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Saving America’s Alliances

The United States Still Needs the System That Put It on Top

Friends in need: U.S.–South Korean joint military drills in South Korea, March 2016 Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

In his three years in office, U.S. President Donald Trump has aimed his trademark vitriol at a wide range of targets, both foreign and domestic. Perhaps the most consequential of these is the United States’ 70-year-old alliance system. The 45th president has balked at upholding the country’s NATO commitments, demanded massive increases in defense spending from such long-standing allies as Japan and South Korea, and suggested that underpaying allies should be left to fight their own wars with shared adversaries. Trump’s ire has been so relentless and damaging that U.S. allies in Asia and Europe now question the United States’ ability to restore itself as a credible security guarantor, even after a different president is in the White House.

But the tattered state of the alliance system is not Trump’s doing alone. After decades of triumph, the United States’ alliances have become victims of their

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