White House & President

How Trump exploded America's absurd moralism about foreign affairs

The Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un appears to have mostly been a farce in which the American president (due to a mixture of ignorance and misplaced bravado) mistook a mutual restatement of vague goals regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula for some kind of diplomatic breakthrough. Because of that misunderstanding, the future of relations between the United States and North Korea remains fraught and highly risky. Yet there is one respect in which the meeting was unambiguously positive: the fact that it happened at all. Americans love to think well of themselves, especially when it comes to questions of moral purity. We imagine ourselves on the side of the angels, an exceptional nation that stands for human rights and democracy and against tyranny in all of its forms. Because of these assumptions, we like to divide the nations of the world into two categories: those belonging to the "free world" (of which the U.S. is the undisputed leader) and everyone else, ranging from the merely corrupt to the actively malevolent.


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