Say hello to a Post-American World

August 1, 2017

Say hello to a Post-American World

In London last week, I met a Nigerian man who succinctly expressed the reaction of much of the world to the United States these days. “Your country has gone crazy,” he said, with a mixture of outrage and amusement. “I’m from Africa. I know crazy, but I didn’t ever think I would see this in America.”

A sadder sentiment came from a young Irish woman I met in Dublin who went to Columbia University, founded a social enterprise and has lived in New York for nine years. “I’ve come to recognize that, as a European, I have very different values than America these days,” she said. “I realized that I have to come back to Europe, somewhere in Europe, to live and raise a family.”

Image result for fareed zakaria

Trump needs a Liberal Re-Education and there is no better teacher than CNN’s Fareed Zakaria

The world has gone through bouts of anti-Americanism before. But this one feels very different. First, there is the sheer shock at what is going on, the bizarre candidacy of Donald Trump, which has been followed by an utterly chaotic presidency. The chaos is at such a fever pitch that one stalwart Republican, Karl Rove, described the president this week as “vindictive, impulsive and shortsighted” and his public shaming of Attorney General Jeff Sessions as “unfair, unjustified, unseemly and stupid.” Kenneth Starr, the onetime grand inquisitor of President Bill Clinton, went further, calling Trump’s recent treatment of Sessions “one of the most outrageous — and profoundly misguided — courses of presidential conduct I have witnessed in five decades in and around the nation’s capital.”

But there is another aspect to the decline in America’s reputation. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey of 37 countries, people around the world increasingly believe that they can make do without America. Trump’s presidency is making the United States something worse than just feared or derided. It is becoming irrelevant.

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The most fascinating finding of the Pew survey was not that Trump is deeply unpopular (22 percent have confidence in him, compared with 64 percent who had confidence in Barack Obama at the end of his presidency). That was to be expected — but there are now alternatives. On the question of confidence in various leaders to do the right thing regarding world affairs, China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin got slightly higher marks than Trump. But German Chancellor Angela Merkel got almost twice as much support as Trump. (Even in the United States, more respondents expressed confidence in Merkel than in Trump.) This says a lot about Trump, but it says as much about Merkel’s reputation and how far Germany has come since 1945.

Trump has managed to do something that Putin could not. He has unified Europe. As the continent faces the challenges of Trump, Brexit and populism, a funny thing has happened. Support for Europe among its residents has risen, and plans for deeper European integration are underway. If the Trump administration proceeds as it has promised and initiates protectionist measures against Europe, the continent’s resolve will only strengthen. Under the combined leadership of Merkel and new French President Emmanuel Macron, Europe will adopt a more activist global agenda. Its economy has rebounded and is now growing as fast as that of the United States.

To America’s north, Canada’s Foreign Minister recently spoke out, in a friendly and measured way, noting that the United States has clearly signaled that it is no longer willing to bear the burdens of global leadership, leaving it to countries such as Canada to stand up for a rules-based international system, free trade and human rights. To America’s south, Mexico has abandoned any plans for cooperation with the Trump administration. Trump’s approval rating in Mexico is 5 percent, his lowest of all the countries Pew surveyed.

China’s leadership began taking advantage of Trump’s rhetoric and foreign policy right from the start, announcing that it was happy to play the role of chief promoter of trade and investment around the world, cutting deals with countries from Latin America to Africa to Central Asia. According to the Pew survey, seven of 10 European countries now believe that China is the world’s leading economic power, not the United States.

The most dismaying of Pew’s findings is that the drop in regard for America goes well beyond Trump. Sixty-four percent of the people surveyed expressed a favorable view of the United States at the end of the Obama presidency. That has fallen to 49 percent now. Even when U.S. foreign policy was unpopular, people around the world still believed in America — the place, the idea. This is less true today.

Image result for Fareed Post American World

In 2008, I wrote a book about the emerging “Post-American World,” which, I noted at the start, was not about the decline of America but rather the rise of the rest. Amid the parochialism, ineptitude and sheer disarray of the Trump presidency, the post-American world is coming to fruition much faster than I ever expected.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group


12 thoughts on “Say hello to a Post-American World

  1. At least on one Issue there is absolute bipartisan support. Celebrate that because that is going to determine the Post American World not a any single person in the Whitehouse.

  2. The Post-American World? Really? Fareed doesn’t peer far enough into the future.

    I read today that a Facebook AI app – which was initially instructed to communicate in English began to change to a machine learnt language, that it’s developers couldn’t decipher, much less understand. As a result, was taken offline, before it could infect other systems.. Otherwise we’d be reading gobbledygook.

    Zuckerberg was pissed. He just had an argument with Elon Musk (of PayPal, Space-X, Tesla fame), whom he regarded as a technophobe.. Haha! The latter, with a coterie of high tech gurus, including Bill Gates – had warned about the dangers of AI and wanted stricter controls in place before all of humanity become ‘bits and bytes’ and digitized flotsam.

    Now, that’s what i’d call a realized Post American World.

  3. Boy, unfortunately this is right on-point. The shining city on the hill is losing its shine for the world to look for inspiration and leadership. Sad. Is it surprising that the world is losing faith in our country when so many of us are also, if we haven’t already?

    As I’m sure Fareed realizes, the downward spiral started decades ago. For a long time it wasn’t much noted because the US was still the most influential country in the world. Even without Trump, the American hegemony and exceptionalism were bound to recede. Trump has acted as an accelerator. Americans were complacent living in a “dream world” of sorts, thinking our dominance would go on forever. The truth was, the rest of the world was rebuilding or re-initializing. With the rise of China, the increasing influence of Europe, and the desire of many poor countries to join the party, it has become evident that at best the US shares influence with a few others. With the election of Trump, it seems that the far-right Republicans are determined to accelerate the decline and turn the US into a laughingstock around the world. The next few years will show whether that trend will continue, or else the political classes come to their senses and recapture a place as a leading country.

    Trump is the reflection of many of us – ignorant, arrogant, uncaring and everything else you see there. For a long time, America has been held to high esteem by the rest of the world and used to think we’re the shining beacon of democracy. Now they can see what our flawed electoral college system really is. In their eyes we’ve become small. It’s not their eyesight just gotten better all of a sudden or has something changed significantly to justify their new pessimism about America. As Fareed said, America’s international standing was much higher under Obama. Maybe it was because Obama behaved better. Trump is a big departure from usual American presidents. Yes, we’ve had presidents who lied on national TV (Bill Clinton) and clearly stupid presidents (George Bush) before, but we’ve never had a stupid, lying, vindictive, infantile all-wrapped-into-one president before. It’s taken Germany a long time to overcome its “1000 year Reich” mistake and I’m afraid it’ll take a long time for America to recover from the damage to our reputation Trump has already done. But we’ve to get started as soon as possible. The 2018 midterm elections would be about right.

    The Trump phenomenon may turn out as a blessing in disguise for the US. In some ways, the Trump phenomenon may end up as an overall positive. What Trump has done is bring the rotten underbelly of American racism, xenophobia and ignorance to the surface. In the long run Trump may be a catalyst for something positive. A lot of people only embrace the principles of the American dream but they don’t want to live them. “My brother’s keeper?” No way. “Why should I pay for other people’s heath care?” for instance, in so many comments here and elsewhere. With them exposed to the sunlight, a chance exists to change them. To fix the education system, to expose the rotten politicians, to change the rules for business control of government etc. Trump is doing all the things that are bad in the political system, jobs for the boys, nepotism, manipulation of the ignorant, playing to the bigoted – most of these were already happening but festering behind closed doors. Use Trump for change. Yes, even an idiot can teach the world something – what not to do.

    Trump is not the tragedy, the tragedy is there are so many people who believe he represents what we need and what we should be. Yes, I’m referring to the Trumpanzees.

  4. If only Malaysia had a prime minister acts like President Trump, then Malaysia would have fared much better. (I bet nobody gets a heart-attack reading the previous line). Here is the reason.

    If you can ignore all the noises of the left-leaning media and observe what is the difference between Dr. Mahathir and President Trump when it comes to the faith on nations’ constitutions. Despite all the accusation of Trump’s crudeness, he fired or get people resigned for only executive branch’s members who are constitutionally obligated to report to him eventually in the command line. When lowly Hawaiian federal judge ruled against Trump’s travel moratorium, Trump expressed disagreement and hissed but he went along for the judicial process to take its time all the way to the supreme court. Albeit Dr. Mahathir’s some smoothness earning the praise even by the opposition, he acted to topple the Supreme court chief justice Tun Salleh Abas in the May Day of 1986; Dr. Mahathir faithless arrogance wounded the constitutional order of Malaysia. Malaysia politics cannot recover from the subservient judiciary even today.

    Some may complain about my observation above saying he/she is not a fan of Dr. Mahathir after all. But, many of us here who were of adult age in 1986 could not exercise enough political effort to stop the May Day. The worst of these people is to not learn from the result of faithlessness toward Malaysia Constitution – they still root for third world mentality of governance.

    For example, Pakistan is supposed to have a modern constitution, but their people cheered when court brought down the prime minister with corruption charges two days ago. Those third world people cheered thinking justice was served, just like the clueless 1986 Malaysians cheered for toppling leaders of judiciary thinking corruption charges were good enough for destroying the constitutional order. The same clueless Malaysians even in 2017 think bringing down Mr Najib with 1MDB corruption charges done by attorney general would be justice well-served.

    Poland parliament voted to fire all judges; some Poland people cheered but his president is faithful enough to the nation’s constitution to veto the decision. A close call.

    If President Trump could somehow convince Americans that he has the right to fire special council Miller or Attorney General as he deems so, then President Trump is restoring the constitutional order of which 3 branches are equal and independent. Hopefully it is also an opportunity to show the world the “right way” of governance based on modern day constitutions. For Malaysians, it means Prime Minister can fire his Attorney General and he cannot be brought down by mere criminal charges by Attorney General. A nation saved from instability while it takes its time to improve to have a better “union”.

    • You can’t be serious. Or could I be wrong? You sound like someone in the boondogs of rural America who are Trump supporters.–Din Merican

  5. We should be expecting a 10 Volume monster entitled “The Rise and Fall of the US of A” going to the printers soon.

  6. Now only people are starting to believe that America is a gone case. Twenty years ago I had an intense argument with a very knowledgeable man that the heady days of America was coming to an inevitable end. This was during the time when America can do no wrong! And now I feel vindicated for my unconventional opinion.

    • America is a gone case? I beg to differ. The UK is a gone case but not the US. Yes, we’ve a Trump problem today and he has done a lot of damage to the country. But that’s only political and nothing we cannot overcome. Militarily, we’re still the strongest in the world. Economically, we’re still the largest economy in the world. And in contrary to Trump’s delusional mind, Obama had handed a strong economy over to him. I’ve spoken to many Chinese scholars and they’re quick to tell you that China is not ready to lead the world. If you talk privately to Chinese leaders behind closed doors, they would tell you China has no qualm following the American led world order which their nation has benefited very much. Yes, we’re declining in relative terms. We’ve to start thinking of sharing power with other world powers. But for at least the next fifty years, I believe the world order will still be led mainly by America.

  7. Abang Din, I’ve actually come to the conclusion, however unfortunate, that the livelihood for a nation of people, just comes down to sheer luck.

    It seems that no political system, however meticulously designed, is forever immune to abuse. It doesn’t really matter if it’s a multi-party electoral republic, absolute monarchy or a dictatorial goverment, the kind of leadership we get just depends on luck.

    How else can we explain the case of China, with its single party monopoly on political power, can be the most competent goverment in the world right now? Malaysia dictatorial? But so is Singapore! And nobody can claim that Singapore is a failed state.

    I mean what else can the Rakyat do? Apart from going to the ultimate sacrifice in blood? And even then, look at all the revolutions in world history, how many actually turned out to be positive?

    It’s just luck. LUCK.

  8. The U.S. is a confederation and its strength comes from the i visual members of the Union. One or two states may fall but the rest will keep the nation afloat. Merit is still 99 percent hard work and 1 percent luck.

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