Is Trump’s Unorthodoxy Becoming Orthodox? By Victor Davis Hanson.
When candidate Donald Trump campaigned on calling China to account for its trade piracy, observers thought he was either crazy or dangerous.
Conventional Washington wisdom had assumed that an ascendant Beijing was almost preordained to world hegemony. Trump’s tariffs and polarization of China were considered about the worst thing an American president could do.
The accepted bipartisan strategy was to accommodate, not oppose, China’s growing power. The hope was that its newfound wealth and global influence would liberalize the ruling Communist government.
Four years later, only a naif believes that. Instead, there is an emerging consensus that China’s cutthroat violations of international norms were long ago overdue for an accounting.
China’s re-education camps, its Orwellian internal surveillance, its crackdown on Hong Kong democracy activists, and its secrecy about the deadly coronavirus outbreak have all convinced the world that China has now become a dangerous international outlier. …
For the last 20 years, much of the American orthodoxy had agreed with Europe that the increasingly anti-democratic, pan-continental, and borderless European Union was the remedy to all of Europe’s past 20th-century catastrophes.
As a result, American presidents did not do much when EU nations typically racked up large trade surpluses with the U.S., often a result of asymmetrical fees, tariffs, and fines.
The U.S. largely ignored the increasingly anti-democratic and anti-American tone of the EU.
Nor did Americans object much when lackadaisical European NATO nations habitually welched on their defense-spending commitments.
Apparently, past U.S. administrations supposed that a paternalistic America would always be more eager to defend Europe than Europe would be to defend itself.
But then Trump again blew up more old assumptions.
NATO will now only survive if its members keep their word and meet their spending promises. An economically stagnant, oil-hungry, and top-heavy EU will have to make radical changes, or it will sink into irrelevance and eventually break apart.
Trump got little credit for these revolutionary changes because he is, after all, Trump — a wheeler-dealer, an ostentatious outsider, unpredictable in action, and not shy about rude talk.
But his paradoxical and successful policies — the product of conservative, anti-war, and pro-worker agendas — are gradually winning supporters and uniting disparate groups.
After all, the U.S. is beefing up its military but using it only sparingly. It hits back hard at enemies but does not hit first. For Trump, being conventional is dangerous; being unpredictable is far safer. …
The result of the new orthodoxy is that the U.S. has become no better friend to an increasing number of allies and neutrals, and no worse an adversary to a shrinking group of enemies.
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