Behind the black, bleak picture painted in Trump’s Inaugural Address was the virtual absence of any positive discussion of foreign relations. In fact the take away from this message in this area was the understanding that putting America First was to be the theme of the Trump Administration not only on domestic issues and trade questions but on national security and international relations as well.
This theme sent ought to have alarmed America’s friends and allies around the world as well as Americans who have grown to believe that America must maintain a productive and constructive role in a globally linked world. Friends and allies as well as pro-free-trade forces throughout the country cringed at the implications of such policies. In addition, for many Americans—especially Jews—the term America First which candidate Trump had employed in his only major foreign policy address during the campaign–was now re-emerging as a policy direction for the incoming Administration. It brought with it the fears and anxieties which this phrase recalled of the Thirties and Forties; isolationism and anti-interventionist government. It is so deeply anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish that its very utterances in the Address should have sent chills up the spine of most Jews.
There was another dimension to the speech which also did not require deep consideration. This speech as well as so much of Trump’s conduct even in first days in office suggest the ideas and philosophy of his chief policy adviser Stephen Bannon. From the immediate removal of “climate change” from the White House home page to the continued attacks on the free press to the power of looking inward one senses the link between the President and his Rasputin—without the religious overtones which was supplied to Czar Nicholas II during the waning days of the Romanovs. Bannon and his alt-right agenda–just as some have suggested that Mrs. Wilson ran the country during much of Woodrow Wilson’s last year in office or that Harry Hopkins controlled F.D.R. while even living in the White House for over three years in the early 1940’s—may well be settling into position to truly control the Trump Administration.
Internationally, it only remains to be seen who or what country will test the new President first. How will he and his new advisers respond? The fears are real as to whether Iran, or China, or North Korea, or even Trump’s friend Vladimir Putin will be first. What will Trump do when the next terrorist incident occurs in Turkey or Bagdad or Riyadh or Ukraine or wherever? Will the President tweet his response when awakened in the middle of the night when North Korea tests its next nuclear weapon? All of these frightening concerns do not begin to address the broader more complicated consequences of efforts to change U.S. trade patterns.
In the context of the unknown and unpredictable behavior of Donald Trump, there is genuine reason to suggest there may really be an ugly carnage ahead.