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Will Trump Bring Down the West?

LONDON – I have spent my whole political life somewhere called “the West.” It was not literally “west”: while its heartland was Western Europe and the United States, it also included faraway countries like Australia and Japan. Rather, it was a community that embraced shared hopes and values. Reflecting America’s global leadership after World War II, the West was protected by US hard power and shaped by US soft power. And it was the most peaceful and prosperous place in the world.

The West has long provided the foundation for the global order – probably the most successful such foundation ever created. Led by the US, the West built, shaped, and championed international institutions, cooperative arrangements, and common approaches to common problems. As it helped to sustain peace and boost prosperity in much of the world, its approaches and principles attracted millions of followers.

The election of Donald Trump as US President, however, threatens this entire system. If Trump does in office what he promised to do during his crude and mendacious campaign, he could wreck a highly sophisticated creation, one that took several decades to develop and has benefited billions of people. Those of us who, like Americans, have gained from it must fight for it while it still breathes.

One promise on which Trump must not follow through is to advance trade protectionism. The case for tearing up free-trade agreements and aborting negotiations for new ones is premised on the belief that globalization is the reason for rising income inequality, which has left the American working class economically marooned. But the real sources of American workers’ economic pain are technological innovation and tax-and-spend policies that favor the rich.