WASHINGTON — There is growing concern that a new world order is taking shape. If that proves true, it bodes ill for the United States.
Donald Trump was told flat-out at the NATO meeting in Brussels that he should stop trolling close allies because, frankly, America doesn’t “have that many” any longer.
Many Americans don’t realize how damaging Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents has been to the country’s image abroad as he continues to pursue his anti-immigrant policies, including efforts to curtail legal immigration.
His administration’s failure — even inability — to obey a court order to return children to their parents has stirred heartstrings around the globe, making the U.S. seem heartless and incompetent. Moreover, Trump’s disdain for asylum seekers, has become embarrassing. There is no tidal wave — only 26,000 asylum seekers each year are successful. And taking away the children — sometimes losing them— of people who are obeying the law is just cruel. It is also a violation of international law.
Trump’s inexplicable charge that Germany is “totally controlled” by Russia (for importing less than 20 percent of its energy needs) stunned NATO allies, making them whisper that this president increasingly is coming off as extremely uninformed. Some have even pointed out behind their hands that America imports energy from Canada but doesn’t consider the Canadians their puppet master.
Trump, who is part of a criminal investigation in a case involving Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election that already has resulted in numerous guilty pleas and indictments by former lieutenants, still has no compunction about continuing to express open admiration for dictators, especially Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s thumbing his nose at U.S. allies by holding a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a summit that accomplished nothing but made Trump look ridiculously incompetent and easily flattered, has lowered respect for him significantly. As for Kim, he is increasing nuclear weapon production and met with potato farmers rather than with the U.S. secretary of state to continue negotiations. So much for “denuclearization.”
Meanwhile, as Kim demanded, the U.S. has cancelled military exercises with South Korea, jeopardizing readiness. Although Trump called the exercises “tremendously” expensive, they cost $14 million out of the Pentagon’s $700 billion budget. Cancelling them is more costly.
Trump’s pointless trade wars, especially with China, are hurting his own supporters, farmers and consumers, although most of them continue to hold out forlorn hope that somehow a man who has never negotiated a successful deal for his country has an economic insight that the vast majority of economists say is preposterous.
At the NATO meeting, Trump excoriated allies for not paying 2 percent of their gross domestic product toward joint defense. Then he upped it, saying they had to pay 4 percent. Even the United States doesn’t meet that high standard, contributing about 3.5 percent. Most NATO members have steadily been increasing their share, but Trump still is threatening to shift the U.S. military presence in Europe without much higher expenditure by European nations on defense. Ill will is mounting.
Even House Speaker Paul Ryan, a Trump ally, said NATO is as important as it ever was, especially since Russia continues military skirmishes against Ukraine and illegally annexed Crimea. Most international analysts say NATO is the most important alliance in the history of the world. By a rare consensus vote of 97 to 2, the Senate confirmed its support of NATO. Yet Trump constantly disparages NATO, getting the facts wrong.
Putin either wants to join and weaken NATO, formed to block Russian aggression, or watch it fall apart. Yet instead of promoting NATO unity, Trump dismisses Putin’s critics, defending him as “just people.”
Most perplexing is Trump’s refusal to take seriously Russian hacking of the election and the U.S. electric grid and other Russian cyberattacks. We don’t know whether Trump, urged to denounce Putin’s meddling, is just stubbornly doubling down or whether Putin is blackmailing Trump. The Mueller investigation may tell us.
Until then, Trump is damaging our reputation and standing in the world, not knowing or apparently even caring what he doesn’t know and potentially endangering the freedom of millions of people.
If respect for America’s dominance in world affairs, based in large part on moral suasion, diminishes too much, China and Russia will rush in to fill the gap, and American military might won’t be enough to stop them.
Unless the U.S. abandons all her principles.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.