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Making America Small Again
Donald Trump and the Future of U.S. Power

The President underestimates the unique genius of postwar American grand strategy: that by serving others’ interests, the United States has also served its own.

Published on: November 3, 2017
Josef Joffe of TAI’s Executive Committee and Fellow of Stanford’s Hoover Institution. This contribution is based on the author’s Regents Lecture at UC Berkeley in October.
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  • AnonymoussSoldier

    Post-1990 it has been an abysmal failure, and really one could argue since the mid 70s. Relative and comparative American stagnation and even decline. The gambit worked well enough as a bribe, economically and otherwise, to get others to fight the Cold War the US’s way. But this time is over. It also didn’t include caving to economies and regimes, like China and India, that weren’t even on the market until the end of the Cold War.

    • CheckYourself

      Simply put. America didn’t rise to prominence putting others first. And US presidents from Washington to Teddy R. were put American first, and they used tariffs, subterfuge, and force of arms to do it, in our hemisphere and elsewhere. They certainly didn’t let dolts, like Kissinger or Dumsfeld, oh dear I meant Rumsfeld, go play kissy face with Chinese communist autocrats and ship them boat loads of cash and then feign horror that they use our own deficit dollars to finance acquisitions of big US firms, or that they use it to build a larger military and to float it out into the SCS and build some islands, and on and on.

      • RedWell

        There is a vast difference between rising and actually being at the top. They involve different strategies. In the first, you are working the system to rise. In the second, you are trying to define the rules and the politics and the security situation that (1) serves you and (2) helps others so that they don’t get agitated and try to overthrow your leadership.

        And why do we want leadership? It’s inevitable when you have the world’s largest economy! And it is desirable if, again, you think you can shape the world in beneficial ways.

        This notion that working with other states equals “putting others first” is an obviously false dichotomy. What could be more subversive and self-serving than keeping your enemies close? Keeping them locked in an economic system of your own design?

        Put differently: if the US abdicates leadership, who will try to replace it? And someone will try to do that. The zero-sum options are live in a world defined by someone else or be savvy enough to cultivate a world that seems to benefit most others as well as us.

        This idea that the US is “putting others first” is checkers-level strategic thinking. It’s not so simple.

      • Muhammad Peace be Upon Me

        CY, there’s no mystery to it at all. McCarthy was right. The US has been infested with communists since the 1930s. Stalin knew about the bomb before it was even used. Stalin have the bomb somewhere between five and 10 years before he should have.

        McCarthy was so lambasted despite evidence indicating he was correct. That’s precisely what you would expect to see from the system infested with communists and others interested in hurting the US. And then what happens? Commie loving Kissinger and his ilk are out there in the open by the end of the 60s rolling over for Mao and Ho and Le Duc Tho all in the same year.

    • TPAJAX

      “I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America,” the inaugural President George Washington wrote, boasting that these domestic products are “of an excellent quality.”
      One of the first acts of Congress Washington signed was a tariff among whose stated purpose was “the encouragement and protection of manufactures.”
      In his 1790 State of the Union Address, Washington justified his tariff policy for national security reasons.
      Henry Clay said about his disdain for “free traders” that “it is not free trade that they are recommending to our acceptance. It is in effect, the British colonial system that we are invited to adopt; and, if their policy prevails, it will lead substantially to the re-colonization of these States, under the commercial dominion of Great Britain.” Replace GB with China and Germany and a few others.
      Clay said:
      When gentlemen have succeeded in their design of an immediate or gradual destruction of the American System, what is their substitute? Free trade! Free trade! The call for free trade is as unavailing as the cry of a spoiled child, in its nurse’s arms, for the moon, or the stars that glitter in the firmament of heaven. It never has existed; it never will exist. Trade implies, at least two parties. To be free, it should be fair, equal and reciprocal.

      These guys were interested in taking out pirates, like the Barbary Wars, but only because that interfered with US trade, and they used tariffs to ensure a level playing field. Granted, they couldn’t have possibly seen WWI and WWII coming, or the Cold War. So, as you say, with China and India and the USSR off the market, and the industrial world in ruin save for America, “free trade” and others one sided favors made sense. No longer!

  • Bankotsu

    “The United States, by contrast, is an “empire by invitation,” not by imposition.”

    That’s bullshit.

    If the other vassals don’t join up and submit to U.S, U.S. will bomb the shit out of them or instigate coups to overthrow their governments.

    Shame on the writer for pushing this drivel.

    “The United States, by contrast, is an “empire by invitation,” not by imposition.”

    Ludicrous statement.

    U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II

    https://williamblum.org/books/killing-hope

  • Bankotsu

    “The President underestimates the unique genius of postwar American grand strategy: that by serving others’ interests, the United States has also served its own.”

    Yes, but the “others” interests must be aligned with American interests, otherwise, see:

    U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II

    https://williamblum.org/books/killing-hope

    How about U.S. serving Russia, China and Iran interests?

  • Bankotsu

    I must say, this is one of the stupidest article yet on this website.

    I am still waiting for Larry Diamond to write his neo con article calling for war on Russia and China, lol.

  • Pait

    Alternates randomly between the restraint of Barack Obama and the overreach of Andrew Jackson, but with an ineffectiveness all of his own. Yes, that seems to sum it up.

    Russian trolls will disagree, as usual.

    • Psalms13626

      Of course, how can we forget. Everybody who disagrees with Pait’s specific brand of TDS is a Russian troll. But why do you think Democrats will disagree with you. They share the TDS you so proudly display.

      • Pait

        I suppose you’d rather side with the comments that were deleted in this page. They were racist but in favor of Trump, so you’re on their side.

        • Psalms13626

          Yes. We already determined that as a sign of advance TDS, you developed a delusion that you have a gift of clairvoyance and is able to know what other people think and feel. I don’t know what to tell you, except that there are pills for that. Your mental illness is treatable, but the first step is always recognizing you have a problem.

        • D4x

          All deleted comments in this one thread were from ONE very irate TAI subscriber: Bankotsu. He has been unhinged since the Oct. 18, 2017 TAI relaunch into The AntiPutin NeverTrump Interest, trapped in an amber of a “Liberal International Order” that only existed on paper, and in imaginations and scripted talking points, since the 1960’s.

    • FluffyFooFoo

      Trump is probably going to be the most effective foreign policy President in our lifetime.

  • FriendlyGoat

    America either is the voice of friendship, or it is the voice of something else. We either lead with a transparent desire for all people to uphold human rights, to protect the environment, to promote peace, to avoid war, to keep religions (and other ideologies such as Marxism)subservient to kindness and to prosper in place with our help and blessing—–or we give the permanent impression that we embrace ignorance and selfishness. DJT is mouthing away the hard-won moral high ground that a lot of Americans died to put in place. Maybe our grandkids get it back someday. Maybe they don’t.

    • Anthony

      Wherever I find you these days, I pass on something of interest: https//washingtonmonthly.com/magazine/novemberdecember-2017/what-j-d-vance-doesnt-get-about-appalachia/

      • FriendlyGoat

        Thanks. As you know, I sometimes reply to you by speaking “off the wall”, especially in response to these “hard” issue articles. Please don’t take it personally.

        We will probably someday discover that it is cheaper and happier to do subsidized make-work projects than to deal with the maladies of poverty and depression. Would we rather build public works, or spend money on avoidable poor health, various addictions and incarceration?

        • Anthony

          I don’t, you’re welcome, and well stated.

    • FluffyFooFoo

      America would have never come into existence if you had been around in Washington’s and Jackson’s lifetime. You would have let the Indians keep their land. Sad!

      • FriendlyGoat

        Do you live somewhere where you conquer your neighbors? If so, where is that? Tell me about your laws. Okay to shoot ’em there?

        • FluffyFooFoo

          Haha… yeah, Earth. Obviously, we don’t live in an era of land expansion. But the world is still the same. People are after whatever is they’re after. You can promote love and blah, blah, blah words (read international law) all you want to, but that didn’t stop ISIS. It won’t stop the Buddhists in Myanmar. It hasn’t stopped the Castros in Cuba or the Chavistas in Venezuela. Putin still can blow up Dutch planes, invade Ukraine, and annex Crimea. Words have also totally defeated Assad in Syria, overthrown the Communist Party in China, and saved the girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

          Trump is different though… he will treat Putin, Xi, Rocket Man, and others like Andrew Jackson treated John C. Calhoun… he’ll manhandled them into submission. People like you don’t have what it takes to bend men like Putin and Xi to your will.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Putin sought to elect Trump. Why would that be? Because he expected to be manhandled or bent? No, he calculated that Trump will give Russia whatever it wants.
            And that is exactly what is happening.

          • FluffyFooFoo

            Believe whatever you want to believe, but that’s just not the truth and history doesn’t bear that out. Putin took whatever he wanted while Obama was in office. Putin invaded Ukraine and annexed Crimea. He got away with shooting down an airliner full of Dutch people. Intimidated the likes of the Scandanavian and Baltic States. And most importantly Putin totally thwarted Obama’s attempt to take down Assad with words. Assad out lasted Obama in large part thanks to Putin.

            This won’t happen while Trump is President. Just wait and see. Witness how much better behaved Putin is going to be. While Trump is in charge Putin, Xi, and all others are just losers.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If what you’re saying made any sense, Russia would have been helping Clinton for its own advantage.

          • FluffyFooFoo

            I’m afraid you don’t know what Russia was doing. You’re just like Obama.

          • FriendlyGoat

            They wanted Trump because they saw him as disinterested in the internal affairs of Russia. Those “internal affairs” are the perpetuation of Putinism and “let’s make a deal for which countries can be in whose orbit. You want Syria? Okay. You wish NATO was toothless? Okay. You want to cuddle with Iran? Okay.

          • FluffyFooFoo

            Yet Trump’s foreign policy doesn’t support these Russian goals. You are so confused.

          • FriendlyGoat

            We could explain this by saying that Putin is gullible and had no idea what he would be getting in a Trump presidency? That he thought Hillary would be problematic for Russia and Trump would be easier to push over?

          • FluffyFooFoo

            I completely disagree with you. I don’t think that is an accurate assessment.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Okay.

        • Anthony
      • Jim__L

        Not true. There were a lot of people like FG in Washington’s and Jackson’s lifetime.

        America came into existence in spite of them. =)

        • FluffyFooFoo

          Well said. Very true.

          • Jim__L

            Don’t let people like FG get you down.

            Just don’t let people like FG get elected, either. 🙂 At least, as far as one can, morally and legally.

  • D4x

    Institutions, like buildings, highways, bridges, parks, or ice skating rinks need proper maintenance, or major restoration after seventy or eighty years. Built in 1932, restored after purchase at auction in 2009: Old Post Office Chicago: Before and after restoration of hollow metal steel windows https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e30e3dd8572943b226427a48f13489408c86b5c8d66fff58fedd0ec579321563.gif
    Restored steel window at center is flanked by non-restored windows exterior-view-uspo1 https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/dd26268808fea633759ef004e3c7057ec35de382907d7f90742e731648b82440.jpg http://chicagowindowexpert.com/windowtags/historic-window-renovation/
    p.s. it was not Trump-the-builder who rescued the Old Post Office in Chicago. Trump did it with the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., the illegal dump at Ferry Point, The Bronx; and, in 1986, the Wollman Skating Rink in Central Park.

    This pap by Joffe reminded me of how decrepit all of Central Park became, until the private Central Park Conservancy stepped in to restore the decrepitude wrought by the City of New York http://www.centralparknyc.org/about/ That private Restoration started with the Conservatory Garden in 1983.

    One, of many, new windows, which offer a clear view of POTUS Trump’s remodeling/renovation/restoration in progress:
    “a free, open, and thriving Indo-Pacific.” Oct. 18, 2017 https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2017/10/274913.htm

    I have posted so many other ‘windows’ here at TAI that I now wonder how so many ‘smart’ people can be so incuriously ignorant.
    Josef Joffe is blinded by his confirmation bias, and abuses his many institutional pulpits. J’accuse!
    But this is so deviously damaging to the Interests of all Americans:
    J’accuse!

  • Gary Hemminger

    I love it when the elite don’t get their way. “The American empire might be saved.” What a total joke of a statement. The hysterics coming from the elite is laughable. As if fire and brimstone is coming our way with Trump as president. Meanwhile over on the left, they are going full scale socialist on us. The issue isn’t Trump. The issue is that for far too long the left and the right have simply given up being political parties and are now so captured by their ideology that they cannot negotiate any sort of compromise with themselves or the opposition party. Whatever ideology they have must be followed or you are evil. It simply doesn’t work anymore. Just like it doesn’t work for the Weinstein’s and Spacey’s of the world anymore. Did the elite really think Trump was going to do all of the crazy stuff he promised? Has no one read Scott Adams blog about pacing and leading? The elite have gone mad. When Trump says something it is always to be thought of as exactly what he wants to do. When Iranian or North Korean dictators say something, it is to be ignored. Someone needs to tell the elites to grow up and learn that sometimes people just spout nonsense.

  • Psalms13626

    Oh please. There is nothing wrong with acting like an alpha once in a while. Hussein apologized enough.

  • I agree with Mr. Joffe about Trump’s zero-sum transactionalism. That will diminish American power whatever other philosophical principles he holds. I also agree that Trump and Obama are more than superficially similar regards foreign policy. Finally, I concur that globalization has benefited everybody, and I am sorry to see the moment pass.

    But–and it’s a big one–I think our new attitude is a reflection of circumstance, and while Trump may echo them or even speed them along, he is not the creator of our very different world.

    I urge Mr. Joffe to read Peter Zeihan’s books, “The Accidental Superpower” and “The Absent Superpower.” If you don’t want to read that much you can read my reviews (linked below), which are much shorter and not entirely favorable. But I do agree with Mr. Zeihan’s basic premise.

    Review of The Accidental Superpower: http://trotskyschildren.blogspot.com/2017/10/book-review-accidental-superpower.html
    Review of The Absent Superpower: http://trotskyschildren.blogspot.com/2017/10/book-review-absent-superpower.html

  • FluffyFooFoo

    I usually enjoy Josef Joffe’s writings, but not this. Trump isn’t the problem.. it is the globalist elite, Joffe included. China loves Trumpism because it can “posture as guardian of global goodness”? That says jack diddly about Trump, and everything about Joffe’s class. They’ll love them some authoritarian, expansionist, anti-liberty Chinese Communist Party leaders because they just know how to genuflect to their interests and Weltanschauung.

    Remember Josef… Jackson made America great by taking what he wanted in the name of his vision of America. And the world we live in today is still the exact same. Putin and Xi are to John C. Calhoun, as Trump is to Andrew Jackson. If they try to upset the world order, they will get bullied into submission. With Trump in charge they’re just losers. Obama was your man Josef… and Putin was blowing up Dutch people, invading Ukraine, annexing Crimea, and keeping Assad in power. Them days are over.

    Do you understand Josef?

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