The particular brand of “realism" that has determined much of American foreign economic policy since the Second World War reared its hulking head over the past few weeks. One reminder was when US President Donald Trump threatened to withdraw his country from the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Another was the way Trump grooved his response to the disappearance and alleged murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. I should explain the idea of “grooving”. Imagine the split second before an urbanite approaches an escalator and steps swiftly, without thinking, on to the moving stairs. The urbanite has culturally assimilated the routines of the city. And so, when Trump was confronted with the disappearance of Khashoggi, his response, now culturally assimilated, was that the missing journalist was not a US citizen and that Saudi Arabia was an important trade partner. It seemed, at the time, that Washington’s trade relations were more important than the human rights of a non-US c...

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