Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 U.S. presidential election has prompted a major reassessment of the United States’ global role—the most fundamental rethinking since the immediate aftermath of World War II.
I am not a neutral or independent observer. I was Hillary Clinton’s running mate last fall. We won the popular vote handily but lost where it counts: in the Electoral College. Following the election, I returned to the U.S. Senate, which is now engaged in a task that would have seemed surreal a few years ago: the review of successful efforts by the Russian government to interfere in an American presidential election. Many questions remain to be answered—and answered they will be.
But the election is over, and Trump is in place. Much effort is now being expended to figure out his administration’s priorities, yet it is already clear that Trump’s election will continue at least one trend that has been under way since the collapse of the Soviet Union. For some 40 years following World War II, the United States had a fairly coherent foreign policy, which both parties supported. That policy—the Truman Doctrine—saw the world as a bipolar competition between the Soviet bloc and the U.S.-led bloc. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, however, the Truman Doctrine lost its viability. Although fragments of the strategy still shape U.S. thinking, no administration has come up with a comprehensive plan to replace it.
The United States should strive to reestablish its position as the world’s exemplary democracy.
Trump’s views on trade and the importance of international institutions are very different from those of Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton. Trump will prioritize immediate economic gains over security and human rights. But like his immediate predecessors, Trump will probably also make foreign policy in an executive-driven, reactive way, without a clear or lasting strategic vision that he shares with Congress or the American people.
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