Trump introducing his administration's National Security Strategy, December 2017.
Carlos Barria / Reuters

What does an “America first” foreign policy look like? On Monday afternoon, President Donald J. Trump tried to answer that question, in a speech in Washington, D.C., and in his administration’s widely anticipated National Security Strategy statement. Although the phrase “America first” conjures up the isolationists of the late 1930s, who believed that the United States could survive and prosper regardless of what was happening in Europe and Asia, the “America first” strategy described in the NSS is far from isolationist. It engages every region of the world, articulates support of the global commons, and even acknowledges the importance of U.S. leadership in multilateral institutions. In fact, as many commentators have noted, the substance of the statement is not so different from many of its predecessors.

But for all its superficial similarity to and rhetorical embrace of a long, bipartisan tradition of U.S. leadership, the NSS

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