In his final public event abroad, President Barack Obama passed on this advice to his successor: regard the US as an indispensable nation.
He said: “We are not going to be able to handle every problem, but the American president and the United States of America, if we’re not on the side of what’s right, if we’re not making the argument and fighting for it, then it collapses. There’s nobody to fill the void.”
What does it entail to be the indispensable nation? The American Spectator defines it as the United States' position from 1941 onwards: indispensable in terms of power and "intentions of the generally beneficent sort".
Its status as indispensable in terms of power still stands. Before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the US spent more on defence ($610 billion) than the next seven nations - China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India, and Germany - combined ($601 billion). Under the President's budget plans, he wants to increase spending by almost the entirety of the Russian defence budget.
In his inauguration speech, Trump committed to an 'America First' foreign policy. He reaffirmed his anti-globalist stanch when speaking to a trade union of builders last month, stating that he does not want to “president of the world" and declaring "the era of economic surrender is over".
The phrase "indispensable nation" was coined during the Bill Clinton administration, but it encapsulates the thinking of every president from Harry Truman to George W Bush, the Financial Times observes. While Barack Obama was the transitional figure away from that tradition, who has recently said that initially avoiding military action over Syria's chemical weapons "required the most political courage", Donald Trump is the decisive break by running on an isolationism platform.
Since he is relinquishing the idea of the United States as the indispensable nation, Germany has taken on the mantel. With the US entering into "a period of fecklessness" and Britain leaving the EU, Quartz argues, Germany is the Western power left standing. It has dominated European domestic policy since the 2008 Greek debt crisis, managed by Angela Merkel and her finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, and has masterminded European foreign policy.
As Donald Trump prepares to take his first foreign trip as President this week, including stops in Saudi Arabia, and the Vatican, he will have to decide whether the US is still the indispensable nation - or whether it is America First, as he promised.