96 Foreign Aff. 2 (2017)
The Plot against American Foreign Policy: Can the Liberal Order Survive

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2     FOREIGN AFFAIRS


The Plot Against

American Foreign

Policy

Can   the  Liberal
Order Survive?

G. John   Ikenberry


Is the   world witnessing the demise
    of the U.S.-led liberal order? If so,
    this is not how it was supposed to
happen. The great threats were supposed
to come from hostile revisionist powers
seeking to overturn the postwar order.
The  United States and Europe were
supposed  to stand shoulder to shoulder
to protect the gains reaped from 70 years
of cooperation. Instead, the world's most
powerful state has begun to sabotage
the order it created. A hostile revisionist
power  has indeed arrived on the scene,
but it sits in the Oval Office, the beating
heart of the free world. Across ancient
and modern  eras, orders built by great
powers  have come and gone-but  they
have usually ended in murder, not suicide.
   U.S. President Donald Trump's every
instinct runs counter to the ideas that have
underpinned  the postwar international
system. Trade, alliances, international law,
multilateralism, environmental protection,
torture, and human rights-on  all these
core issues, Trump has made pronounce-
ments  that, if acted on, would bring to
an end the United States' role as guarantor
G. JOHN IKENBERRY  is Albert G. Milbank
Professor of Politics and International Affairs at
Princeton University.


of the liberal world order. He has broken
with 70 years of tradition by signaling the
end of U.S. support for the European
Union: endorsing Brexit and making
common  cause with right-wing European
parties that seek to unravel the postwar
European project. In his inaugural address,
Trump  declared, From this moment on,
it's going to be America first, and he
announced his intention to rethink the
central accomplishments of the U.S.-led
order-the  trade and alliance systems.
Where  previous presidents have invoked
the country's past foreign policy triumphs,
Trump  describes horrible deals and
allies that aren't paying their bills. His
is a vision of a dark and dangerous world
in which the United States is besieged by
Islamic terrorism, immigrants, and crime
as its wealth and confidence fade. In
his revisionist narrative, the era of Pax
Americana-the   period in which the
United States wielded the most power
on the world stage-is defined above all
by national loss and decline.
   Trump's challenge to the liberal
order is all the more dangerous because
it comes with a casual disrespect for the
norms  and values of liberal democracy
itself. The president has questioned the
legitimacy of federal judges, attacked the
press, and shown little regard for the
Constitution or the rule of law. Facts,
evidence, scientific knowledge, due dili-
gence, reasoned discourse-the essential
elements of democratic political life-
are disparaged daily. One must look
long and hard to find any utterances by
Trump  about the virtues of the nation's
political traditions, the genius of the
Founding  Fathers, or the great struggles
and accomplishments of liberal democracy.
This silence speaks loudly. And in
February, when  asked on Fox News

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