The global system of peace and prosperity was already on life support before the U.S. president-elect decided to pull the plug.
In 1929, the embittered English writer Robert Graves published a farewell memoir to his country called Good-Bye to All That. A veteran of the Great War, scarred and traumatized at the Battle of the Somme, Graves offered his epitaph to a world brought down by the myopia of a waning ruling class. Unable to see forward, British rulers yearned to restore a bygone age, to make Britain great again, only to destroy the flower of their youth. No sooner did Good-Bye hit the bookstands than governments responded to a financial crisis by throwing up trade barriers, turning currencies into weapons, plunging the world into depression, and then deporting, or later exterminating, foreigners as well as their own citizens.
With the election of Donald Trump to the presidency, the United States seems about to swerve in a similar direction, to go from leading the world as a stabilizer to leading the world as a destabilizer. What’s propelling this about-face is nostalgia for an earlier age of supremacy. In truth, that supremacy has long since passed.