The most distraught opponents of President Donald Trump worried about all sorts of "worst case scenarios" — a declaration of martial law, dissolution of Congress, illegal firing of federal judges — in other words, establishment of a dictatorship.
These worried Americans can feel a little more optimistic. Trump has not done any of those things and has, at times, seemed reasonable, even presidential. He visited Saudi Arabia and Israel without a conflagration. But his first overseas trip ended with a harsh, ill-tempered speech to European allies in which Trump accused U.S. allies of failing to live up to their defense commitments. Given the opportunity to reaffirm the United States' commitment to NATO and NATO's foundational concept, that an attack on any NATO member will be treated as an attack on all NATO members, Trump refused to endorse the key clause that had been the heart of U.S. foreign policy for more than 50 years.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel interpreted the omission as a warning that Europe can no longer depend on its strongest and most important ally. In not so many words, Merkel told European democracies that they could no longer count on the United States to defend their democracies against existential threats.
Trump had previously declared NATO to be obsolete. The alliance designed to protect Europe, the United States and Canada against aggression by the Soviet Union no longer mattered, in his view, after the demise of the Soviet Union more than 20 years ago. But Europeans and most American foreign policy specialists had a different view. Russia, under Vladimir Putin, has become as threatening and nefarious as the Soviet Union, going so far as to meddle in U.S. elections, invade Ukraine and Georgia and generally undermine democracy around the globe. Trump seems blind to Russia's clandestine aggressions.
The greatest fears of Trump opponents might never come true. We might never end up with a Trump dictatorship or dynasty. But Trump's election has already resulted in the dissolution of alliances and international security that took decades to establish and nurture.
In one ill-worded and belligerent speech, Trump has undone generations of post-World War II security.