Analysis & Opinions - Harvard Gazette

For President Trump, the road ahead

| November 9, 2016

Harvard analysts ponder changes across the American and global landscapes

Below is Professor Burns' excerpt from the complete article.

When Winston Churchill spoke at Harvard in September 1943 at the height of the Second World War, he reminded faculty and students alike that for the United States, “the price of greatness is responsibility”.

Those are words that President-elect Donald Trump will need to remember and to heed as he assumes the awesome responsibilities of the American Presidency.  If Trump wishes to keep America the great global leader that it surely is and has been for seven decades, he will need to assume the many obligations we have to lead the free and democratic world at a time of great crisis—in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

I was deeply disappointed by Trump’s victory last evening.  Hillary Clinton was and remains, in my judgment, the far better candidate.  She was vastly better prepared to exercise the responsibilities that come to the occupant of the Oval Office.  I will always be proud to have served as a foreign policy advisor on her campaign team.

Based on his behavior in the campaign, Trump has not yet shown the American people or the world that he has the judgment, maturity, balance and knowledge to be a successful President.  Let us all hope he can demonstrate those qualities and more in the years ahead.

As an American, I know that we must accept this result.  Trump won the election fair and square.  Our democratic traditions and basic decency mandate that we must now wish him well.  We must hope (and pray) for the sake of our country and its 320 million inhabitants that he is a successful leader.

The rest of the world is also adjusting to his victory.   That is because Trump turned seventy years of American foreign policy, in both Democrat and Republican Administrations, on its head during the campaign.  Trump consistently denigrated our NATO allies while praising Russia’s Vladimir Putin, disparaged our Asian allies Japan and South Korea, pledged to keep Moslems out of America and repudiated the Mexican people in vulgar terms.  These rash and unwise statements have already damaged American credibility in the world.

Trump and his senior Cabinet appointees must consider quickly during the transition and after January 20 how to repair these gaping wounds in America’s image and reputation. The U.S., for example, has a vital and symbiotic relationship in trade, immigration, energy and homeland security with our North American allies, Mexico and Canada.  Showing respect to the Mexican people and convincing them we will be a good neighbor is another early necessity for the Trump Administration.

Our NATO allies in Europe and the Asia Pacific region represent the greatest power differential between the U.S. and our adversaries Russia and China who have no fixed alliances or reliable friends.  As President, Trump will become the leader of the West at a time of rising authoritarianism in the world.  He will need to signal quickly and unequivocally that he intends to be a faithful ally and to protect these countries from Russian and Chinese aggression in Eastern Europe and in the South and East China Seas respectively. 

Finally, Trump’s repudiation of NAFTA and trade in general, his rejection of American traditions of welcoming immigrants and refugees to enrich our country and his disavowal of elementary standards of human rights are cause for real concern.  Does he really intend to dismantle NAFTA, the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Change Accord?  We in the loyal opposition will need to keep these issues front and center so that the essence of what America has always stood for is not erased in the wake of his victory.

Leading the Federal government and the American people from the Oval Office may be the most difficult job in the country.  Trump should proceed toward Inauguration Day with a sense of humility.  As our first President with no prior experience in government or the military, his will be a steep and potentially treacherous learning curve.  We Americans love our country.  We must thus wish that he becomes the President we all need him to be.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Pazzanese, Christina.“For President Trump, the road ahead.” Harvard Gazette, November 9, 2016.