Americans: An Ahistorical People

We Americans like to think of ourselves as a sophisticated, knowledgeable people — but most of us aren’t, really. Only 25% of Americans can name all three branches of government as of 2017, down from 36% in 2017.

It’s in that context that we need to assess the response to Trump’s recent performance with our NATO allies and with Putin.

What Trump and his followers see as a world taking advantage of the United States — the basis for his constant belligerence toward our allies — is in fact the system created by American statesmen post World War II:

What Trump fails to understand is that the disparity in spending, with the U.S. paying more than its allies, is not a bug of the system. It is a feature. This is how the great postwar statesmen designed it, and this immensely foresighted strategy has ensured the absence of great power conflict—and nuclear war—for three-quarters of a century.

The open, liberal world order we know today was built in the wake of World War II and expanded after the collapse of the Soviet Union. By design, it is led by the United States; by design, it ensures permanent U.S. military hegemony over Eurasia while uniting Europe under the U.S.’ protection. The goal of this American grand strategy is to prevent any single power from dominating the region and turning on the United States and its allies. American hegemony serves, too, to quell previously intractable regional rivalries, preventing further world wars. Dean Acheson, George Marshall and the other great statesmen of their generation pursued this strategy because they had learned, at unimaginable cost, that the eternal American fantasy of forever being free of Europe—isolationism, or America Firstism, in other words—was just that: a fantasy. Four hundred thousand American men lost their lives in the European theaters of the First and Second World Wars. (American fatalities in all of the other 20th-century conflicts—including Vietnam, Korea and the Persian Gulf—do not total one-quarter of that number.) Our postwar statesmen were neither weak nor incompetent. They were the architects of the greatest foreign policy triumph in U.S. history.”

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/07/15/trump-nato-europe-history-dependence-219011

Trump, in all his shallowness and with his limited world view, is doing his best to wreck that architecture.

Trump followers hate to be called ignorant — they find it condescending. A Trump voter apparently called in to CNN to say she was glad Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election on behalf of Trump because “what would we have done with Hillary in the White House.”

Ignorance speaks in its own voice. No need for anyone to point fingers.

The Politico article is long, but well worth a read.

 

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