From Internationalism to Realism, at what Cost?

President Donald Trump’s inaugural speech was concrete and to the point, and in the case of Foreign Policy it delineated a shift away from Internationalism and toward a nationalist Realist approach. By declaring that, “from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land,” he was telling the American people and the international community that a shift in paradigm was taking place.[1] According to his speech, the internationalist approach that dominated U.S. foreign policy since the Truman administration was over.

By emphasizing that “from this moment on, it’s going to be America first,” he was telling the American people and the international community that we were no longer going to be playing the role of global police, and by saying that “we will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world” but with the “understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first” he was declaring a move back to nationalism and suggesting that all others do the same.[2] That is why his administration resonates with other populist leaders like Vladimir Putin, Recep Erdoğan, and the French nationalist Marine Le Pen who welcome a move away from globalization and a return to populist nationalism.images-3

The era of internationalism launched by the Truman administration through his Point Four Program, strengthened by the consolidation of NATO throughout the Cold War, and then accelerated by President Clinton’s Canadian-United States Free Trade Agreement (CUSFTA) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has now, at least theoretically, reached an end.[3] According to President Trump’s speech, his administration represents a new direction in foreign policy; one where “we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow.”[4]

Does this mean that the times of internationalist imperialism are over? Will we no longer be exporting our own interpretation of “democracy” overseas? Will we stop exporting our values and our culture on behalf of the Western world? Will the Trump administration be able to show the world that a new nationalist strategy to manage and navigate our current globalized system may be possible through the implementation of economic and domestic policies that puts power back in the hands of government and the people they represent, and away from the hands of multinational corporations, the international banking system, and the Washington establishment that “flourished” for the past six decades.

If such is the case then the left should not be protesting the streets of Washington but praising the new administration. If toppling down the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), and revising NAFTA and the other nineteen trade agreements that are in place then the left has no argument; at least in terms of economic policy.[5] But if economic nationalism is achieved parallel to the destruction and dismantling of human and civil rights domestically, then protests and social uprising is justified. But nothing has happened yet, we need to wait and see.LIBERTAD-700x400

Nothing was really mentioned about social issues in President Trump’s speech, but his urgency to silence media is a clear sign that should worry us all, even those who support him. If “making America great again” means the systematic violation of the First Amendment then we are in trouble; but if it means the implementation of a system where we stop killing each other, where women have full guarantied rights, where there is no racism and discrimination, where poverty is ended, and where there is no social or economic disenfranchisement then we are on the right track. But there are no securities on social issues; all is yet to be seen. A populist leader is judged by his/her words, and the people are the judge.

I am curious to see if his promises reach as far as Maine. I want to see if the promised waves of change will reach our shores. If we are in this new path that he claims, I want to see results as in the case of Canadian trade. I would like to see President Trump revise NAFTA so that the Maine lumber industry finally gets a good deal. I would like our president to intervene in order to end the leverage of Canadian Provincial subsidies so that our lobster industry can operate in an equal playing field. It would be empowering to see the same trend of revision spread across the 49th parallel, securing the interests of the borderland states and not the interests of global trans-national trade.

Will we at some point gain our energy dependence back from foreign corporations such as Irving, Emera, and AVANGRID? Will we now be able to take our water back from Nestle? Will our elderly population stop depending on cheap medicine from Canada? Will the NORAD (North American Aerospace Defense Command) agreement be revised in order to stop subsidizing Canadian security?0006050468

Economic nationalism sounds good and I look forward to the fulfillment of his promises, but populist “caudillismo” will not be good for the nation and will send us back in time. The people must make sure that our constitutional law is not violated, that human and civil rights are not dismantled, that freedom of speech is not jeopardized, and that our defense and security systems are not turned against us.

[1] “Inaugural address: Trump’s full speech.” CNN. January 20, 2017. Accessed January 20, 2017.

[2] Ibid.

[3] For more on the Four Point Program see; Committee on Foreign Affairs. “Point Four Background and Program: International Technical Cooperation Act of 1949.” United States, Government Printing Office, Washington: July 1949. Accessed January 20, 2017.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Office of the United States Representative. “ Free Trade Agreements.” Executive Office of the President. Accessed January 20, 2017.


Stefano Tijerina

About Stefano Tijerina

My name is Stefano Tijerina and this blog’s objective is to connect Maine’s social, environmental, economic, cultural, and political issues to the global system, centering on how the local impacts the global and how the global impacts the local or what is known in Global Studies as the "Glocal" effect. In our present era of globalization it is crucial for the general public to understand how the new dynamics of the international system impact our lives here in Maine and how our local decisions impact the earth. These are my personal views, and they do not express those of the University of Maine System or the University of Maine.