US President, Donald Trump, has become another in a long line of US Presidents to push the US towards isolationism. In his Farewell Speech, the first US President, George Washington, warned against “entanglements” against other nations and permanent foreign alliances. Washington was warning against Europe. Trump has specifically targeted China although he has also roiled against Europe, Japan, Canada and Mexico, among others, which hints strongly that he desires full US isolationism from the world.
Be careful what you wish for Mr Trump. Successful US isolationism might look fine from inside the US bubble but it looks very different from the outside looking in. The US would be alone in the world. Yet, the US has never been fully self-supporting and is even less likely to be so now.
Lionel Shriver’s 2016 novel, The Mandibles, depicts the descent of the US from superpower to global pariah that results in the destruction of all the US’ social, health, fiscal, economic and financial structures. The trigger in the novel is the US’ insistence of its right for the world to eternally buy its ever-growing, massive debt at favourable interest rates to fund its ballooning budget deficits at affordable costs. There is no explicit suggestion in Shriver’s novel of the US adopting isolationist policies. It does not take much to imagine the world very quickly losing its desire to fund the US’ fiscal excesses if the US decides to go it alone.
We are seeing worrying signs of Donald Trump’s desire to put America first in the battle against COVID-19 with little or no regard for the welfare of and the US’ long term relationships (trade and fiscal) with those outside the US. Trump and the US might win some external battles in the fight against COVID-19 but Trump could lose his isolationist war that would result in the US not being “Great’ but becoming insignificant.