President Trump cancelled a trip to Denmark last night in response to their summary rejection of his desire to purchase Greenland. Doing so has angered the Danes… not because they were eager to host Trump, but because they correctly recognize the insult which was delivered to them via tweet.
This statement makes clear that the primary purpose of Trump’s visit was not recognition of an ally, nor consultation about international accords, trade concerns, national security, or even a desire to visit and appreciate another country… the typical reasons for a visit. It was because he wished to purchase something they’d shown no interest in selling.
It was crass.
One defense of Trump on this is that the United States has voiced an interest in purchasing Greenland in the past. Those were at times when we were looking to expand resources and believed there might be gold or oil there (we have knowledge of the resources, now, and while they are nice, they are far from necessary) or when the location was deemed a potential bulwark for national defense due to early response capability (this has been negated by satellite technology.) Another defense has been that the attempt was obviously a joke (it is now exceedingly obvious it was nothing of the sort.)
All of these fail to address the primary concern with his statements. It demonstrates the key point of failure of his “America First” policy.
“America First” sounds, and is, simple: the notion is that Trump will place the priorities of America ahead of the priorities of all other countries. It tells his supporters that their lives will be better because he is in charge. It is the core promise he makes, the one by which all other promises are emotionally measured.
People have been told that America’s greatness lies in her Constitution and her system of government; for those who truly believe and understand that, Trump’s flouting of law and process is horrifying. Far more believe it without examining the meaning behind the words; for them, America is inherently great.
This is not always true.
America’s greatness stems from our recognition of individual liberties, but it is not exclusively defined that way. While our system is magnificent when it is followed (a dubious proposition these days) what bolsters the American claim to greatness are the things that we have been able to develop because of those freedoms. A booming economy. A strong military. Friends.
Even most isolationists recognize the value of maintaining good relationships with others. Those who eschew formal alliances often say that mutual positive feelings should suffice, that in times of need friends will come to the defense of other friends without the need for official ties.
By abandoning one of the primary benefits afforded to us by our founding and instead pursuing strongmen and dictators throughout the world, we are not making America great. We are alienating our allies and diminishing our sphere of influence.