It’s an odd statement coming from anyone who was ever in the U.S. government. President Trump’s former Defense Secretary James Mattis has declared, in a Foreign Affairs op-ed co-written with establishment foreign policy wonk Kori Schake, that he hopes a Biden administration won’t put America first. He didn’t say which country he thought a president of the United States should put first instead.
Mattis and Schake wrote: “In January, when President Joe Biden and his national security team begin to reevaluate U.S. foreign policy, we hope they will quickly revise the national security strategy to eliminate ‘America first’ from its contents, restoring in its place the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades.”
This was so important, they asserted, because “in practice, ‘America first’ has meant ‘America alone.’ That has damaged the country’s ability to address problems before they reach U.S. territory and has thus compounded the danger emergent threats pose.”
This is rancid, insidious hogwash. Trump’s travel bans, which Biden has pledged to repeal on his first day in office, are designed to prevent problems from reaching U.S. territory. Biden’s repeal of them will only make Americans more vulnerable. Also, Trump’s America First policy was not “America alone” by any means: the U.S. was instrumental in concluding peace deals between Israel and three of its Arab Muslim neighbors, deals that John Kerry, who will soon be back in a position of power, assured us back in 2016 would be absolutely impossible. Trump has also demanded more responsibility from our allies, asking them to pay more for their own defense.
The only way in which Trump’s America First policy meant “America alone” was insofar as it broke from the internationalist arrangements that have been in place since the end of World War II, to which Mattis and Schake refer as “the commitment to cooperative security that has served the United States so well for decades.”
But if a “commitment to cooperative security” doesn’t involve being able to put one’s national interests first, how is it good for the people of that nation? That question doesn’t apply just to America.
In reality, the president’s primary job is clear from the oath of office that every president recites in order to assume office, and it isn’t to provide “cooperative security” for other countries in the world, or free health care for illegal aliens, or to make sure that Somalia and Afghanistan aren’t riven by civil war, or to make sure America is “diverse.” It is simply this: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Or, to put it even more simply, as Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster explains, the primary job of the president of the United States is to put America first.
Nonetheless, this point is hotly controverted. Trump stated it clearly in his inaugural address on January 20, 2017: “From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this moment on, it’s going to be America First… We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world — but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.”
That was one of the reasons why the elites have hated him with such burning intensity, and had to get him out of office. Someone has to pay for that “cooperative security,” and someone has to be paid, and that means that Trump was threatening some extremely wealthy and powerful interests.
The internationalist elite has reasserted its hegemony and beaten back a serious challenge. And it is not a good sign that in spiking the football after that victory, Mattis makes it abundantly clear that “cooperating with like-minded nations” means putting their interests before our own. No responsible national leader should do that, but of course soon, if the Left’s quest for open borders is successful, nations themselves will be a thing of the past, at least in Europe and North America, as the all-encompassing, authoritarian technostate moves inexorably closer to being put into place.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.