- Or just isolated?
America has historically sought to co-ordinate with other nations, entering into treaties, agreements and a multilateral approach to resolve issues. The US foreign policy has over decades been driven by the positives enabling her to take advantage of the multilateral base to help maintain her dominant position in the world — helped further by the breakup of USSR.
There are exceptions where the positives have been trampled by an attack on certain kinds of multilateral agreements. “One area is arms control, nonproliferation, and the use of force, where many in the administration do resist the traditional multilateral, treaty-based approach. Likewise, some of the other new multilateral treaties that are being negotiated today represent slightly different trade-offs for the United States. In the past, the United States embraced multilateralism because it provided ways to protect American freedom of action: escape clauses, weighted voting, and veto rights. The “new unilateralism” is in part a product of the “new multilateralism,” which offers fewer opportunities for the United States to exercise political control over others and fewer ways to escape the binding obligations of the agreements,” writes G. John Ikenberry (Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University in the Department of Politics and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs).
Trump’s first day in office saw US exit the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a linchpin of Obama’s policy stringing together trade deal with 12 nations. The decision was based on his belief that the deal harmed American manufacturing. The flip side of the coin is that by staying in TPP, the US would have been in a position to help countries wanting to be a part of BRI while minimising economic risks. Another advantage the US lost is the leverage to offer good terms of trade with the US market to countries where China is the main exporter. It can no longer offer a competitive investment plan to nations as opposed to BRI or TPP.
The recent trade conflict between US and China concerns a bigger picture. It includes China’s goals for her industrial policy, technology and efforts to capture foreign markets. But that’s not all; it is also about Trump’s slogan of “America First.” In an escalated scenario it can lead to tariffs on US$50 billion in imports from each side, plus placing restrictions on Chinese companies by US. This will lead to Chinese counter restriction on American companies.
US pulled out of Iran Nuclear Deal. Around the first week of November 2018, sanctions on Iran are expected to be imposed in full and this is the exact time for commercial organisations to pull out from doing business with Iran.
On June 1, 2017, Trump had made an announcement that US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on Climate change mitigation. His stance was, “”The Paris accord will undermine (the US) economy,” and “puts (the US) at a permanent disadvantage.” (Chakraborty, Barnini June 1, 2017, Fox News) Although US cannot leave the agreement after three years minimum of joining, according to UN Despatch, “A new study published last month in the journal Climate Policy suggests that, due to a variety of factors stemming from US withdraw, the world may not be able to contain global warming to 2 degrees Celsius, the Paris Agreement’s upper goal.”
US also pulled out of the United Nations Human Rights Council, terming it a “cesspool of political bias”. The announcement came on heels of the statement of the Human Rights Chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein for criticising the Trump Administration on separating migrant children from their parents. Migrants were later told they’ll be reunited with children if they sign voluntary deportation order. Trump’s presidential campaign had supported a number of limitations on “legal immigration and guest-worker visas.” In his presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly stated that the illegal immigrants were ‘criminals.’
All these steps have a pattern. They reflect Trump’s policy of “America First.” However, “America First” does not, or should not mean “America Alone.” Many organisations reacted to US exit conceding that though there were shortcomings they are not adequate to US exiting the Council.
Trump’s decision to accept Jerusalem as capital of Israel and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv was another controversial political decision.
Trump is isolating America on key global issues. America has traditionally got what it wanted internationally by her ability to persuade — by using “soft power”
As an outcome of these decisions, Trump is isolating America on key global issues. America has traditionally got what it wanted internationally by her ability to persuade — by using “soft power”. This ability has been slashed down by isolationist policies being implemented under the present regime.
Trump’s tweets unnecessarily criticising May and re-tweeting inflammatory anti-Muslim videos, attacking Mayor Sadiq Khan as London was attacked by terrorists are alienating a long term US ally. And Sadiq Khan is tipped to be the next party leader.
Policies of nations are developed over long term, medium term and short term basis. Leaders come and leaders go but vision developed over time, efforts made and funds committed to that vision over time is built upon over time, not eroded to nothing. Rarely has the world witnessed the sharp turn made in such a short time by an incoming president of a powerful nation as witnessed under Trump.
It may be a little premature to make a statement whether or not Trump’s vision is making America great. However, Trump’s vision is unfortunately making America isolated. Unfortunate because increasing complex global issues need a multilateral world.