The argument that human beings can consciously shape the future was the foundation of Leninism. His idea of the Communist Party as the vanguard of the proletariat (and its brains) was that it really matters who leads the party and what policies they pursue. I do not think Lenin intended to create the nightmare he did (he spent his life in a hopeless struggle for the revolution), but his intentions really didn’t matter.
U.S. presidents are not Leninists – far from it. But a single will cannot transform the foundation with which we work. Impersonal forces, unintended consequences and actions of others out of the president’s control define his presidency. Lincoln, Roosevelt and Reagan did not make history. History made them. Being wise enough to know that reality could not be resisted, and that leaders must align with reality, made them successful. Those who rise to the presidency do not get there by resisting reality. They get there by understanding it and aligning themselves with it. By the time they take the oath of office, they have learned hard lessons, or they wouldn’t be there.
While I am not fully on board the system dominance theory of foreign policy as opposed to the "great man (or woman)" theory of events, I do believe that external forces--the weight of history and current policies--do push events along unless extraordinary efforts are made to bend history.
I just don't think that Trump has such defined and intensely held views on foreign policy that will lead him to make extraordinary efforts in foreign policy (or domestic policy, for that matter).
Come on people, President Obama won in large part due to his anti-war promises and yet he will be the first president at war throughout two full terms of office.
President Obama wanted the Guantanamo Bay detention facility closed in his first 90 days. And here we are in his last 90 with Gitmo still operating (with far fewer prisoners, admittedly). Events shaped that decision.
And consider Iraq. That war was the central motivation of his supporters and candidate Obama promised to exit Iraq completely to "responsibly end" the Iraq War. President Obama did actually walk away from in 2011 after we won the war on the battlefield, yet President Obama decided to start Iraq War 2.0 in 2014 to recover what we lost after our forces left Iraq!
Still, I was wrong to assume that a 3-year agreement between America and Iraq hammered out in 2008 under Bush 43 to keep forces in Iraq combined with a much more peaceful Iraq after our battlefield victory would have led President Obama to keep American troops in Iraq after 2011. One man's decision did overcome what I thought were the constraints of momentum. For a while, anyway.
So on the whole, I'm not worried America will abandon NATO or other allies. I'm not worried we will withdraw to the Western Hemisphere. I'm not worried that protectionism will kill trade. I'm not worried Trump will start a nuclear war. I'm not worried that we will green light Putin's aggression.
And after jihadis upped their level of hate against America and the West despite two terms of President Obama who promised to heal our relations with the Moslem world, I'm sure not worried that a Trump presidency will make more jihadis. What doesn't make jihadis?
Remember, my main concern about Clinton was her corruption. Sure, I opposed her policies. But if I managed not to curl up in a fetal position and cry for a therapy dog after the election and reelection of President Obama (who I have disagreed with on policy but never considered corrupt), I would not have despaired over her election if she had simply been liberal. Policies can be changed. Events shape policies. But corruption is harder to dislodge and can cripple even good policies. Ask the Chinese about that even as changing their economic policies has improved their economy immensely over the last several decades.
If you wanted Clinton, stop crying and rioting. If you wanted Trump, stop thinking his election solves all your problems. Events will happen, boys and girls. And in your own life, your choices are the events you can best control.