In his Inaugural Address, Trump declared that “it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first.” True enough. However, no nation has the right to defend its national interests in a form detached from internationalist consciousness. All nations have the moral obligation to seek mutually beneficial trade with other nations, and to defend their interests in the context of negotiations based on mutual respect and respect for the sovereignty of other nations.
Moreover, those nations that have benefitted from colonial domination have a historic and social debt to those nations that have been victimized by it. There can be no moral justification for the United States, having economically benefitted from trade with slave states and slave nations and from inserting itself into semi-colonial structures established by Spanish conquest and colonial domination of Latin America, to now proclaim that it has a right to protect the advantages and privileges that have been accumulated at the expense of other peoples. As Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa asserted at the 2017 Summit of CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), the protection of their economies by nations historically colonized is necessary for their sovereignty, and it is fundamentally different from economic protection by a superpower, the exercise of which will have serious negative repercussions for the nations of the world (read more on Rafael Correa).
The dominant school of thought in foreign relations during the twentieth century has maintained that nations must be guided primarily by interests rather than moral considerations, and that a nation does not have a right to sacrifice its interests in the name of a moral principle (see Morgenthau 1973:3-15). This indeed has been the guiding principle of the major powers throughout the history of the modern world-system. But the belief that each nation should pursue its economic interests, leaving moral considerations aside, ensures the unsustainability of the world-system in the long term. No world-system could be sustainable, if the political entities that compose it, in the conduct of foreign policy, were to ignore the values that are shared by all. In the case of the modern world-system, universal values have been articulated and enshrined in important documents and declarations of international associations, and they include moral concepts such as the rights of all nations to sovereignty and to economic and social development. All nations have the obligation to respect these rights and to develop their foreign policy accordingly. The global elite does not understand this moral duty, and as a result, they are leading humanity to chaos, violence and possible extinction. In an earlier stage, the amoral conduct of the global elite was sanctioned by historians and social scientists. Today, however, it is increasingly evident that philosophers, historians and social scientists have the duty to condemn policies that ignore universal human values.
The possibility and the necessity of a U.S. foreign policy of North-South cooperation, in accordance with the universally accepted principles of the sovereignty and equality of nations, the social and economic rights of persons, and the duty of humanity to defend itself and to defend nature, must be declared and explained to the people. It is the duty of the Left to formulate and proclaim this explanation, so that the people, who are increasingly rejecting neoliberal globalization, will have a concrete alternative to the neo-fascism of Trump.
Morgenthau, Hans J. 1973. Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace, Fifth Edition. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.