I have never been sure whether Donald J Trump was restoring a world of hatred and nationalist paranoia because it’s just what he wants to do, or if he was simply reflecting a change in world relations whose time had come.
Fraternalization among nations is ending.
One could say that international fraternalization started during World War II, or after it, or during the Nixon Administration when he visited China. One could say that it began with the fall of socialism in the USSR and Eastern Europe. Or one could say it began with the formation of the European Economic Community, or with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, or with the Organization of American States, or with all of that. However it started, it’s ending now. Nations are pulling apart.
Case in point: The European Union is strongly criticizing the governments of Italy and Poland. Even bigger case in point: Donald J Trump is pulling out of environmental accords and, lately, even out of nuclear proliferation accords. Plus, he seems intent on offending almost all traditional American allies. Nations are pulling apart.
Should we ask why?
Or should we look at it the other way around and ask why nations had been seeking cooperation with one another prior to the Trump election?
The period just ending, in which America dominated and forced every other nation to cooperate, is not new in history. In the centuries of British domination, roughly 1700 to 1900, they did the same thing. They even used the same rubric: “free trade.”
As British domination fell apart, the separate nations experienced their first World War. As that war began, V.I. Lenin wrote “Imperialism.” In it, he compared the world’s national leaders to gangs of criminals who might, for short periods, cooperate, but were likely to launch a new “turf war” almost any time. The inference from the pamphlet was that the capitalists running the largest industrialized nations would never cooperate for long. For economic reasons, it’s just not in their nature.
The United States dominated the world economically from World War II to the present, but that domination is being severely tested today. Our cars aren’t the only cars, our steel industry is about gone, even our electronics industry has disappeared. If other nations decided to stop using U.S. dollars as their reserve currency, our economy would fall to pieces. And that could happen. Almost any time. Trump is pushing them in that direction, too.
What we called “globalization,” or fraternalization among nations was really a set of circumstances in which the United States was unchallenged in its world domination. Every other nation actually had to cooperate, or to seem to cooperate. That seems to be ending now. I don’t think Trump caused it in 2016, just as I don’t think Hitler caused it in 1931, or if the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire caused it by dying in 1914. It’s part of the system we live under. It had to end.
The question really is: what are we going to do about it?