How ‘America First’ Became America Alone

How ‘America First’ Became America Alone

In his desperation to restore and showcase American strength, Donald Trump has made the country weaker.

It took only three and a half years for Donald Trump to solidify and formalize the United States’ comprehensive international isolation. In August, the Trump administration demanded the extension of restrictions against Iran for breaking the terms of a nuclear deal that Trump himself had withdrawn from. All but one of the other members of the United Nations Security Council voted against the move or abstained—including every other permanent member of the body. “America First” had, effectively, become America alone.

The fallout at the UN was just the latest episode in the long-running soap opera over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iranian nuclear agreement. Dismissing the deal as among the worst in history, Trump opted instead for a policy of maximum pressure to force Iran’s capitulation. His efforts were part of a wider shift during his presidency toward diplomatic unilateralism, pulling the U.S. out of key international agreements in favor of a return to the raw-power politics that he believed better suited American strength.

The move achieved what the Trump administration would consider important victories. Following America’s withdrawal, Britain, France, and Germany—which, together with China and Russia, were signatories to the deal—discovered they were powerless to circumvent the might of American sanctions.