Candidate Trump, and then President Trump, advocated for a dramatic change in the direction of American foreign policy, which he labelled “America First.” His vision stood in stark contrast to the liberal internationalism (LI) pursued by most presidents since World War II.  For Trump, unilateralism would replace multilateralism; retrenchment would replace global engagement; pursuit of short-term, transactional American interests above all else would replace international cooperation.  These dramatic changes in direction were to be accomplished through many smaller steps taken in relation to each issue area and across many countries.

 

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One hundred years ago this month, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson was agonizing over whether to enter World War I. Just a few months earlier, Wilson had won re-election partly by campaigning on a policy of neutrality, which he was now preparing to abandon, along with the slogan ‘America first.’ But now, for the first time in more than 80 years, a U.S. president has taken it up again, to promote a foreign-policy stance that directly controverts the doctrine Wilson embraced.

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Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.[1]

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This roundtable extends the debate on the future of liberal internationalism (LI)  started by Charles Kupchan and Peter Trubowitz (K&T) three years ago which provoked responses by Steven Chaudoin, Helen Milner, and Dustin Tingley (CMT), and by Joshua Busby and Jonathan Monten (B&M).[1]  This was the subject of a panel at a recent meeting of the American Political Science Association, and the memos written by the three teams form the basis for this Roundtable.  Despite – or because – of my lack of involvement in these issues I was asked to chair the panel and so here will make a few introductory remarks, and after those involved have had their say will outline a few ideas for further research.

 

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