America alone: Trump at a campaign rally in Missoula, Montana, October 2018
Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS

In the end, 2018 was not the year of U.S. foreign policy apocalypse. Normally, this would not be a cause for celebration. But given the anxiety about President Donald Trump and what his administration might do—pull out of NATO, start a war with Iran or North Korea—it was something to be grateful for. In fact, Trump’s first two years in office have been marked by a surprising degree of stability. The president has proved himself to be what many critics have long accused him of being: belligerent, bullying, impatient, irresponsible, intellectually lazy, short-tempered, and self-obsessed. Remarkably, however, those shortcomings have not yet translated into obvious disaster.

But the surface-level calm of the last two years should not distract from a building crisis of U.S. foreign policy, of which Trump is both a symptom and a cause. The president has outlined a deeply misguided foreign policy vision

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  • ELIOT A. COHEN is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and the author of The Big Stick: The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force.
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