Donald Trump’s presidency has raised profound questions about the role the United States will play in world affairs, and whether his election and isolationist vision represents an anomaly or is indicative of deeper structural shifts in American attitudes. The November midterm elections will provide the first national indicator of how the president's messages and disruptive style have resonated with the wider public.

USSC Senior Fellow Dr Charles Edel addresses critical questions about the future of US foreign policy after the midterms in a research brief released today by the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney.

A former advisor to US Secretary of State John Kerry and associate professor of strategy and policy at the US Naval War College, Dr Edel looks at what the midterms will indicate about how widely Trump's "America first" sentiments are shared, as well as the debate surrounding the sustainability and wisdom of America’s global role. He also details what Australia and other allies can do to influence that debate in the lead up to the 2020 US presidential election.

"Many worry that President Trump has put the United States on the precipice of withdrawing from global leadership," Dr Edel notes.

"Such concerns are inevitable, and will continue for as long as Trump remains president. But they also obscure larger debates and emerging trends about US engagement with the world."


  • The sustainability of any future American foreign policy will turn on the interplay of political support, economic circumstances, geostrategic threats and political leadership.
  • Americans are not necessarily fleeing the world yet, nor are they rejecting the post-war order completely. But Americans are becoming more resistant to the sacrifices and trade-offs necessary to preserve the stability of the post-war world order.
  • If US allies increase their defence budgets and capabilities, and demonstrate a greater willingness to seek security arrangements that promote an open and stable international order, this will have a positive impact the perception of future American administrations. Doing so will increase their influence in Washington and simultaneously allow them to hedge for all possibilities.


Drew Sheldrick
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