Say hello to a post-Amer­ica world

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

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.”

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 Trumps 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.

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.

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.

Fa­reed Zakaria writes a for­eign af­fairs col­umn for The Post. He is also the host of CNN’s Fa­reed Zakaria GPS and a con­tribut­ing ed­i­tor for The At­lantic.

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