One of the constant themes of the #NeverTrump media is that he is wrecking the “old world order” that has been in place since World War II. This narrative is played out in headlines and talking points, but rarely is there a serious look at what exactly is the “old world order.”
In taking the perspective of the media and a bunch of old world order acolytes, one might be led to believe that it is something wonderful and worth preserving – or that there is even such a thing as a world order that has existed since World War II.
I think most would agree that President Trump is not a creature or advocate of that thing called the old world order. Trump’s critics call his approach to the international community as unprecedented and unconventional when they are polite. More often the Democrats and the elitists old world order aficionados call him reckless, stupid and a danger to the republic … nay … the world – maybe even to the universe. Their hysteria has caused me to propose a new term – hyper hyperbole. The old word is insufficient to express the extremeness of their Draconian predictions succeed every word or action by the President.
While the left comes to the defense of the old world order, I am not sure to which previous old world order they refer. They often say it has been in place for more than seventy years – since the end of World War II. So, what did that world order look like back then?
America and our allies – including Russia and China — had just won World War II. Yippee! We defeated Germany, Italy, Japan and a few other members of the Axis powers. The Axis nations were left in ruin – physical and economic. That was the world order immediately following the War.
Despite the impression – or misimpression — one might get from the news these days, the world order is not static. It is dynamic. It keeps changing – and the biggest change back then was that our “friends” in Russia and China quickly turned into adversaries. We were temporarily united in a common bond to defeat Hitler’s left-wing fascism, but that was over and a hopeful world created a new instrument of world order — the United Nations.
With fascism defeated, the world order cleaved on the communist/capitalist philosophical fault line – and on the coincidental authoritarian/democratic political fault line. It was the beginning of the Cold War. Coincidentally, our old mortal Axis enemies became our new allies. The old world order had been turned topsy-turvy.
In the post-War era, the United States took up Abraham Lincoln’s advice – that best way to defeat an enemy is to make them a friend. America showed the world how to do regime change (after all, that is what the war was all about). We started to rebuild the economies of the vanquished nations with the Marshall Plan and a number of favorable trade practices that have become more controversial over the years. We created North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and South East Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) – the latter of which slipped into oblivion in 1977. That was the world order of those times.
The Cold War old world order was not a rousing success. Even with the UN promising to be the global peacemaker, the West met the East in proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam — and several proxy skirmishes here and there. It was a standoff (thank God) that pitted primarily America against the expansionist Soviet Union – which had created an “iron curtain” and the Berlin Wall to maintain control of Eastern Europe — and what was commonly referred to as Red China, hunkering down behind the “bamboo curtain.” I say America was the primary opposition to the Soviet Union and China because the power of NATO and our Asian allies was totally contingent on the money and military might of the United States.
That world order was tweaked when communism upended the Monroe Doctrine of American hegemony over the Western Hemisphere by taking control of Cuba – just 90 miles from the coast of Florida.
That old Cold War old world order died off with two spectacular diplomatic achievements — the stunning opening of a relationship with China by President Nixon and the surprisingly abrupt collapse of the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union engineered by President Reagan. These two events launched a new world order in which Russia and China would again be friendly with the United States. American and western business interests flooded the old hardline communist nations, trade replaced war as the operative term and capitalism was no longer a dirty word in Moscow and Beijing. A new world order had begun.
If there was any of the old old world order – the one going back to World War II — it was America’s extraordinary financial and military commitments to the western alliances that kept NATO alive and functioning. Even as the UN progressed from mere ineffectiveness to growing hostility to the United States, America remained as the agency’s number one benefactor. We continued to be the protector of Europe, South Korea and Japan even as those economies flourished. We maintained trade imbalances for decades that were originally designed to help restore broken economies.
The world order that is being defended against President Trump’s vision is more of a romantic notion than it is a reality. It is a belief in endless diplomacy that never achieves its stated objectives. How many presidents have declared that a nuclear North Korea is unacceptable only to accept it? What was the importance of the line Obama drew in the sands of Syria? Prior to Trump’s change in the military rules of engagement, how effective was the jawboning condemnations of ISIS during the Obama years? Where was that vaunted old world order when Iran evolved from a friendly authoritarian government to an even more brutal adversarial terrorist government?
The old order adheres to the old containment philosophy of Harry Truman. His doctrine was to keep communism confined to the Asian mainland, so he placed his containment line off the coast of mainland Asia. It was a miscalculation of monumental proportions because he gave an apparent green light to China to seek hegemony over much of southeast Asia. Both the Korean and Vietnam wars were the result of Truman’s blunder as the west belatedly pushed back against the “domino effect” – one southeast Asian nation after another falling to Chinese sponsored communist dictatorship.
The leaders of the old world order continued a policy of containing communist expansion by writing off any Soviet and Chinese gains. That was the containment policy until President Reagan declared a new policy — to roll back communist expansionism in Asia, Africa and South America.
The old world order principle that war is never an option re-emerged in the Obama administration with his euphemistic term for withdrawal – leading from behind. In letting the world know – including the bad guys – that the United States would not impose or stick to any red lines, Obama kicked off the horror of ISIS, the defeat of American interests in the Syrian war, the expansion of Russian influence in the Middle East, the most tragic human migration in modern history and the acceleration of North Korea’s nuclear missile program. That is what old world order thinking has done.
At this point, I think I need to say that Trump could challenge a largely failed old world order with a little bit less bellicosity. His tendency to make things personal is not productive. No one was more determined or tougher than Ronald Reagan, but he knew how to get things done with inspiring words, a sense of humor and firm convictions. Trump would do well to do more explaining and less complaining.
One of the most common laments of the #NeverTrump community is that so many folks in fly-over America do not see eye-to-eye with them. They cannot understand it. What they miss is the fact that a very large portion of the American public has been fed up with the old world order for a long time. They have long wearied of footing the bill for the UN. They are tired of disproportionately funding our allies’ national security. They are tired of conceding American interests and treasury to every other nation – friendly and otherwise – even as the allies enjoy some of the strongest economies in the world.
This mythical old world order that is so beloved by the political left has been losing favor with the American people for decades. That is why Republicans control the House, Senate, two-thirds of the governorships and state legislatures – and that is why Donald Trump is president today.
Is Trump wrong to impose a different world order that has NATO nations paying more of their fair share; to bring about fairer trade with our allies by getting rid of tariffs on both sides; or imposing retaliatory sanctions and tariffs against nations, such as China, that violate international trade laws; or abolishing burdensome regulations that retard the American economy; or to form a new pro-American alliance in the Middle East that actually has Israel and Arab nations working together against rogue nations; or to try to bring an end of the dangerous policies of North Korea: etc. etc. etc.?
Yes, Trump is reconfiguring the old world order, and that is a good thing even if the old world order warriors do not like their legacy of failure being so painfully exposed and repudiated.
Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and political issues. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, and he has served as a consultant to the White House under Presidents Nixon and Reagan. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress and lectured at Harvard University, Northwestern University, Florida Atlantic University, Knox College and Hope College. An award winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.