Foreign Policy; Empire; Imperialism; the Trump Administration; United States


Scholars have remained puzzled about the direction that President Donald Trump might take the U.S. at the global level. Throughout his campaign, Trump often articulated contradictory ideas concerning his foreign policy approach. Trump evidenced warmth towards authoritarian leaders in Eastern Europe, but condemned them in Latin America. The purpose of this paper is to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy approach, and its novelties and continuities, by putting his administration into comparative-historical focus alongside Bush II and Obama. I analyze their foreign policy approach by using Michael Mann’s IEMP model of power to draw out their distinctive qualities. Similar to Mann’s own analysis of Bush II, I show that Trump has prioritized the expansion of military power. Obama also utilized military force, but he sought to regain global support lost under Bush II by speaking the language of multilateralism, and opening up relations with former foes, particularly Cuba and Iran. Unlike Bush II and Obama, Trump has pursued some entirely divergent global policies, particularly involving his global trade war and bellicose rhetoric. Yet, similar to Bush, Trump has exacerbated the retreat from multilateral institutions by working to institutionalize them. Finally, I point out that the global ramifications of U.S. anti-globalism at this historical juncture differ from when Bush II occupied the White House. With the U.S. moving towards more isolationist policies, we can expect both China and Russia to accumulate global power relative to the U.S. and displace the U.S. as a hegemonic power in some areas of the world.