March 30, 2020

Leadership Lost

By Stephen Tuttle | Jan. 6, 2018


If you believe the foreign press, and some here, the United States has lost, or is losing, decades-old influence. They have a list.

We are now the only country in the world to refuse to sign the Paris Accords on climate change. Nicaragua was a previous holdout because they didn't believe the accords were stringent enough, and Syria held out because, well, they don't really have a government. So we are now the Lone Ranger.

China has taken the lead on climate change regulations, establishing reasonably tough goals for reducing carbon emissions in the next decade. They may or may not meet those goals — they've already delayed them once — but they are at least sounding like committed partners for Europeans countries that have been working toward similar goals for years.

Meanwhile, the country with the world's highest per capita carbon dioxide emissions —  us — reduces environmental regulations in order to expand our fossil fuel industry leading to even more carbon dioxide emissions. It's sort of daffy. 

Speaking of Syria, we're barely in the game there now. The Russians have taken the lead on peace negotiations, relegating the United States to “observer” status. Unfortunately, the Russians have consistently supported Syria's murderous dictator Bashar Assad (Syria is Russia's largest arms customer), the very person we want deposed.  

We're also likely to be sidelined in the endless peace talks between the Palestinians and Israelis, now in their seventh decade. Jerusalem — a holy city for Christianity, Judaism and Islam — is the current issue. The U.S. has been the only honest broker in these talk for a very long time, but President Trump's declaration that we would recognize Jerusalem as the Israeli capital has driven the Palestinians away from the negotiating table. They no longer want us involved.

We're not doing very well with our NATO allies, either. Reuters reports European nations no longer believe they can rely on U.S. assistance in times of trouble. That's probably because our president keeps talking about slashing NATO funding and insulting European leaders. Germany now seems to be the NATO headliner.

Those suggesting it’s about time we stopped babysitting seemingly strong European nations might remember the last two times we did just that resulted in two world wars.

We seem to be preparing for war with North Korea, or at least our leader and theirs are engaged in a schoolyard taunting exercise that could lead to war. The Marine Commandant recently told a gathering of officers they should prepare for war, and the head of the United Nations has put the world on “red alert,” whatever that means. No U.S. president has yet been able to slow North Korea's missile and nuclear programs, and there is evidence both Russia and China are circumventing United Nations' sanctions.

More troubling still are recent reports that North Korea has a burgeoning chemical and biological weapons program, including anthrax and small pox. Mere pounds of either could kill thousands if not millions. If we're doing something about that, the president has not yet notified us by Tweet. 

South America, which we typically ignore except for drug interdiction activity, has some real issues. Venezuela's inflation, already one of the world's highest, will now get worse after President Maduro announced a 40 percent increase in the minimum wage. Both Bolivia and Brazil face daunting budget deficits, and the Chinese, always interested in new markets, have made significant business inroads on the continent.   

The various gangs of murderous thugs claiming to support Islam, having fled from parts of the Middle East, are moving to Africa. Poverty stricken regions of at least a dozen African countries have become fertile recruiting grounds for groups like Boko Haram and Al-Shabab, both mutant offspring of ISIS and al Qaida. 

Additionally, China has now spent years cultivating business interests in Africa, securing rights to energy resources in exchange for trade concessions. They've established their economic beachhead on the continent simply — with government-backed development loans and better deals than those offered by others. 

We've allowed our diplomatic endeavors to falter, at least in part, by failing to fill important vacancies within the State Department. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's reorganization and downsizing efforts have had the unintended consequence of leaving us out in the cold instead of on several international stages.

That's what the rest of the world seems to be thinking. If it's true, the fall has been precipitous. It likely makes us less secure, as bad actors on the world stage become more adventurous. It won't help our economy much either, as longtime trade partners begin to look elsewhere for more stability.

It could all change for the better just as quickly with some rational leadership. But right now our foreign policy seems to be walk loudly and carry a twig. Hard to see how that works.








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