In a telling essay in the latest issue of leading German publication Der Speigel, author Dirk Kurbjuweit laments Trump’s isolationism and nationalism.
“Trump, who wants nothing to do with globalization; Trump, who preaches American nationalism, isolation, partial withdrawal from world trade and zero responsibility for a global problem like climate change,” he writes.
“And all of this after a perverse election campaign marked by resentment, racism and incitement,” he added.
The so-called American Era was forged out of the bloodshed and carnage of World War I. President Woodrow Wilson set the United States on a path for global leadership when he uttered his famous words, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”
The United States declared war on Germany and helped embattled Western democracies defeat imperial Germany. The nation’s leadership role, however, was halting.
Following the war, U.S. isolationist sentiment returned leading to collapse of the League of Nations, a precursor to today’s United Nations. That retreat helped set the stage for the rise of ultra-right nationalism, Fascism and World War II.
President Franklin Roosevelt was prevented from intervening in the conflict by the same isolationist sentiment. Finally Japan resolved the debate over U.S. involvement with the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Following World War II, President Harry Truman and every other American president has assumed the role of leader of the Western democracies, through NATO and other alliances. It’s success has been unquestioned.
The United States and its allies faced down threats posed by Russian and Chinese communism. The Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s and China has moved to more open market economy with some political reforms.
A centerpiece of U.S. foreign policy has been the protection of human rights, founded on the liberal principles that emerged in the late 18th century and led to the founding of this country. But Trump threatens to change all that, the magazine says.
“A racist cannot embody this normative project,” writes Kurbjuweit.
“Trump has no sense of dignity — neither for himself nor others. He does not qualify as the leader of the Western world, because he is both unwilling and incapable of assuming that role,” he asserts.
Trump’s isolationism threatens to leave a dangerous void.
We now face emptiness — the fear of the void. What will happen to the West, to Europe, to Germany without the United States as its leading power? Germany is a child of the West, particularly of the United States, brought to life with American generosity, long spoon-fed and now in a deep state of shock. The American president was always simultaneously our president, at least a little, and Barack Obama was a worthy president of the West. Now, though, we must come to terms with a lack of Western leadership.”
Trump is a stark departure from the founder of modern Republicanism, Ronald Reagan, who finally won the Cold War. The American Era hit its peak in the years immediately following the Soviet collapse.
But new challenges arose on Sept. 11, 2001, with terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. Perhaps sensing weakness, Russia has again become belligerent under President Vladimir Putin.
So far, Trump hasn’t given any indication he’s capable of standing up to Russian aggression.
To the contrary, his election was fostered, in part, by Russian meddling in the campaign to undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton. His fawning admiration of Putin, and possible deep financial ties to Russian oligarchs does not bode well.
“Trump is now expected to limit freedoms, including free trade and immigration. Many Americans, especially members of minorities, once again fear for their freedom, but this time the threat comes from within. They fear that they will face greater discrimination against their cultures and ways of life under a Trump presidency.
For his part, Trump is quickly abandoning the radical rhetoric that marked his campaign. He has also vowed to get tough with Islamic terrorists. But whether he’s capable of being a world leader remains to be seen.