International and Comparative Politics

Interview with Professor Hall Gardner On His Latest Book

World War Trump: The Risks of America’s New Nationalism

Hall Gardner’s latest book World War Trump: The Risks of America’s New Nationalism discusses a wide variety of topics that are not getting enough serious conversation in the current, Twitter-filled, sound-bite-happy, political climate. These topics include protectionism and “America First” policies as well as the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, among many others. For those of us who keep an eye on the latest developments and are searching to join a richer, more nuanced conversation, Gardner’s World War Trump provides this in spades.

“The book covers a whole range of issues,” Gardner says, “which is why it’s really compressed. If you read the news and keep up-to-date with what’s been happening, you will be able to follow along just fine.”

In the New York Journal of Books, Jonathan Power reviewed World War Trump saying: “Not even Zbigniew Brzezinski or Henry Kissinger could have written such a book.” High praise, indeed. In fact, Power goes so far to say that “every foreign affairs student, journalist, academic and policy maker should make reading it a priority.” So what is it about World War Trump that has hit such a chord among those interested in the current political climate and the seemingly endless debate surrounding the Trump administration?

In our interview, Professor Gardner stressed the importance of his realistic point of view.

“I offer a real alternative perspective to Trump’s policies,” he says, quick to give current examples, ranging from the on-going plight of the Ukraine to the swift developments with North Korean-US relations. Though Gardner’s policy viewpoint is diametrically opposed to the President’s public position, Gardner believes his prognosis to be more strongly rooted in the hope of realistic outcomes. After outlining a nuanced strategy for how to achieve peace on the Korean peninsula that involves China, Japan and Russia, Gardner laments how President Trump does not speak in nuance or promote bringing these other countries to the negotiation table. “He doesn’t articulate these concerted types of peace policies and goals publicly. Meanwhile, I’m advocating something concrete, that’s realistic, that can be implemented if the United States really pursues it.”

World War Trump is a book that, while it discusses the ever-shifting policy of Trump and the issues he has inherited from his predecessors, it also paints a portrait of the man behind the presidency that is entirely unflattering, particularly in Gardner’s comparison of Trump to Trump’s favorite US president, Theodore Roosevelt. Where Roosevelt was a “Republican maverick,” who advocated “speaking softly and carrying a big stick,” in many ways, Trump is the polar opposite of his self-confessed icon, both in terms of policy and in terms of manner.

In order to really deal with this situation, we need radical transformations in both our domestic and foreign policies.

Prof. Hall Gardner

When pressed about whether or not he felt he had painted a “fair and accurate” picture of the President, Gardner notes that his book focuses on the policies developed under the Trump administration over the course of Trump’s first year in office. “I tried to focus on policy issues and to steer away from other scandals,” Gardner said. “Trump doesn’t create an atmosphere of trust, and that’s the main thing. It’s a management style that I don’t think is appropriate for running a business, let alone for running the United States and, therefore, I don’t think I’ve been unfair to him.”

In the end, the stakes are real. This presidency is unlike any presidency we’ve seen in modern history. The threat of war suggested in the title isn’t hysterical or exaggerated, Gardner says. “Trump sees the game just like every other demagogue – use the state to your advantage. Trump’s so-called “America First” policies and actions are dangerously provocative and he often appears to be acting in his own personal interests and not for domestic American social reconciliation or for global peace and prosperity.”

In his decades of foreign policy expertise and experience, Gardner warns that the threat of Trump’s presidency is something very real and something of which we should be very, very wary, though there are promising solutions. “This is what World War Trump grapples with,” Gardner says. “In order to really deal with this situation, we need radical transformations in both our domestic and foreign policies. World War Trump provides honest, realistic solutions for the current national and global political landscape.”

However, don’t let the views of Jonathan Power, nor those of Gardner himself, determine whether or not Gardner has been fair, how wary we should be, nor how realistic his proposed policy solutions are for today’s world. Decide for yourself. Pick up a copy of World War Trump: The Risks of America’s New Nationalism (Prometheus Books, 2018). It is available for checkout at the AUP Library and for purchase at the AUP Bookstore and wherever else you purchase your books.