Okay, for starters, let’s declare my indifference…mmm no… ambivalence, mmm, concern… mmm no, prejudice maybe, or all the above. I am not an American. I am an outsider looking in so in some ways that gives me an overarching perspective that a US citizen may not have. On the other hand, it does not give me any insider perspectives that I should have to make such statements below accurate or insightful or meaningful. Make up your own mind.
“Let’s make America great again!”
The first time I heard this I thought this was the most cringeworthy political slogan I had heard, ever. While this might play to local audiences, I’m sure it sent shivers around the world. Given that is was Donald Trump saying it, I, like many others, genuinely thought he was never going to be elected. What a surprise it was when Clinton was defeated and a really scary surprise.
I, like many others, thought that Mr Trump had revealed, during the campaign, too much of his indifference toward the American people to be elected. It was obvious he wasn’t a leader, he was a CEO and the US needs a leader, not a CEO.
Since he is a CEO and not a leader, his gamesmanship has come to the fore and that has caused enormous problems for the US, for Europe, for Asia. The first thing he did was to annoy NATO, then the UN, then China, then North Korea, then so many of his own people. His lack of political tact was so obvious, yet he was really popular at home. Why?
Okay, he managed to get something from North Korea, but I am not sure what, given their last major holiday parade. He has continued to annoy China to the point where China is seriously threatening the world’s technology base by recently passing laws to ban the export of rare earth minerals. All on the grounds of “National Security”, of course. So unless Trump backs down, we could all be experiencing problems in the near future with technology.
America as a World Power
In 1945, the US realised it couldn’t go home again. It could no longer be the somewhat reclusive, isolated nation it had been before 1939. This is somewhat ironic, given the role the US played in opening much of the East, particularly Japan and the Philippines.
Many US politicians and business leaders understood that they could no longer remain remote from the “Old World” but had to become a vibrant part of the “New World”, to become THE world power. This vision was pursued with relish, even when it became obvious that it was only the Soviet Union that was in a position to challenge them. For the next forty years the US competed with the USSR; eventually seeing the collapse of the Communist regime thereby becoming, by default, the major power of the world.
President Franklin Roosevelt said in the 1930s that competition would take us so far, after that, we had to cooperate. Someone wasn’t paying attention to FDR so the US had to generate competitors and this they did, too successfully. Those competitors though were not alternate political systems but were a religious system, Islamic. This was a competition the US was just not prepared for and has shown it is incapable of dealing with.
With the advantage of hindsight, it would have been better to try to gently persuade the more totalitarian Muslim states to slowly introduce more liberal governments through their courts than to demand wholesale changes quickly. Rapidly changing expectations of the peoples of the Middle and Near East, confused by religious dogma underpinned the development of “terrorist” organisations. As the US was THE power, they were the obvious targets of these terrorist groups, which confused many Americans. “Why US?” they asked.
The US was seen as propping up the hated regimes, so hurt the prop, the regime falls. This happened in Iran and is still happening in other parts of the regions. Mishandling situation after situation involved the US in a fruitless war that has been going on for over twenty years. It’s draining the resources of the richest nation on Earth. It’s hurting not just the US, but all its partners as well.
In the meantime, we can chart the rise of China as an economic superpower, perhaps THE economic superpower in the very near future. Then Donald Trump was elected.
Post-2016 America and the rest of the world
With all this in the background, Trump has done untold damage to brand America, to the point, maybe, where many partners will start to scale back their commitments with the US, if that hasn’t already started. Certainly in the Pacific, there is no guarantee that the US is the predominant naval power any longer. China’s gambit in the South China Sea is, potentially, proof of that.
Next we get hit with the Covid-19 Pandemic. The serious lack of leadership displayed by the Trump White House is further damaging US credibility in the rest of the world. Trying to follow the Americans is proving disastrous. A second wave is now sweeping Europe whereas the US is still trying to deal with their first wave. So many dead, unnecessarily. Trump’s own words reveal him to be less interested in people than in making money, especially for Trump big business supporters.
I suspect any analysis of this period of US history will reveal the most openly corrupt Administration of all time. That, however, is not the issue here. Essentially, the US is no longer the world super-power it was. It has squandered resources, goodwill and people, pursuing a lost goal, leadership.
Can other nations rely upon the US any more? Unlikely.
That’s the tragedy here. Capricious and lazy politicians and businessmen in the US and other nations with short term visions can’t see the US losing its preeminence. They are not providing the leadership the world really needs, on the pandemic, on climate change, on maldistribution of wealth, declining world health standards, declining levels of political freedom and power sharing. All because of the continuation of a competition that has passed its use-by date that too many Americans, especially their leaders, refuse to see, let alone acknowledge.
That’s what I see and it’s breaking my heart.