Before World War II, there was a vigorous isolationist movement in the United States. Millions of Americans wanted nothing to do with the rest of the world and its messy problems.
As Adolf Hitler invaded one country after another, America — an ocean away — pretended not to notice. Hitler was dismissed as "just a house painter." Terrified Jews, fleeing their homeland from Hitler's Gestapo, were denied U.S. entry and returned to Germany. Mammoth concentration camps rose; great cities were razed.
Ultimately, after Pearl Harbor was attacked, the United States had no choice but to get involved in what became total world war. Many Americans remember the horror of it.
And now we have Donald Trump, a man uninterested and unknowledgeable about even recent history, determined to take us back to isolationism. His followers, who know nothing about world affairs except what Trump tells them, mindlessly cheer him on.
In rapid succession, he has taken the United States out of the Paris Climate Accords, out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and, now, out of the Iran nuclear agreement, signed by six other nations and approved by the Security Council of the United Nations.
The agreement was working; Iran had dismantled its nuclear program. Without any breach of that agreement, the United States breeched it, breaking our word, proving to the world we no longer are credible, no longer to be trusted.
If former President Barack Obama had anything to do with anything, Trump is ripping it to shreds. Trump said the Iran agreement was a disaster and will be renegotiated with better terms for the U.S. No, it won't. If Iran wants to leave the agreement, still in force with Europe, nothing will stop it from resuming its nuclear research.
We went into the agreement because it was a verified way to stop the nuclearization of Iran instead of fighting a full-out war to prevent it. Iran is no Iraq; it is much bigger, more industrial and more powerful. War would be a catastrophe. But Trump doesn't know that; he got out of serving in Vietnam because of bone spurs. He mocked John McCain, who was tortured by the Viet Cong, for being taken prisoner.
Trump approves of torture although it is illegal in this country and by international fiat. He put forward as his next CIA director an agent who headed a secret CIA torture site in Thailand. Torture has to be proven not to work; when the U.S. practiced torture, it encouraged terrorists who seized Americans to use torture against them. Trump would even kill families of suspected terrorists.
In Trump's drama-every-day governing method, we now move on to his upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kin Jong Un whom he once repeatedly mocked. Kim, who tested thermonuclear weapons, appears delighted to be the first North Korean leader to meet an American president and set foot in South Korea. Kim made a number of conciliatory concessions, like his predecessors, although they always went back on their word. Common these days.
So how is this playing? There is a groundswell of demand that Trump be given the Nobel Peace Prize. Who knows? It could happen although any possible deal with North Korea is years away. The Nobel Committee has made some dumb decisions.
European leaders trooped, hands outstretched, to the White House to beg Trump not to abrogate the Iran deal. He ignored them to keep the campaign promise he made back in 2016 before he knew what he was talking about. He still doesn't but now he has power and he's stubborn.
Ironically, he announced his decision on the anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, signifying when Hitler's troops finally laid down their arms.
Now May 8 may be remembered as the day that the spark was lit that created a nuclear Middle East.
Contact Tribune News Service columnist Ann McFeatters at email@example.com.