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Trump and American Exceptionalism

Why a Crippled America Is Something New

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at a rally in Mobile, Alabama, December 2016.  Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Since Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president on November 8, the liberal commentariat has been sounding the alarm on the fate of the international order: the Pax Americana is over. Four years after dismissing American decline as a myth, Robert Kagan now claims we’re nearing the “end of the 70-year-old U.S. world order.” Ian Buruma, writing in the New York Times Magazine, laments that those who voted for Trump and Brexit wish to “pull down the pillars” of liberal internationalism and retreat into isolation.

Such eulogies say less about Trump or his voters than about the limits of conventional wisdom. The president-elect denounced nation-building and demanded that U.S. allies pay more for protection, but so have many of his predecessors. And Trump never promised to retract the United States’ global power. To the contrary, he vowed to build up the military, go after Islamist terrorism, and

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