Those Who Ignore History Are Doomed to Repeat It (Including You, Mr. Trump)
by Zach Kaplan
Following World War II, the United States had a very clear foreign policy: oppose anything that benefitted the Soviet Union and communism. This policy (which came to be known as containment) was easy to adopt because there was a clear enemy. In George Kennan’s infamous “long telegram,” he stressed that United States’ policy towards the Soviet Union must be “firm and vigilant” to contain Russian expansive efforts (Office of The Historian, 2015). Until 1991 when the Cold War officially ended, the United States’ foreign policy remained unchanged. However, with the fall of the Soviet Union, the United States found itself in the unique position as the world’s only superpower. To quote Uncle Ben: “with great power, comes great responsibility.” It is for this reason that the entire world should be nervous following President Trump’s first speech to the United Nations where he announced that the new U.S. foreign policy will be to “put America first” (Roff, 2017, para. 11). For the world to remain in a peaceful state, it is imperative that the United States stay active in foreign affairs.
Donald Trump has declared the new foreign policy of the United States to be “principled realism.” This means that the purpose of U.S. foreign policy is to secure America’s national interests first (Azel, 2016). In other words, if there is a situation around the world that would benefit from United States’ assistance, but the intervention would not benefit America’s interests, there will be no intervention. Now, most people will be saying “good, it’s about time we take care of our own country first.” What most people do not realize is this type of policy in the past has had extremely negative consequences. In fact, there is strong evidence to suggest that had the United States been more involved in European affairs prior to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, World War II could have been avoided altogether. Between 1935 and 1935, Congress passed five different Neutrality Acts that kept the United States from intervening in foreign affairs. This kept President Roosevelt from offering aid to the Allies far after the war had begun (Leuchtenburg, 2017). These acts kept America out of World War II until the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Had this not happened, it is unclear when the United States would have entered the war, if ever. Although the world is not in a situation quite as dire, there are certain similarities between Roosevelt’s declaration of nationalism and Trump’s policy of principled realism.
In addition to this parallel, this new foreign policy further shows what nations across the world feared with President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords: that the United States is slowly pulling out of world affairs and focusing inward. Unfortunately, this also shows the world that the United States does not care about climate change, which affects everyone.
For these reasons, it is imperative that the people of the United States understand what President Trump is saying during his speech to the UN, and the ramifications of his words. If the United States continues on this track of “principled realism,” not only will the country suffer, the entire world will suffer.
Azel, J. (2016). Trump’s New Policy of “Principled Realism”. Selous Foundation For Public Policy Research. September 23, 2017.
Leuchtenburg, W. E. (2017). Franklin D. Roosevelt: Foreign Affairs. September 23, 2017,
Office of The Historian (2015). George Kennan and Containment. September 21, 2017, from https://history.state.gov/departmenthistory/short-history/kennan
Roff, P. (2017). “Putting the World on Notice.” U.S. News & World Report. September 21, 2017,