One of Trumpdom’s most ludicrous lies is that’s he’s raising America’s world standing. In the Fox News alternate reality maybe. In the real world it’s the opposite.
As a longtime conservative Republican, no “isolationist,” I always supported constructive global engagement.* It’s not merely about national pride, but what’s good for people here and abroad. Following WWII, the U.S. undertook leadership to painstakingly build a rules-based world order grounded in a web of alliances and international institutions. (Not just the UN and NATO but many others like the global financial infrastructure, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, etc.) All crafted to promote planetary prosperity and peace. A more peaceful world is better for America. A richer world is better for America.
Trump hates all this and tries to wreck it — his warped idea of “America First.”** Totally ignorant of how the system actually works and how greatly it has served U.S. national interests. That’s why we built it in the first place. Trump thinks all those Americans who did so were stupid, and his uninformed instincts are superior. It’s that kind of attitude that’s tragically stupid.
So he’s pulled us out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate accords, the Iran nuclear deal, arms control agreements, and on and on. Did you know he’s paralyzed the World Trade Organization just by refusing to fill the U.S.-designated seats on its court?
At one time America would have led (as we did with Ebola) a global pandemic response. Trump wound up not even leading among America’s own states. His self-congratulatory lies about our “tremendous” efforts fool only Fox fans. Other nations see the scandalous reality, a huge blow to our international stature. In fact, several European countries are banning travelers from America, because covid-19 is out of control in many states.
Indeed, most of the world views Trump as a boorish monster and Americans as nuts for electing him. That’s why Russia connived to elect him — knowing it would weaken America. Other national leaders quickly learned to play him like a fiddle, by flattering his deranged vanity with empty pageantry. Laughing behind his back.
U.S. global standing never rested mainly on our economic or military might. Instead the world looked to us chiefly for leadership as a force for good. America alone among nations was founded not on blood and soil but values and ideals. That’s not to say we’ve been perfect in living up to them. Of course not. Yet more than any other country America had striven to be guided by such principles.
And much of the world had seen us as representing a vision of democracy, openness, generosity, justice, and human progress toward all those ideals. Both at home and in our relations with others. That’s what’s called our “soft power,” but it doesn’t mean weak. Defense Secretary Mattis said soft power is stronger than the other kind. Trump is shredding it.
For him everything is just transactional. Natural to a man with no moral core. As if morality is just for dummies. But nothing could be dumber than throwing away America’s most valuable international asset — being seen as standing for what’s right. Lord knows not everyone has seen us that way. Now Trump is forcing those who did to revise their opinion. A recent global poll actually showed more people today look to China than to America for global leadership.
We’re certainly no longer seen as a haven. Taking in refugees, and even legal immigration, have been virtually stopped.
Our president used to be called “leader of the free world.” Under Trump we’re not the leader of anything. He has done nothing but undermine our relationships with those nations still committed to an idealistic vision of global progress — while shamelessly getting in bed with the world’s vilest regimes.
In Helsinki he stood up for Putin’s lies against the findings of our own intelligence agencies. When the Saudi ruler was implicated in a ghastly murder, Trump stood up for him too. Trump congratulated the Philippine president’s “drug program” of simply murdering thousands. When Turkey’s authoritarian ruler wanted to attack the Kurds in Syria — faithful U.S. allies — Trump stabbed them in the back and green-lighted Turkey’s invasion.
And while he postures as “tough on China,” we now learn that when China put a million Uighurs in concentration camps for trying to practice their religion, Trump told Xi Jinping he approved of it as a good idea. Unsurprising given Trump’s own policy of ripping children from parents and putting them in concentration camps. Another villainy that will long blacken America’s name in the eyes of humanity.
“Leader of the free world?” Trump has switched us to the other side.
* Thus I was very critical of Obama’s foreign policy squeamishness.
** Bolton says his foreign policy is really entirely “Trump First.” But much of it makes no sense from either standpoint. He just thrashes around blindly.
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