The present US president was elected on the “MAGA” slogan — “Make America Great Again”. And, up to now, politicians and journalists have not stopped talking about “American Greatness”.
But what is this “greatness”? How was it gained? How was it lost? Can it be regained? And what is it's effect on the Present and Future Global Order?
The USA emerged as a major world power at the end of WW1.
At that time the European and Asian empires started to collapse, with the Russian Empire being destroyed by its revolution, and Germany and the Ottoman Empire by their defeat in WW1.
Being part of the alliance which won WW1, the USA played a leading role in establishing the post‐WW1 world order by creation of the League of Nations in 1920 with the following objectives:
“In order to promote international co-operation and to achieve international peace and security
by the acceptance of obligations not to resort to war,
by the prescription of open, just and honourable relations between nations,
by the firm establishment of the understandings of international law as the actual rule of conduct among Governments, and
by the maintenance of justice and a scrupulous respect for all treaty obligations in the dealings of organised peoples with one another”.
The League of Nations, however, has failed to achieve these objectives, and in 1939 another world war “broke out” — WW2.
And again, after WW2, the USA emerged as the leading world power, and again the USA played a leading role in establishing another organization to replace the failed League of Nations — the United Nations, with headquarters in New York, USA.
After WW2, the disintegration of the European Colonial Empires continued, and by 1970 practically all former European colonies became independent countries, and the world had become divided into three major “blocks”: “The West”, lead by the USA, “The Soviet Block”, lead by the USSR, and “The Third Word” of mostly former European colonies and countries emerged from the defeated Ottoman and Japanese Empires, which became independent states (also known as “developing countries”).
Although the destructiveness of the two world wars, WW1 and WW2, had lead the leading nations of the world to search for ways to end wars, the endless wars between rival empires and their attempts to conquer smaller nations that preceded WW1, and the two world wars themselves, have played major role in the emergence of the “developed” world as it exists today.
The modern means of transport and of the communications are the result of the military “necessities” which were not put to widespread common use until after WW2. And again, the USA had lead the way.
The post‐WW2 hostile competition between the USA and the USSR, known as the “Cold War”, was a further stimulus to technological development, and to improvement of the standards of living of people in general.
And, after the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the USA was left without rivals and “enemies”, and the most economically and militarily powerful country in the world.
So, if the word “greatness” means this economic and military power of the USA at the end of the 20th century, then it was not achieved as a result of “trying to be great”, but as a result of natural development and of seeking to stabilize the world order by ending and prevention of wars of aggression by other countries, like Germany which started WW2 to extend its frontiers and control over as much land as they could occupy militarily.
The establishment of the United Nations Organization after WW2 did not put an end to all wars in the world, and the attempts by the USA to prevent spread of Communism did result in its involvements in wars in Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere.
There were also some conflicts resulting from the ways the “Great Powers” had rearranged the world after WW1 and WW2, like the League of Nations created Middle East Conflict in which the USA had found itself drawn.
Most of these involvements, like on the Korean Peninsula, and in Vietnam, Cuba, and Somalia, were not as successful as the US governments intended them to be, and even non‐war involvements by seeking to influence governments of other countries diplomatically, culturally and economically caused resentment among some groups within some countries. But, while these unsuccessful wars and involvements did tarnish the US reputation, they did not cause the USA to “lose its greatness” — it continued to be the most economically and militarily powerful country in the world.
This continued until the start of the 21st century, when the then President of the USA, G.W. Bush, proclaimed a War on Terror and launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.
This was a turning point in the US Foreign Policy, as the lawlessness and frivolity exhibited by the Bush Administration had destroyed any traces of international legality, which its predecessors sought to establish after WW1 and WW2.
This had also prompted other countries to boost their military might to defend themselves in case they fall victims of the US lawlessness.
Having been elected on a promise to change the Bush policies, his successor, B.H. Obama, continued with the Bush wars and started his own in Syria and Libya.
This has lead to the election of the present incumbent, Donald Trump, who was elected as a “non-Establishment president”, who would end the Bush/Obama wars and “Make America Great Again”.
To his credit, Donald Trump, has not started any new wars, as his predecessors did. But he has not ended their wars either. This will still be on his to-do list, if he is re-elected to his second term, or will be left to his successor, if not.
President Trump also tried to impose the US “authority” on other countries by use of economic sanctions, some of which he inherited from his predecessors. But neither his sanctions, nor those of his predecessors have succeeded to change behaviour of other countries, and were just as lawless as the Bush/Obama wars. The only result they achieved was setting the affected countries against the USA and pushing them to become more assertive on the international stage.
It is clear, that the lost American Greatness will not be restored by wars and sanctions whichever president is elected for the next term.
But, if not wars and sanctions, then what can restore the lost American Greatness?
Return to the same principles that the US governments promoted after WW1 and WW2 by establishing the League of Nations and the United Nations and inscribed in their founding documents but have failed to achieve.
The difference between WW1, WW2 and today's WW3 is that WW1 and WW2 were caused by others, while today's WW3 is the result of the policies and politics of the US itself and of its friends and allies — the enemy this time is not “them”, but “us”.
And the question is: “Which US president will Make America Great Again?”.