Rule 2: Keep and increase authority by providing essential services like common security, free trade and navigation — and by upholding a rules-based order that favors mutually beneficial cooperation.
“America First” means sacrificing the future for short-term gain. The history of sanctions, Mr. Trump’s favorite sport after golf, offers a nasty lesson. Victims may buckle, but they will soon sever the tie that binds. Sanctions devalue themselves by forcing nations into self-sufficiency. Ciao, America.
Rule 3: Promote your own interests by taking care of others’. What’s good for them is good for America because a supply-side foreign policy legitimizes U.S. leadership.
Yet Mr. Trump sees multilateralism as a plot against America. “America Alone” is worse. Though hungry for gas and 5G, the Europeans are a second-order headache compared with Chinese and Russian expansionism. In this two-and-a-half-power world, plus lesser upstarts like Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey and Kim Jong-un’s North Korea, America needs more, not fewer, friends.
Finally, rule 4: Always harness the largest-possible coalition. Coax, don’t compel. Return to the diplomacy America has so wisely practiced in the past.
Remind Ms. Merkel that European 5G suppliers — Nokia and Ericsson — can also deliver. The somewhat higher price will be mitigated by the gain in common security. And if Ms. Merkel panics over losing the lucrative Chinese market to Beijing’s retaliation? Then assure her that America is not out to destroy Euro-Chinese trade as such but to keep strategic industries out of President Xi Jinping’s hands. America’s allies will nod in assent.
So, what are the chances?
“Europe should view Trump as an anomaly,” John Bolton, Mr. Trump’s defrocked national security adviser, told the German magazine Der Spiegel last week. “It is not going to be that hard to get back to normal.” Amen.
“Home alone” has not been the American way, certainly not since 1945, when the United States took on responsibility for the liberal world order. Even Mr. Trump’s base would rather be at the helm than hunker down in the hold.
Josef Joffe is a member of the editorial council of the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit and a fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.
The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.