Paris: Does Trump’s America still lead the world?
Mark your calendars, said Simon Reich in USNews.com; “June 1, 2017, was the day that America’s global leadership ended.” President Trump’s decision last week to exit the international Paris climate-change accord signed by nearly 200 countries sent a clear message to the rest of humanity: America now stands alone. By spurning the pleas of our Western allies and the United Nations, Trump has severely damaged our nation’s hard-won reputation “as the world’s indispensable nation.” Along with Trump’s recent pointed failure to reaffirm America’s commitment to defending fellow NATO members from attack, the Paris pullout may be remembered as a “watershed moment” marking the decline of U.S. global prestige and influence. To satisfy his xenophobic base, “Trump has turned the U.S. into a rogue nation,” said David Horsey in LATimes.com. Other world leaders such as France’s Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Angela Merkel are “quite literally laughing at him” and no longer take “this ludicrous man” seriously. The job of leading the “beleaguered free world” probably falls to Merkel, while “the authoritarian regime in China will now be playing an even larger role in the world economy.”
“Pay no attention to the hyperbole,” said David French in NationalReview.com. “America still leads.” The Senate and President George W. Bush rejected the Kyoto Protocol, Paris’ predecessor, with little impact on the U.S. role in the world. Trump’s erratic personality and protectionist impulses may appall other nations, but the U.S. remains “indispensable to the national security of every one of its allies.” If Trump were really trying to withdraw from the world stage, why is there a U.S. carrier fleet in the waters off North Korea? If he really wanted to weaken NATO, why is he urging its members to spend more on military hardware and defense? For all his flaws, Trump’s commitment to “American strength” as the cornerstone of a free West is unmistakable, and his withdrawal “from a single voluntary, nonbinding international pact doesn’t change that fact.”
“Soft power matters,” too, said Daniel Drezner in WashingtonPost.com. America’s commitment to freedom, democracy, and civil rights inspired other nations and made us the leader of the West after World War II. But Trump openly admires authoritarian leaders such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Saudi royal family, and has proclaimed he will not “lecture” autocrats about abrogations of human rights. “The United States in 2017 has some power but little purpose” other than its own self-interest. We can hardly expect other nations to rally behind the Trumpist philosophy of “America First.” Previous presidents have spent decades forging a “united, democratic West,” said Andrew Sullivan in NYMag.com. In just a few short months, Trump has thrown away “the work and lives of generations like a child tosses a toy from a bassinet.”
Let’s be honest, said Michael Brendan Dougherty in National Review.com. Trump’s critics have a “frantic, almost panicked desire” to describe his presidency as a world-destroying catastrophe. But the U.S. isn’t about to abandon Western civilization, any more than Western civilization is about to find another leader. Are the pacifist Germans going to defend Europe against Russia? Is smog-choked China going to inspire other nations to cut their emissions, or defend the world against rogue regimes and Islamic extremists in the Middle East? Of course not. Trump’s presidency may be “unpleasant, uncomfortable, and a little scary.” But he will not be president forever, and when it comes to global leadership, America just “doesn’t have a successor.”