The Fall of the American Empire: McCormack Fellow Compares Policies of FDR and Trump

McCormack Graduate School | October 05, 2017
The Fall of the American Empire: McCormack Fellow Compares Policies of FDR and Trump

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Our empire is now tottering; the White House is no longer the centerpiece of the free world but an embarrassment



The collaborative world order established by Franklin D. Roosevelt and other leaders after World War II is in danger of being unraveled by President Trump, according to award-winning biographer Nigel Hamilton. Hamilton, a senior fellow of the McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies, spoke at the school recently on “The Rise and Fall of the American Empire, Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Donald Trump.”

Hamilton, who is currently writing the third and final volume of a biography on Roosevelt at war, believes that the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II led our country’s rise to empire. “The miracle,” said Hamilton, “is that from being a resolutely isolationist country, a country with no allies and no willingness to accept any global responsibilities beyond its own borders and hemisphere, the United States was compelled by the circumstances of war ... to turn into the leading nation of the free world: becoming economically, militarily, and diplomatically a world power, in fact, the world power, overnight.”

Before the official end of the war, FDR brought together Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill, Chaing Kai-shek, and others to agree to the notion of a United Nations Authority, with a security council to monitor threats to world peace. Roosevelt told the American people that the foreign policy that he and his collaborators had been following is based on Benjamin Franklin’s common sense advice on July 4, 1776: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

Hamilton explained that this consistent approach–albeit imperfect–guided FDR’s presidential successors, Congress, and the country for 72 years ... until the 2016 election of Donald Trump.

“Our empire is now tottering; the White House is no longer the centerpiece of the free world but an embarrassment,” Hamilton said. Examples of Trump’s foreign policies which are transforming FDR’s notion of world order include his abandonment of the Paris climate treaty, withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, and his challenge of NATO objectives. On the home front, the president wants to abandon health care for all and encourages white supremacy and racism, according to Hamilton. “These policies contradict Roosevelt’s great vision of a world order, guaranteed in part by the United States as a global leader.’’

In his closing remarks, Nigel Hamilton called for a “leader who speaks the truth, and can review America’s greatest asset: idealism that binds together people with noble purpose, not the myths and lies that are currently pardoned as acceptable ‘alternative facts.’”

David Cash, dean of the McCormack Graduate School, praised Nigel Hamilton as “a biographer with few peers” whose talk was “the perfect combination of history, poetry, and analysis.”

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