Dr. Henry Nau, professor at George Washington University and an AO/FCF senior fellow, discusses the new American internationalism... plus news you may have missed, and MORE!
American Opportunity
A/O Global Intelligence Weekly: Nationalism and Internationalism In America

American Opportunity is constantly seeking new ideas and directions in American foreign policy.  Dr. Henry Nau’s approach called “conservative internationalism” has been extensively discussed in our work, and on our web page.​
Nationalism is growing everywhere. Trump is perhaps the most nationalist U.S. president since Andrew Jackson. But American nationalism is not traditional nationalism. 

Traditional nationalism rallied around authoritarian governments (monarchs), religious orthodoxy (state churches), ethnic ties (race) and mercantilism (protectionism). American nationalism stood, in general, for the exact opposite – republican government, religious freedom, ethnic diversity, and open trade. There were dark periods of American nationalism, to be sure, slavery and anti-immigration outbursts. But compared to any other country, America nationalism was always more federalist, pluralist, diverse and open.

In this form, American nationalism shaped the international system. Even before it became a military power, the republic of America discomforted the proponents of traditional nationalism in Europe. John Quincy Adams wrote his father in 1816: “all the restored governments of Europe are deeply hostile to us.” They see us, he continued, as “the primary causes of the propagation of those political principles which still make the throne of every European monarch rock under him as with the throes of an earthquake.”

Prince Metternich of Austria, the archetype of Old Europe monarchism, amplified Adams’ concern: “if this flood of evil doctrines and pernicious examples should extend over the whole of America, what would become . . . of the moral force of our governments, and of that conservative system which has saved Europe from complete dissolution?”

America’s expansion across the continent was no march of freedom, especially for native Americans. But that expansion also widened the franchise for white male citizens. By the 1850s most white males were eligible to vote, far more than in any other country. And expansion accommodated the first wave of non-British and Catholic immigrants. The Civil War itself was a struggle for a wider and more diverse franchise, not just union per se.

After America became a world power, traditional nationalism fueled naval ambitions (Panama Canal and the Great White Fleet) and colonial conquests (Philippines). Yet, contrary to imperialist expectations, America entered World War I very late and then spurned completely a traditional imperialist role by proposing a League of Nations to do away with the balance of power. 

After World War II, it did something equally bewildering. It embraced an unconventional open trade model that shifted power relatively to former adversaries and others in the hope that they would draw closer to America’s ideals.

Starting with Germany and Japan, the United States helped other great powers rise as the United States declined. The latest great power in this story, for better or worse, is China. Indeed, America may be the first national power in history to seek a safer future by sharing its wealth and nurturing more open and democratic partners. Can anyone imagine this kind of “internationalist” nationalism from Germany, France, Japan, Russia or even Britain?

Even more surprising, a nationalism of internationalism has been good for America. When America pursued inclusiveness and openness abroad, it fashioned a freer and safer world at home. The expansion of the early republic preempted European divisions on the North American continent and hastened the resolution of the slavery issue. And America’s open model of world politics after World War II not only built a thriving global economy and defeated the Soviet Union abroad but also accommodated the civil rights and feminist revolutions, unprecedented levels of legal and illegal immigration, and rapid economic growth at home.

The only time America faltered was during the interwar period when it pursued a traditional nationalism of separation from abroad and suffered depression and Jim Crow racism at home. 

Is all of this now changing? Is America turning toward a more traditional form of nationalism, one that advocates religious discrimination, sympathizes with authoritarian government, shuns allies, excludes immigrants and restricts imports? 

It doesn’t have to. Three problems stand in the way, all of which President Trump has targeted – jobs, immigration and imports. Trump has delivered on jobs. Whatever the critics say, growth has doubled from an average of 1.5% to 3.0% per year, and unemployment is lower than ever before.  

Now he must deliver on immigration and trade.  The border wall is a worthy fight if it dries up illegal immigration and reforms legal immigration. And a trade deal with China would complement the new US-Mexico-Canada Agreement and make way for comparable deals with the European Union and a redesigned TransPacific Partnership.

Trump’s nationalism is well in line with American nationalism, if he can deliver!
Dr. Henry Nau is a senior fellow with American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation and a professor at George Washington University.  Nau has also served as a former Reagan National Security Council staffer and is the author of Conservative Internationalism (Princeton: 2015)

More after the jump. . . 
Joim American Opportunity

Monday, January 21, 2019 is the day we remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  As Governor of Virginia, I separated the King holiday from Lee-Jackson Day.  While recognizing Virginia history, I issued certificate of recognitions each year of my administration for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s holiday.  

As Governor of Virginia, I saw deep divisions in Virginia and observed politicians trying to deepen those divides.  For this reason, I made the theme of my inauguration “A time for all Virginians” and warmly welcomed Coretta Scott King to the Governor’s Mansion in Richmond.  

I also provided in my budgets special appropriation to Virginia's historically black public colleges in order to strengthen and preserve the unique character and contributions of each.  This followed my initiatives as Attorney General of Virginia to lead a national effort of Attorneys General to stop arson and vandalism of African-American churches across the American south.

American Opportunity/Free Congress Foundation remains profoundly dedicated to the core American principles reflected by men such as Dr. King.  We adopt the fundamental statement of Martin Luther King Jr. who said that people should be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. 

In a world where new technology can so often join with old hatreds, it is easy to point towards our devils and assume that this is humanity.  Yet Dr. King brought forward something deeper in the American character -- that voices which says the angels of our better natures are stronger than our fears, our hesitations, and our prejudices.  For this and so many other reasons, I am very glad to have played a small role in recognizing Dr. King's commendable achievements in Virginia, and hope that on his holiday we all take a moment to reflect on his leadership.

Some news and articles we recommend for information and discussion purposes, none of which necessarily represent the position of A/O:​​

​As always, American Opportunity is always looking for new resources and topics we can address in detail.  Please feel free to stay in contact! 


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