accelerated Britain’s decolonization, remapping the entire world. Whitehall and the White House provided the bedrock upon which NATO was built. London’s Atlantic tendencies allowed it to always keep one foot outside of the EU. And together, the two nations fought the Cold War almost hand in hand.

READ MORE: How one Donald Trump tweet could end the world

Their alliance is even referred to in short hand as the “Special Relationship,” capitalized as a unique thing. And this relationship has typically been embodied in the necessary but nonetheless seemingly natural close personal relationship between the president and the prime minister.

When you think about this trans-Atlantic alliance, the image that most likely springs to mind is that of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, laughing together. But now, even after last year’s polite meeting between Prime Minister Theresa May and President Trump, when she appeared to steady his descent down a step by holding his hand, the idea of Downing Street and the Oval Office as natural allies seems like a quaint anachronism.

The Trump presidency is an endless snowstorm of distractions. There is a constant white-out of outrages, faux pas, errors and scandals. The wind blows in every direction and the lead story changes on an hourly basis. CNN now maintains a “Trump Live Updates” feed as though this was an unfolding natural disaster (which I suppose at this point we can acknowledge it is).

Consider just yesterday. The day began with a tweet from the president condemning one of his own key pieces of legislation that was about to be voted on, sending his party into chaos. A group of former nuclear launch officers wrote an open letter to Congress calling the president a “clear and present danger to the country.” Trump gave an incoherent interview to the Wall Street Journal—when asked about his feud with former Svengali Stephen Bannon, he rambled on for several minutes about his record in college sports among other things. A poll showed Oprah Winfrey already enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls, and she hasn’t even admitted she wants to run yet. In a meeting with legislators, the president derided the idea that America should accept immigrants from Africa, a “shithole.” And then the day closed with news Trump had just cancelled his long-delayed trip to London.

Understandably, that last one was lost in the blizzard of chyron news flashes. Which is unfortunate, because it may be the most momentous event of the week, and it marks a significant milestone in the historic transformation of America’s role in the world.

The president claimed it was because he was unhappy with President Barack Obama’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to a less central location. (That was, in fact, former president George W. Bush’s decision.) But sources in both Washington and London claimed the decision was made because Trump wanted to avoid the unfriendly reception he would get from both British officials and the public.

This is undoubtedly the truth. Trump has openly feuded with the Mayor of London. British activists have long been promising massive protests. Downing Street had already downgraded the visit, to avoid inflicting Trump on the Queen, it was rumoured. May was likely unenthusiastic and relieved at the cancellation; not only is the president highly unpopular, but he is not especially useful.

The links between London and Washington have rarely been this weak. They are no longer lined up on European security, NATO, cyber attacks, the Middle East, Iran, North Korea, climate change, the United Nations or multilateralism in general. This list could go on.

And these points of tension are not just limited to Britain. For all of Washington’s traditional allies, from Japan to Germany, it is getting harder and harder to find common ground. It has been noted by many diplomatic observers that Trump’s strategy of “America First” has proven to simply mean “America alone”.

The United States is withdrawing into itself. It is seen as increasingly unreliable. In many cases, Washington is actively working against the priorities of once close friends. And the dual facts that the president had to cancel his trip to Britain because he was unwelcome, and that this decision barely generated news, is yet more proof that the days of the Special Relationship may be over, and with it the American Century.

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Donald Trump wanted ‘America First.’ He got ‘America alone.’

  1. America alone is quickly becoming America shunned.

    • Proof or are you just wishing?

      The only countries that are shunning the US are the shithole countries (and having visited Europe in the last two years I include most of western Europe and the UK). Eastern Europe is lining up to support the US (did you read his speech in Poland and the reaction of the Poles to it – didn’t sound like shunning to me). The moderates in the Middle East are lining up to work with the US and Israel to defeat the terrorists generated by Iran.

    • Surely people remember that a few weeks ago the UK voted against the US at the UN security council on Jerusalem.

      Trump said he would not forget! I would not read too much into it.

      Even on issues if Iran at this time the UK & US are not seeing eye to eye.

  2. Some day in the future, we may learn that Her Royal Highness heard Trump’s s***hole comment and said, “we are not amused” and laid down the law. Phone calls were made and U.K. allowed Trump to bow out gracefully (as much as possible, that is) and make his own pathetic and paltry excuse for ‘cancelling’ the visit. And of course, he couldn’t even do that gracefully.

  3. And with 350+ million people the US is going to do OK. There will be plenty of countries that will align with the US. The main fault that the progressive left see with Trump is his nasty habit of putting America first – the horrors. If only our PM would once in a while put Canadians first.

    • Are you delusional?No country can survive without trading partners .Trump is nothing more than an egotistic,self centered showman.He is perhaps the greatest con artist since P.T. Barnum and and apparently he has you conned.Wake up ,as this article states,the American century is over and all of Trump’s barring immigrants and building walls and cancelling trade agreements will only speed up the process of your countries decline.Good lick with being disliked by the rest of the world

      • Trump has clearly stated he wants bilateral rather than multilateral trade. And the world will line up to participate in those bilateral trade deals. Every country wants to trade with the biggest economy in the world which is getting bigger (an safer) daily because of Trump’s policies. I’d be happier if Trump left and Pence took over. Then they could get on implementing what Trump got elected to do without all of the distraction and drama.

      • You make it sound like Trump will never sign a trade agreement – poppycock – he has never held that position. But what he will not do is sign trade agreements that put the US at a disadvantage. Trade agreements will be beneficial to both countries. Which is one of the reasons he is not keen on these multi-country agreements – it lets way too much slide under the radar while a one-to-one trade agreement can be clearer and identify areas where both countries benefit.

        • @Maureen55 – you’ve clearly not been paying attention. While it is true that Trump has stated a preference for bilateral agreements (likely because, as a businessman, that is what he thinks he knows), his interest is not in a mutually beneficial agreement. His preference is for an agreement which has a distinct bias in favour of American interests. While this might be something you can achieve when negotiating a hotel lease or management contract for a golf course, it is more difficult when dealing with nation states where the folks back home, the “shareholders” if you will, have an opinion and a vote. It might be telling to list any agreements he has signed with any nation state on trade since coming to power….I count…none. Put another way, his “America First” agenda is one that assumes the U.S. holds all the cards when in fact, the reality of a globally integrated economy is quite the opposite. Take all the Chinese goods out of Walmart and there is not much left on the shelves….

        • Maureen, I’m willing to bet the US will not sign any trade deals as long as this is their “supreme leader”… not because the US doesn’t want / need them, but simply because no country in this world trusts a deal signed with Trump. He might just wake up tomorrow and decide that he would like to “renegotiate” his best deal of all times…
          As for multilateral trade agreements… Trump approached a few European countries to demand one on one trade deals and was laughed out of the room. The idiot didn’t understand that in a common market economy, trade is the core competency of the union (no single member can negotiate / close any trade deals).
          Trade deals that put the US at a disadvantage? Are you kidding? Nobody ever forced the US to sign such deals… and quite frankly, if there was no benefit to the US from said deals (perhaps you care to elaborate exactly which trade deals you are talking about?) they should not have signed. To the best of my knowledge, all international trade deals benefit all signatories. Otherwise they would make no sense. To the contrary, it might very well be that the US has taken advantage of it’s position and achieved trade deals, that benefit the US more than the other signatories.
          Having gone back and seen your first post in this forum, you are clearly a reality denier… Western Europe are “s@*%&$e” countries and terrorists generated by Iran? You seem to have a very twisted comprehension of this world…

  4. The world according to Scott. The fact that CNN has “live update” on Trump is earth shattering. Maybe they should take the time to get things right instead of reporting errors.

    If you think the UK-US relationship is over because Trump canceled a visit you’re sadly mistaken. The UK needs the US more than the US needs the UK, like much of the world needs the US more than they need them. That’s the reality.

  5. I guess Don Jr. will not be warmly welcomed in Africa when he makes another
    big game hunting trip there.   Another contribution to the swear jar by Daddy.

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