The triumph and the damage of “America first”

“Sovereignty” : that day, Donald Trump repeated the word 21 times. On the occasion of his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 19, 2017, the new American president confirms the course set out during the campaign: “America first”. A slogan, but also a vision of international relations based on every man for himself, transactional, without affect, revising relations with allies and authoritarian regimes, ignoring the contingencies of the past. “As President of the United States, I will always put America first. Just like you, as leaders of your countries, always put and should always put your countries first ”, he assured.

Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Donald Trump, during the ceremony commemorating the 100 years of the armistice, in front of the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris, on November 11, 2018.

Donald Trump was built on a rather gloomy conception of the world in which alliances are systematically taken advantage of by the partners of the United States to abuse their supposed benevolence. “I hate having to depend on my friends. I am not someone who trusts. I only want to depend on myself ”, the businessman explained in an interview with the magazine Newsweek in 1987.

He is also a follower of a relativism which makes him despise any form of American exceptionalism. As historians Charlie Laderman and Brendan Simms note, Donald Trump, born in 1946, is the contemporary of three dead ends in America, in Korea as a child, in Vietnam in his youth, and in Iran as he went into business. These dead ends, while American power, especially military power, is already overwhelming, fuel an attitude in public opinion that every obstacle can only be the result of a failure of leadership.

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“Our country needs a real great leader. And he needs a real great leader now ”, he launches during his declaration of candidacy in June 2015. He goes further in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination in Cleveland, in July 2016, when he claims to be ” the only “ to be able to sort out America’s problems. Donald Trump is as quick to stigmatize the supposed weaknesses of his predecessors as he is to praise the talent of those they have encountered, these men “Strong” to whom he always lends an effectiveness presented as remarkable, Vladimir Poutin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and even Xi Jinping until the coronavirus crisis.

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