- Date published:
10:00 am, July 23rd, 2017 - 63 comments
Categories: China, Donald Trump, Europe, International, us politics - Tags: emmanuel macron, TPPA, trans pacific partnership agreement
I can remember a time when George H. W. Bush’s administration did a good job of handling the collapse of the U.S.S.R., the reunification of Germany, and sought a clear mandate for the first Gulf War. A review of that U.N. mandate is here.
The United States sure wasn’t infallible, but it did have skill and judgement that could be taken seriously. Skip a few presidents and we now have a U.S. administration that is inept. That has global consequences.
Trump’s team dropped the Trans-Pacific partnership. Maybe that felt great on the hard left and hard right, but it undermined the U.S. position in Asia, opened the door towards greater Chinese influence, and won’t benefit the U.S. economy in the slightest.
Then Trump’s team walked away from the Paris climate accord.
Then Trump’s team relied on China to solve the North Korea problem. South Korea has announced that it will begin talks with North Korea without them.
Then he danced with swords and got fully sucked in by the serious charm offensive of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is now doubling down on ignoring U.S. advice on solving the ridiculous Qatar problem.
The European Union and Japan have just reached a trade deal, and the New York Times shows why this matters.
TPP-like talks are resuming without the United States.
China is making its own arrangements with Iran and Pakistan, and muscling India.
The leaders of Canada and Germany – two of the United States’ closest allies – have openly spoken of the need to chart their own course.
That is to say, meanwhile the world is getting on without them. This is a position I have not seen before in my lifetime.
This lack of trust in U.S. expertise is hardly surprising when the U.S. State Department is gutted and ignored, and many of Trump’s closest aides are now under active criminal investigation by the F.B.I. Emmanuel Macron charms Trump in the same way you would if you found yourself in a small room with a drunk Rhinoceros. You just wouldn’t ask the Rhino for advice on geopolitical strategy.
There are some on both the left and right who believe that the United States has taken on too much of the burdens of the world. And often hashed it. They have a point, so long as it’s not taken too far. Bernie was pretty similar to Trump on foreign policy.
But were the United States to more significantly disengage, a world system would evolve in ways that the United States would regret. Even in a newer, more minimised role for the United States in which it seeks less direct control of disabled regions and simply provides sufficient forces to enable balancing of regions offshore, the collective global judgement upon every intervention will not lessen.
That judgement will be viewed and formed through the understanding of the competence of the leadership in the United States. Offshore balancing as a strategy calls for the United States to hold the balance in key regions (i.e. Europe, Asia, and perhaps parts of the Middle East) and to stand ready to bring its power to bear in these areas should a potential hegemon emerge there. The momentum of U.S. power as possessor of the world’s largest military and intelligence communities will not be undone and will not diminish.
But the credibility of U.S. commitments using that power depends on a minimum reputation for competence, which is what the Trump administration do not have.
A world with a United States far diminished in international affairs is not one in which the United Nations or any other grouping is ready to occupy and enforce peace in the world. It is a world in which democracy recedes, China expands, Europe shrinks and grows defensive, fewer and fewer multilateral agreements of any kind are possible, medium sized states grow more intolerant and unstable, small nations are more vulnerable to predatory regimes, globalised rules that assist small nations are much harder to enforce, and there are fewer global instruments available to restabilise the unstable.
The United States of America is not going away. It has one of the strongest economies in the world, and its military is overwhelming. But it is no longer a centre of good judgement in international affairs, and this is changing the world very quickly.