Trump’s Roll-Back Effects and the International Order

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Trump’s Roll-Back Effects and the International Order


The irony is generally defined as the obvious contrast between expectations and the reality. History is full of such ironies. For instance, gunpowder was discovered by a Chinese chemist in an attempt to find an elixir of immortality. Take another example of that the US war on terror and democracy promotion led terror spread out while eventually left democracy in retreat throughout the world. In a similar manner, Donald J. Trump officially won the election in the United States on the same day with the 27th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The irony in these two historic events, I think, is not just limited to Trump’s pledge to build a wall on the Mexican-US border, but goes beyond that. The fall of the Berlin wall, which paved the way a series of events that eventually led the fall of Soviet Union, symbolizes the epic victory of liberalism over communism. Ironically, Trump’s victory represents the upturn of that liberal order that America-led worldview has shaped since the second World War.

Here today, I will write about the Trump’s roll-back effects on the liberal international order. To do that, first I try to explain the foundation of that order, and then dwell more on the Trump’s policies and their possible effects on the liberal international order. Thus, for today’s op-ed, I have three somehow connected questions: What is liberal international order? What has the US played in this International Liberal Order? What are Trump’s roll-back effects?

Liberal International Order and the role of the USA

The international liberal order is not made in the USA only or for the USA only. It represents a globalist agenda, which is a product of cohesive and cooperative relations between states. The foundation of the order is based on collective political, economic and security traits even though the USA sits at the top of the hierarchy among the actors. In this sense, the United States with its coercive edge of its near-unipolar configuration of hard power, has become one of the most important parts of a complex trans-governmental process for making political, military, and economic decisions over numerous issues.  The USA has indeed played a vital and central role in the triumph of the international liberal order as it has occupied the center of the global capitalism via financial institutions, the center of the global trade via openness of markets, the center of the global value chains via multinational firms.  Moreover, the international liberal order is foundationally based on two American-led system of alliances: transatlantic and transpacific alliances between which there are deep-seated integration and harmonization of commercial rules, standards, intellectual property rights and policies. The co-binding character of these alliances, the special US relations with core countries such as Germany and Japan, strong and revitalizing economic and cultural interdependencies and the coercive American security umbrella for the allied countries have made international liberal order come this far.

Trump and Roll-back Effect!

Trump made it very clear from the beginning that he rejects some of the key components of the traditional foreign policy that are linked to the current rule-based order as his presidency is based on nothing more than nativism, isolationism, and protectionism. He is a realist, economic nationalist, and bully, thinking the world as a zero-sum game willing to slap punitive tariffs on imports, willing to walk away from security commitments, ripping off “bad” deals and threatening other leaders with its vociferating tweets and phone calls. From the rhetorical and empirical evidence on Trumps few weeks of deeds and achievements, it is fair to claim that Trump would have roll-back effects on the norms, institutions, rules, and relations that are the foundation of the current international order. Trumps nativist, isolationist and protectionist agenda could be a mix that topples the decades of old globalist achievements. It could do that ten years ago not anymore. Even if Trump does what he says abandoning the US traditional role in the international order, the order will not be redefined by the uncertainties, on the contrary, it even resists back to Trump worldview simply because it works for them just fine!

How Far Trump Roll-Back Effect Goes as The Wheel of Power is Turning

Over the last decades, as the power is moving from West to East and wealth is moving from North to South the order that was built by the US and Western allies in the aftermath of the second World War has already started to shattering. Many non-western powers rise while the US and its buddies are in retreat. It is getting observable that the future of the world order will be shaped by other centers rather than Washington or somewhere in Europe. Many see this transition as a grand divide between western liberal and non-western illiberal models. Indeed, the divide is real, there are challenging world views, multiple modernities, and even development models. Yet, this has not been any detrimental to the liberal international order, which has been alive even revitalized over the last decades. It might probably less American and less liberal, but the globalist agenda which is the foundation of the order is resilient. In this sense, the organizational logic of the order that paths through a complex trans-governmental process for making political, military, and economic decisions over numerous issues will survive as the today’s world requires so.

Hakan Mehmetcik
Currently, Hakan works as a research assistant at the Department of International Relations of Marmara University, in Turkey. He is a Ph.D. candidate at the department of Politics and International Relations of Yildiz Technical University having graduated from the Istanbul University with a B.A. in International Relations. He has two master degrees, one in Economics from Dalarna University in Sweden, and one in Eurasian Studies from Uppsala University in Sweden. His main research interests are security studies, regionalism, peace and conflicts studies, and International Relations Theories in broader perspectives.

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