Donald Trump has made illogical moves that have changed the foreign policy of the USA for worse, and while some of the people are trying to prevent the damage at the moment, the long-term challenges might be problematic. Dan Byman wrote in Lawfare: “Repair is hard while destruction is easy.” This is something leaders should have in mind because the international policy is important for the economic growth and the national security of one country.
Byman says that “[n]one of Trump’s changes are irreversible,” but he may be wrong. Most of those changes have begun before Trump came into office and while America is burning down its bridges, the rest of the world is not waiting for the 2020 election to see who the next president would be. The US will most likely return to the policy and rhetoric of the mid-2010 when the new president is elected.
When Trump came into power, we could say that the world was biding its time until his presidency ended, but if that was ever the case, it is not the situation right now. In Saudi Arabia, we have the Sunni-Shia conflict which is becoming more prominent and which Washington is abetting. Meanwhile, France and Germany are coming up with the ideas on defense, whereas the Chinese offer to denominate African countries’ sovereign debt in yuan. And these are just three examples with more on every step.
However, many of these changes are not yet visible according to Dan Drezner. This will become prominent, and in the next two and a half years, other countries of the world will show how they deal with what is going on around them. All of this means that the next US president will face the situations unknown to the American policies. Changes will occur in four categories abroad, and one at home and they are listed below:
• The accelerated weakening of mid-20th-century international institutions.
• The misalignment between the economic needs of the US at home and the focus on the global economic policy.
• The disconnection between the international affairs institutions and the realities of the leading-countries competition.
• The change in how America meets and greets the world.
• The role of values in the American foreign policy.
The accelerated weakening of mid-20th-century international institutions
The organizations which are keeping the international peace have not been at their peak power for a long time. The US is failing to acknowledge that institutions, most of which have been created after the World War II and post-Cold War period are no longer valid.
It would be a challenge for the US to keep good relationships with the EU countries, which are preoccupied with Brexit, the emergence of nativist and illiberal governments in some of the key states and the strengthening of the right. Furthermore, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan established an autocracy, and we are wondering what the purpose of NATO is. What does it mean to “restore” NATO or the G20? Also, the United Nations and Bretton Woods institutions are a mixed bag of function. Their role has been diminished almost completely in the recent years, and that is not likely to change. Fixing these institutions would require a lot of time and effort. Post-Trump-policy will have to do the assessment of each organization and see what is holding up and what not and make the necessary changes.
The misalignment between the economic needs of the US at home and the focus on the global economic policy
In the future and with the new president, things such as Trans-Pacific Partnership liberalization model will require a different strategy as well as different skills. Diplomats will spend more time building coalitions to enforce the rules which already exist and less time negotiating new deals.
The disconnection between the international affairs institutions and the realities of the leading-countries competition
We have reached the point where several countries have the power to influence the world politics, and the US is no longer a sole state with that privilege. However, the international affairs institutions are not able or willing to acknowledge such a reality, forcing Trump to make foolish decisions. Rebecca Lissner and Mira Rapp-Hooper ask: “Can an international order be economically and politically open if its leading states are not liberal?” It is a debatable question with more than one answer.
The change in how America meets and greets the world
Every recent secretary of state starting from Robert Gates to James Mattis has called for more funding for diplomacy and development assistance, and so did every administrator of USAID. Ever since 9/11, the US has increased defense spending with the aim to reduce voters’ security anxieties, and that has created a counter-effect. The US no longer has an ethical and political doctrine of when it is appropriate to use force, and the US leader now solves all problems with the military tools and by risking the American lives.
The role of values in the American foreign policy
The American values play a key role in the foreign policy of the United States, but the younger generations are skeptical of the role of their country in the world. They are questioning their country’s desire to intervene, and they claim that the US has no rights nor business to solve other people’s problem and dig into the sovereignty of other states.
And with the emergence of other world powers such as China and Russia, the role of the world policeman is becoming more and more challenging every day. From now own, the United States are not the only ones who are requested to solve the issues around the world and to be effective at that, they will have to work with the other governments who may be illiberal and authoritarian. It will require a lot of work, patience, and skill to achieve such goals, as well as humility and acceptance, which is not America’s forte.
With everything that is going on around the world, we can no longer provide the simple answer to the question: “What role does the US play in the world?” We can no longer answer this questions by saying that we are doing all of this because we want to defeat China or Russia. The war against communism is also long gone. Furthermore, the war on terror is just as questionable. Nobody is taking advantage of the United States, considering that it is the world’s leading power. One of the answers could be to “sustain the US communities, institutions and values in a globalized world,” but this also might not provide a sufficient answer to the skeptics.
The United States will have to face many challenges in the post-Trump era. It is unlikely that he is going to win at 2020 election considering all of the bad moves he has made during his presidency and with two years to go. However, there is hope. All of the mistakes that he has made, and that were made by the presidents before him, can and should be recovered. However, it will be much harder than most of the people think, especially now that the US is not the only country in the world that is shaping its destiny.