U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to American soldiers at an Air Force base in Sicily, May 2017.
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Consistency has never been U.S. President Donald Trump’s strong suit. Every week seems to bring another foreign policy reversal. But, in the swirl, at least one theme has remained constant: America, to paraphrase the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, gets no respect around the globe. To be sure, Trump was not elected primarily because Americans worry about their nation’s standing abroad. But many citizens do share his belief that foreigners once respected the United States and no longer do.

That belief, however, rests on a romanticized and mythical past in which nations around the world listened and dutifully did America’s bidding when the United States spoke. It pictures a world that was once the United States’ sandbox, whose contents America could, and did, mold and remold at its pleasure. And it dreams that an America restored to its rightful greatness will inspire such respect again.

Such nostalgia is

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