In Ian Bremmers Book “Superpower” he discusses three options the United States has as a world leader
- America can limit its commitments and obligations abroad (“Independent America”).
- Become a “Moneyball America” that selectively engages in high-yield, low-risk opportunities.
- Aim for “Indispensible America” by attempting to uphold the global order through the kind of broad-based global engagement that has typically marked U.S. foreign policy since World War II.
Lets start from the beginning of our “superpower status.” After WWII the U.S was instantly catapulted to the head of the class with a new found roll as – police officer – voice of reason and financier for the world. This of course put the U.S in a very powerful position of inlfuencer. By providing financial and or military assistance the U.S was able to get country’s to adopt its ideals, provide its military additional places in the world to park itself and access to resources throughout the world at a discount – a very mafioso relationship with the world, if you will…
Throughout the years the U.S used this position in the world to grow its influence and ensure its place at the top, all while (secondarily) keeping the peace where it could and punishing where it couldn’t.
For the most part, we were the envy of many, “the shining city upon the hill” as Ronald Reagan so eloquently put it. But over time, with envy there will inevitably come jealousy and as the years went on, many countries that we treated like little brothers aspired for more and slowly started to come into their own. With our help, countries that were once decimated, rebuilt started to excel in many areas. If it benefited us in some way we encouraged it and if it didn’t we imposed our will to slow or stop it completely. This tactic overtime started to breed contempt, but as long as we were protecting and providing, the contempt always stayed under the surface.
To maintain our position as leader of the world we had to walk a tight diplomatic line of aiding and protecting while maintaining a firm grip around the necks of many nations wanting to breakout – both fairly easy for the richest nation and strongest military in the world. Slowly but surely after a few mistakes, a few hypocrisies and many advancements, the once little brother countries (many of whom we weren’t aiding, who once looked up to us on that hill, were looking at us eye to eye, even down at us in many ways.
Insert Barack Obama and his combination approach
Become a “Moneyball America” that selectively engages in high-yield, low-risk opportunities.
Aim for “Indispensible America” by attempting to uphold the global order through the kind of broad-based global engagement that has typically marked U.S. foreign policy since World War II.
While inheriting the almost impossible task of digging us out of an economic hole that we hadn’t seen since the great depression, he also had the tough task of re-branding the U.S and its position to the world. He knew we pushed our influence to the its limits and he knew to many perception is reality, especially in the 24 hour news cycle / digital age. Obama spent much of his two terms taking on a more globalist view of things, unifying countries, with a we not I attitude. This, at the very least slowed the increase of contempt for the U.S, but of course nothing is perfect and there were a few setbacks that didn’t help his cause, i.e Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and the debatable drone program. (I’ll leave the debate on whether these were justified or in the long run caused more harm than good). Either way the perception didn’t look good for the U.S and opened a lot of eyes to just how much inlfuence we had, have and are still looking to gain, BUT to the world, Obama for the most part was trying to work with them, not shun them or just tell them what to do.
To wear all of the hats previously discussed its utterly impossible not to ruffle some feathers, which world leaders know this and accept. That’s why we generally don’t hear much about spies and spying techniques, cause most know about it and accept it as a necessary evil – But again, perception and what is reality are two very different things – and the people of the world perception of the U.S hasn’t been in great standing for quite some time, regardless of the relationships Obama was able to cultivate with these leaders. To some people we were bullies, to others we weren’t very trustworthy and to many we started to become cocky. To our liberal brothers and sisters, we impose our democratic ways onto other nations, yet our government was far from a well oiled machine. To our conservative counterparts, America breeds a culture of excess, violence, sex, drugs and rock and roll, all while casting judgement on other nations and how they should run their countries. Regardless of the growing contempt and slip ups, Obama was at the very least able to regain some legitimacy and respect throughout the world and people listened when he had something to say…
Insert Donald Trump and is “America First” approach
America can limit its commitments and obligations abroad (“Independent America”).
Its already been know that many who once envied our American dream, lavish lifestyles, free spirited culture, have started to slowly and quietly despise it, hence the term “ugly American.” Trump has done that no favors by presenting himself to the world as the caricature of such that: entitled, loud, boorish and ill-informed, the epitome of excess, selfishness and ego.
Lets take the withdrawal from the world climate accord as a for instance – it wasn’t terribly surprising, but the way he did it was a thumb in the eye to the rest of humanity. Trump didn’t merely state a principled disagreement. He turned the Rose Garden, where many amazing leaders have shaken hands and many major accomplishments have been announced into a setting for a political rally, and he delivered a campaign speech against the world.
“The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,” ~DT
“The same nations asking us to stay in the agreement are the countries that have collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices and in many cases lax contributions to our critical military alliance,” ~DT
“Foreign lobbyists wished to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement. It’s to give their country an economic edge over the United States.” ~DT
It was less a statement of policy than a paranoid scream about devious foreigners scheming to cheat the United States. In reality, Trump was breaking with the whole world — more than 190 other nations that had made numerous concessions to U.S. demands
In foreign affairs, Trump’s undue bullying is breaking down alliances, undermining intelligence, economic, military and diplomatic cooperation, that has taken 50 plus years of walking a very tight rope to maintain. His portrayal of the ugly American, attacking specific countries and religions, all while outright shunning much of the world is not only surfacing contempt, its breeding it.
As we saw at the G20, he was a seemed lost, rambling, campaigning, justifying and leaders didn’t want anything to do with it.
Leaders are no longer hiding their contempt and confusion with what he is trying to accomplish
We still are the richest nation on the world and we will most likely always have the most powerful military (which is a moot point with Nuclear and Cyber capabilities, but that’s for another day) – But as nations slowly look to work around us not with us we strengthen their relationships with each other and focus on THEIR common goals, which over time, under Trump, (its only been 6 mths), could involve putting us in our place…