President Trump can’t make America great again if that means making it again the unchallenged No.1 superpower, but the nation has a hugely powerful array of deployable defence assets which he should preserve if only to maintain the US’ prestige and influence. He will want to reduce defence expenditure and force the Europeans to do a lot more. They would be wise to agree. He has mentioned some ideas which, if he can implement them, might enhance the country’s comfort and capacity to exert soft power and influence.
An important element in what he has said so far and which appears to have resonated with voters is his opposition to trade agreements including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But down that road lies a loss of external influence. On the other hand a reduction of the US’ deep engagement in the Middle East would make sense if he could carry it off domestically.
His infrastructure promise is a potential winner if properly crafted and implemented. A new network of toll roads and new bridges would be the core of that. New and improved city subways and high-speed inter-city rail is needed to bring the US up to China/Japan standards (also French and Spanish). And he has promised a big push on all that.
He may well talk about making America “Great Again” while recognising the great difficulty and complexity of the above, but he will have to prioritise. He should relegate a wall against Mexico to the bottom of the list and put some welfare items like assisted healthcare high on the list—but he has not even taken office yet so it is idle to make a long list.
We must all hope that he gathers a top team of influential, experienced, very able people. In that, his role model should be Ronald Reagan. And we don’t even know whether he has the huge capacity for concentrated hard work that he will require if he is to be successful.