Friday, July 7, 2017

Trump at the G20: The End of the American Century

If  Donald Trump’s presidential goal was to “Make America Great Again,” he has a funny way
of going about doing that.  If anything, the G-20 Summit demonstrates how after barely six months as president the United States is a weaker country than it was before he took office.  The weakness resides in the decline of American soft power internationally.
Two elements were critical to the creation of what LIFE magazine editor Henry Luce declared in 1941 as the coming  American Century.  First, coming out of World War II the United States was militarily the strongest nation in the world.  That position was only enhanced by it being the first nuclear club member and persists today as the United States spends more on defense at $611 billion than the next eight countries combined spend at $595 billion.  US hard power is the greatest in the world.  The US simply has the fire power to muscle its hegemony across the globe.
But equally if not more important to creating the American century has been its soft power.  The term soft power was developed by Harvard scholar Joseph Nye in his 1990  Bound to Lead: The Changing Nature of American Power.  It is the power to influence world opinion by way of its culture, political values, and foreign policy. In many ways, soft power is the international equivalent of Richard Neustadt’s power to influence in Presidential Power–both describe the less coercive but equally important and effective ways that power is leveraged.  Paul Kennedy’s The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers credits the dominance of the United States as building a world in its image via both the strategic use of hard and soft power.  Soft and hard power work together much like carrots and sticks.
From World War II to the president there has been a Washington consensus on how to maintain American power.  Beyond significant military spending, supporting free trade, relatively liberal and democracy values, and exporting US culture have been instrumental.  So has been inviting foreign students to study in the US, allowing for business investment overseas, and pursing foreign policies and multilateral treaties.  While the US has not always been consistent in it values and goals, and the benefits and burdens of its policies have not always been equitably been distributed, there is no question from Truman to Obama there has been more consistency that disruptions in US foreign policy.
Trump’s presidency is challenging all of that, and not for the good. Pulling back on free trade and retreating from the world means less influence for the US.  To be the dominant player in the world the US has to be a player, and Trump does not want that.  At the G-20 summit the European Union and Japan have finalized a trade agreement that leaves the US out.  Trump has decimated the State Department making it difficult to engage in diplomacy.  He has pulled out of the Paris Accords, questioned NATO, bashed our allies, and alienated partners that we need to bring stability to the world.  North Korea’s recent missile launch show how with a decline in soft power the US options are narrow.  Even a military solution seems fraught because without soft power, hard power is vastly weaker too.
It would be easy to create a laundry list of all the things Trump has done to damage America’s reputation and soft power.  But the point is that entering G20, the meeting with Putin, the crises with North Korea, Syria, and maybe ISIS, Trump has undercut the very conditions that made it possible for the US to be great, powerful, and influential.  His presidency is proving less about making America great again and instead it relegating the US to a more marginal player in an international chess game that once placed the country at the center in terms of its influence.

1 comment:

  1. We Offer Loan At A Very Low Rate Of 3%. If Interested, Kindly Contact Us via email now (urgentloan22@gmail.com)

    ReplyDelete