The New International Order: Anti-Globalization vs. International Activism

BY MICAH LESCH Protesters on 42nd Street in front of Grand Central Terminal during the Women’s March in New York. (Nicole Craine/The New York Times)

On November 9, 2016, the day following Donald Trump’s election victory, Peter Baker, a former White House correspondent for The New York Times, published an article entitled “Donald Trump’s Victory Promises to Upend the International Order.” In the article, Baker illustrates a scathing representation of what he believes the status of the international community will be following the installation of Mr. Trump’s administration in the White House: an uncertain world, anxiously waiting to see if the new American president will live up to his promises of “building walls both physical and metaphorical.”

However, over two months later, on January 21 – just a day after Mr. Trump wholeheartedly affirmed his commitment to a new nationalistic, quasi-populist American foreign policy stance in his inauguration speech – millions of the world’s citizens organized and protested, stating that they would not wait to observe Mr. Trump’s implementation of his nativist and even xenophobic policies regarding the United States’ involvement in foreign affairs. On the Saturday following Mr. Trump’s inauguration, nearly five million world citizens mobilized, from the bustling streets of London, to the below-zero temperatures of Paradise Bay, Antarctica, to the bustling streets of Kinshasha in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Women, men, and children participated in “sister marches” organized in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington D.C., culminating in the largest worldwide march in human history.

In the days following these marches, the question that passed through newsrooms and media bullpens across the United States and abroad was: To what extent can the historic success of these demonstrations be attributed to the rising tide of anti-immigrant ideologies rising in power and significance in the political arenas of other nations?

Considering how closely the international community follows U.S. elections, it is logical to assume that other countries’ citizens, whose political parties include groups similar to the alt-right in the United States, are beginning to notice parallels between Mr. Trump’s policies and rhetoric of these parties. Whether it was the inevitable stifling of Mexico’s relationship with the United States in Mr. Trump’s guarantee to construct a border wall, his promise to prevent Muslim immigrants from entering the country, or his impassioned critique of the U.S.’s existing trade relationship with China, Mr. Trump stuck to his favorite theme of building walls and barriers to the rest of the world, wholeheartedly staying true to the nationalist, nativist, and, some might say, even alt-right tagline that was the unforgettable centerpiece of his inauguration speech: “America First.”

This “America First” rallying cry was repeated several times by Mr. Trump in his inaugural address and frequently during his campaign. Following Mr. Trump’s election victory, his repetitive use of this tagline became controversial and questionable because, according Ron Elving, senior editor and correspondent for the Washington desk at NPR Politics, of the “association with the America First Committee, which strove to prevent U.S. entry into World War II.” Formed after the war began in Europe, the AFC included several prominent politicians and businessmen who found that U.S. involvement in World War II to be politically unfeasible and economically illogical due to the safety risks involved refugees coming to the States.

The “America First” ideology, accompanied by Mr. Trump’s proposed drastic changes to U.S. foreign policy, bears striking resemblance to the anti-immigrant and anti-globalist policies of Marine Le Pen of the French Nationalist Front Party, the ethno-nationalist ideologies advocated by the Jobbik Party of Hungary, and even Great Britain’s referendum vote to leave the European Union. These parallels indicate that the U.S. may be en route to becoming another major world power that will reject international leadership structures and close its gates to outsiders, allegedly under the guise that isolationism is in citizens’ best interests. This destruction of the cooperative norms of internationalism – or, as Baker puts it, the “upending of the international order” – is a pattern of governance that has now, in the international community’s view, reached the United States. Nevertheless, the international community’s rejection of Donald Trump and his counterparts in other countries on issues of immigration and internationalism seems to be a universal trend, as demonstrated by the massive protests around the world.

Mr. Trump’s fulfillment of his campaign promises, through his executive orders, has created new norms, including that the U.S. government will no longer be involved in international affairs in the same capacity as before Mr. Trump became president. The new norm, which has included Mr. Trump’s insults directed at Mexico, Germany, Iraq, and Great Britain, has put the United States’ relationships with China and Iran in a state of borderline political turmoil, and has created diplomatic crises due to Mr. Trump’s phone calls and Twitter posts with and about international leaders and U.S. foreign policy. As Peter Baker puts it, “the world will now have to grapple with the fact that, for the first time since before World War II, Americans chose a president who promised to reverse the internationalism practiced by predecessors of both parties and to build walls both physical and metaphorical. Mr. Trump’s win foreshadowed an America more focused on its own affairs while leaving the world to take care of itself.” However, regardless of Mr. Trump’s behavior or what he represents to the international community, the world has shown that it will stand in universal rejection of the anti-globalist ideals that define the rising tide of right-wing ideology on the international stage.