When Donald Trump won the White House last month, his victory represented more than the usual handing off of power from Democrats to Republicans. It was a total reworking of the political order. One of Trump’s consistent themes has been economic nationalism. Since the 1980s, Trump has always questioned the conventional wisdom of globalization as a force for good. Trump has pointed out a critical flaw in America’s grand strategy.
Thirty years ago, Trump argued that America was being taken advantage of by the likes of Japan. By the mid-1990s, however, worries over a resurgent Japan faded as that country fell into a long-term recession. Today, China’s meteoric rise as well as Mexico’s and a litany of other countries prospering through the use of so-called “free trade” practices in their deals with the United States, have many Americans skeptical about the benefits accrued to us from these deals.
Trouble is, as American think tankers, bankers, and politicians all congratulated themselves over their various free-trade agreements, China and other rivals were laughing as they acquired more and more American assets.
Trump, more than any American political or military leader, has rightly assessed that far from being ancillary to a country’s foreign policy, a country’s economic policy is integral to its conduct in foreign affairs. That is why Trump’s rhetoric opposing increased trade with China is so important. For almost 20 years, the Chinese have been using their economic potential—and the promise of great profit to China—to weaken America strategically.
The Chinese lure advanced American corporations over to their country, which then guts America’s economic potential, as jobs and opportunities are forever lost (after all, how can any American worker compete with a worker in China who can get paid almost nothing for doing twice the work?) Meanwhile, the Chinese Communist Party is empowered, as the Chinese people achieve unprecedented wealth and their country’s economy is rapidly modernized. In America, however, things slow down and America’s productive might is mollified.
Such zero-sum thinking may seem anathema to many dogmatic free traders. Unfortunately for them, this is exactly how the Chinese view economic policy (as do many other nations, including some of America’s allies). We may be thankful, however, it is appears to be how Trump views economic policy. Indeed, his is the first administration in some time to move toward a holistic doctrine of national defense that includes an economic component. In other words, Trump seems to understand that we need an economic policy that will place America (for the first time in years) on the offensive against its foreign rivals, by using all methods of state power to better protect the American economy while expanding prosperity for Americans. Despite what detractors say, this is a good thing—not only for our economy, but also for our national defense.
This gutting of America’s Working Class has also led to a cultural malaise, particularly among America’s men. One need look no further than Hanna Rosin’s obscene book, The End of Men for evidence of the problem. Everything from the wussification of men in our society to transgendered bathrooms are physical manifestations of this ceaseless assault on our nation’s character, through “free trade.”
Remember Stephen E. Ambrose’s book, Citizen Soldiers, and the tale of the young American G.I.’s during D-Day who ingeniously devised a way to cut through the Nazi hedgerows that were blocking the American advance up the beach? Had it not been for those young G.I.’s and their experience of working as welders—but even more important, their audacity and willingness to take charge and take risks—who knows how many American lives would have been lost.
In a random sampling of 10 American men from the ages of 18-24, how many do you suppose would have experience in welding or similar skill sets today? God forbid the U.S. found itself in a shooting war with the 2.3 million man Chinese military (many of whom are conscripts from the impoverished inner part of China). Do you think we have enough of the kind of men we would need to effectively challenge the Chinese (particularly if the Chinese neutered our technological advantages)? Sure, we need programmers and engineers.We always have needed those highly skilled kinds of workers and we always will. But it is foolhardy to imagine that we no longer need the kinds of men that can only be produced through the Blue Collared experience. With that way of life so readily shrugged off and sacrificed by those who do not understand it—all in the name of “globalism” and “efficiency”—one has to wonder how much longer America can retain its martial prowess.
Just look at the wars that America is fighting today. Despite the newfangled technology involved (and some of the stuff is really awesome), the wars of today are not unlike the wars of yesteryear. The Global War on Terror is fought almost exclusively on the ground. The men who serve in the Marine Corps and U.S. Army infantry are far more efficient and lethal when honoring a working class ethos of strength (the very ethos that draws sneers from most coastal elites) than they would be replacing that ethos with social justice experimentation.
I mean, how many hipster baristas could kick down Bin Laden’s door?
Rather than serving as a force for democratic liberation and increasing American prosperity, America’s unquestioning devotion to policies labeled “free trade” have sapped America of its economic potential as well as its martial ethos. Slowly, prosperity has been drained and Americans, once among the least class conscious of peoples, have become bifurcated. As Angelo Codevilla outlined in his book, The Ruling Class, we now live in a society where the distinctions between the cosmopolitan coastal elites (the ruling class) and the disenfranchised, rural poor (the country class) are apparent to all but those wearing ideological blinders. This not only has harmed most Americans, it has also created strategic weaknesses for rivals like China to exploit (and boy, have they exploited them!).
Why should the U.S. shrug when China uses their economy as a weapon to do far more damage to America’s strength in peacetime than their military could ever hope to do in war? Donald Trump’s experience and sense about what American priorities ought to be promises to reinvigorate America’s economy and to turn our attention, once again, to a grand strategy for America encompassing more than just a narrow defensive posture—one that recognizes the necessity of an economic warfare doctrine if we are to go on and maintain the offensive. No more bad deals. No more selling out Americans. Once again Americans will seek to answer the question, “What’s in our national interest?” It’s about time!