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This became the prevailing view, at least for a few years, after the attacks on New York and Washington took place on September 11, 2001. At a stroke, all post-historical illusions were dissipated, to be replaced by a single-minded determination to defend the American homeland from terrorism. That conservative instinct of self-preservation was combined with the liberal mission of nation-building in Afghanistan and Iraq. But as the war on terror became ever more protracted, so the war coalition fell apart. Those who had always been enemies of the West saw their chance, as the allies snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

There followed a lost decade of recession, recrimination and retreat. During these years, Barack Obama persuaded himself and a great many others that the nation state, the only tried and tested political framework for democratic capitalism and the rule of law, was no longer indispensable. In 2009, John Bolton, now President Trump’s National Security Advisor, wrote an important article for Standpoint about Obama’s vision. He called it “the post-American presidency”. Obama removed the limitations of righteousness and instead took its pursuit to a new level. Under his presidency, liberal righteousness became radical self-righteousness.

In Europe, meanwhile, the dismal spectacle of the “Arab Spring”, followed by the exodus of millions of migrants from failed states, did nothing to dampen the ardour of progressive opinion. Rumours of war, emanating from the plains of Mesopotamia, the South China Sea and the Kremlin, seemed to leave the White House intensely relaxed. Then the wars started happening for real: the dismembering of Syria, the metastasis of Islamic State, the annexation of Crimea and infiltration of Ukraine, the start of the Korean missile crisis. Throughout, the Obama administration seemed distracted, even paralysed. Red lines were crossed in Syria with impunity, America’s role in the Middle East was usurped by Russia, Beijing felt no pressure to restrain the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il or his equally psychopathic son Kim Jong-un, and Iran’s nuclear programme, avowedly genocidal in purpose, was legitimised by a “deal” with the West. Most strikingly of all, liberal opinion across the Western world simply acquiesced. Liberals had, in Irving Kristol’s memorable phrase, been “mugged by reality” — but rather than go after the muggers, they identified with them. The imperative of righteousness had become indifferent to the control of wickedness. The axis of evil was pushing back, democracy was in retreat, yet there was no 21st-century equivalent of the Cold War liberals to remind the Left that the first duty of the state is to defend its citizens — and Western civilisation.

Enter, stage right, Donald Trump. In the early days of his candidacy, a mutual acquaintance who had known him for many years assured me that Trump was running solely in order to boost his business profile. Only recently, a book purporting to tell the inside story claims that nobody was more surprised that he won than the man himself. This is nonsense. Trump was confident of victory from the start for one simple reason: unlike his rivals, he was a man with a plan to save his country. Forget the narcissm, the bluster, the paranoia and even the megalomania. It seems to me as an outsider that Trump has a doctrine — whether or not he knows it yet. Building on the Monroe doctrine, the Reagan doctrine and the Bush doctrine, the Trump doctrine is based on one main concept: national sovereignty.
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