One hundred years ago this week, the United States entered World War I after President Woodrow Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany to “make the word safe for democracy.” Unlike Europe, America did not enter the war for survival. Instead, it entered the war because of a philosophy – the notion that freedom and democracy is\are noble virtues worth defending in blood. The anniversary offers a stark reminder that for much of its history the United States believed it was worthy of influencing the world with its virtues and proud of its accomplishments in the grand arc of human history. Now that notion seems antiquated, outdated, and even immoral. Americans, including our representative leadership in government, are reluctant to assert their moral authority to lead the world.
Of course, this was a principle conservative criticism of President Barack Obama. He was reluctant to spread our virtues in other nations without sufficient qualifiers that such actions were only necessary for American security. Matt Drudge and other conservative news sites frequently broadcast images of Obama bowing to foreign leaders, traditionally taboo for any American president. The message was clear: no one nation or civilization’s values are superior to another’s, including America’s.
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However, President Obama’s outlook is in many ways shared by President Donald Trump. His foreign policy also asserts the United States has no interest in asserting American values or moral leadership in the world. “America First” does not mean he wishes to promote or defend American values. Instead, it means withdrawing from the world stage and looking out for us and only us. When Trump was asked about Vladimir Putin’s brutal atrocities, he simply replied, “You think our country is so innocent?” The implication is clear: from slavery, to Hiroshima, to Vietnam, to Iraq, our hands are dirty and...
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