German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s comment on Sunday that Europe could no longer fully rely on the United States as an ally raised alarm in foreign policy circles. America’s commitment to defend Western Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has been a cornerstone of policy since World War II. The U.S.-German partnership has been a pillar of a stable, democratic and prosperous Europe.
That the election of Donald Trump could put those bonds in doubt was understandably surprising.
But it’s not just because of President Trump.
Merkel’s comments have highlighted a deeper question: Can a democracy like the United States still make commitments that are likely to outlast the turnover of its leaders? The answer affects U.S. foreign policy not only during the Trump administration, but after Trump is gone.