Between 1947 and 1989, the defining imperative of American “international leadership” was anti-communism. At times, anti-communism nurtured ideals of freedom, human dignity and peace. In the name of anti-communism, America protected fragile democracies in West Germany, Italy and Japan. In the name of anti-communism, the United States fed Europe’s starving post-masses via the Marshall Plan. In the name of anti-communism, the United States committed itself to Western Europe’s defense, thus keeping German nationalism in check and laying the groundwork for a postwar economic boom.
But anti-communism also justified America’s overthrow of elected governments in Iran, Guatemala and Chile. It justified Ronald Reagan’s decision to label Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress a terrorist organization and America’s longtime assistance to the kleptocratic Congolese dictator Mobutu Sese Seko. And far from keeping the peace, it led the United States to drop more bombs on Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War than it had during World War II.
Since 1989, this moral duality has continued. The United States has sought to extend its global preeminence while battling a range of enemies—from “rogue states” seeking “weapons of mass destruction” to hyper-nationalists murdering ethnic minorities to jihadist terrorist groups—that challenge the American-led order. During the Gulf War, this imperative led the United States to strengthen the United Nations and defend international law. But during the Iraq War, it led the United States to defy international law and obliterate the Iraqi state, thus creating the conditions for ISIS. In Bosnia and Kosovo, American power helped stop genocide. In Libya, it helped create chaos.Sometimes America best serves its people and its ideals by not trying to bend the world to its will.>
The point is that American “leadership” sometimes furthers the ideals that Americans revere and sometimes it desecrates them. Sometimes it makes America stronger; sometimes it doesn’t. McCain’s implication is that it’s only when American “abandon[s]” and “refuse[s]” its leadership role that it fails its people and the world. But that’s not true. Over the last fifteen years, in a spasm of military hyperactivity, the United States has toppled governments in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, in wars that have cost America dearly, and bred more conflict in their wake. Trump won the Republican nomination, in part, because—facing establishment candidates who would not criticize George W. Bush’s foreign policy—he condemned such adventures and pledged to avoid new ones.
Source : https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/10/what-john-mccain-gets-wrong-about-trumps-nationalism/543183/