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Imagining the West in the Era of America First

  • Henna-Riikka PennanenEmail author
  • Anna Kronlund
Chapter

Abstract

This chapter focuses on the debates revolving around President Donald Trump’s “America First”-policy from the perspectives of the main actors engaged in discussions on US foreign policy: the president and the administration, Congress, public and expert opinion, and media. We uncover three overlapping crisis narratives present in the debates: crisis of Western values, crisis of the liberal international order, and crisis of US leadership and analyze how the idea and concept of the West is utilized in these narratives. First, we argue that the concept of the West is eminently useful and effective in political rhetoric because of its familiarity, plasticity, and emotiveness. This is why both the president and his critics have frequently resorted to it despite the earlier academic prognosis that there is no longer much room for the concept in US political rhetoric. Second, we posit that while there are structures that can potentially circumscribe the president’s foreign policy, none of these curb the rhetorical power the president wields. Third, we show that crisis narratives, such as the declinist America First-narrative, open up a window of opportunity for redefinitions and reconceptualizations and that the Trump administration has seized the opportunity in order to revert to a narrower interpretation of the national interest and US leadership in the world order. In response, critics have floated the crisis narratives regarding the liberal international order and the idea of universal values, with the end result, that much of the US foreign policy discussion is once again mired in declinism and anxiety over lost hegemony.

Keywords

The United States Trump administration Foreign policy Political rhetoric 

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Turku Institute for Advanced StudiesUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.University of JyväskyläJyväskyläFinland

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