Thursday, November 10, 2016
#RIPUSA,#AmericaHangsItsHeadinShame Donald Trump intends to tear up Pax Americana #ImpeachHimNow
Donald Trump is proposing to dismantle the global architecture established by the US after the war
You hear two things about the US in national capitals around the world. The first is that America is no longer the superpower it was; the second that they have put everything important on hold until they see the outcome of the US presidential election. Now add a third: a Donald Trump presidency is beyond their worst nightmares.
American declinism has long been overdone. The US remains the sole superpower: the only nation with the capacity to intervene just about everywhere. It stands at the apex of a formidable system of alliances. What has changed during the past decade or so is that there are now some checks — shifting power balances internationally and the political mood domestically.
That said, there is no one else to match the US. It will be decades, if at all, before China equals its military reach and technological prowess. Washington remains an indispensable guardian of global order. So yes, it is for Americans to decide who they want in the White House, but the choice matters hugely for everyone else.
Never more so now that Mr Trump has become the the 45th President Elect. Lots can be said about his triumph in the primary race: about how the Grand Old Party of Abraham Lincoln became the author of its own destruction; about how a real estate developer turned reality television star tapped into rising anxiety and anger about stagnant living standards and cultural dislocation that for many Americans has become the story of globalisation; and, sadly, how the media half-conspired in the process by treating him for much of the time as lucrative box office entertainment.
It is true also that populist politicians of right and left across the democratic world are playing similar tunes. Marine Le Pen, the leader of France’s National Front, promotes the same Islamophobia, as does the rightwing Alternative für Deutschland party. In Britain, the pro-Brexit camp is relying on popular hostility towards the political elites to wrench the country out of its own continent.
Politics tends to accommodate itself to events. The temptation now is to say that, well, maybe it would not be quite as bad as all that. Candidates always play to their base during the primaries before tacking back to the centre. Mr Trump would be no different. The point, though, is that this candidate is different. The presumptive nominee is not a conservative, nor even a Republican. His platform mixes leftwing economic populism with a singularly ugly rightwing nationalism. What passes for his foreign policy can best be described as bellicose isolationism. Walling off Mexico and barring Muslims from the US — these are not policies that can be easily unsaid.
Ah, you hear old-school Republicans respond, he cannot win in November. He has alienated 70 per cent of women and still higher proportions of Hispanics and African Americans. His personal disapproval ratings are off the scale. So the basic arithmetic condemns him to defeat. What really worries the Republican establishment is that he will bring down the rest of the party with him. The Democrats already have a fair chance of taking back control of the Senate. Mr Trump could surrender the House of Representatives.
True enough, it is one thing for Republicans to choose him as nominee, quite another for Americans to put him in the White House. And yet. If there has been another lesson from the primary race it is that opponents have consistently underestimated Mr Trump.
It is striking also that Republicans — those most confounded by Mr Trump — seem rather more certain than their Democrat opponents that he will blow up on the road to the election. Hillary Clinton would be a well-qualified president. Democrats know that does not make her a good candidate.
So to Mr Trump’s foreign policy. The bumper sticker says it is all about making America great again. There would be no more pussy-footing around. Enemies, notably Isis, would not know what had hit them. Unpredictability, in Mr Trump’s book, is a strength. Mostly though, he would attach unapologetic nationalism to old-fashioned isolationism.
He wants America’s allies in Europe and Asia to pay up or watch the US ship its forces back home. He is relaxed if nations such as Japan and South Korea respond to insecurity in East Asia by building their own nuclear bombs. He is an admirer of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president. Trade agreements deemed damaging to US business and jobs — that means almost all of them — would be torn up, and new tariffs slapped on imports from China.
Put this all together and Mr Trump is proposing in effect the dismantling of the global architecture established by the US at the end of the second world war. The underlying assumption is that the Pax Americana has been an entirely altruistic venture, an international order gifted by a generous US to an ungrateful world.
The hard-edged reality, of course, is that these rules and institutions have embedded US national interests in the international system. American prosperity and security cannot be separated from its preponderance of global power. This is why China and other rising states are now demanding a stronger voice in managing the system. Upending all this by packing up and going home would serve greatly to diminish US power. The decision lies with Americans, but such a choice would be bad for everyone.