Can the US really disengage from the world?

So many nations have come to expect a global order based on shared values, often under US leadership, that President-elect Trump may be indicating flexibility on his ‘America First’ stance. Just look at two of his top foreign-policy appointments.

AP Photo
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley speaks in Orlando, Fla., in mid-November. President-elect Donald Trump says he intends to nominate Haley to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Since World War II, the mantle of global leadership has mostly fallen to the United States, not only for its military might but for its universal values – including an openness to work with other countries. President-elect Donald Trump has emphasized a strategy of “America First,” reflected in his doubts about US security alliances and trade pacts. Many nations are now asking if any country will stand for the common values of humanity.

That such a question is even being asked shows how much the world has come to cherish its relative unity around core ideas – something that was largely missing 70 years ago and even until the end of the cold war – and also in how it looks to one nation to lead. Soon after Mr. Trump’s election, for example, many leaders rushed to talk to him, hoping for clarity or change in his views.

One leader in particular, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, even set conditions for cooperation with the US. “Germany and America are connected by values of democracy, freedom and respect for the law and the dignity of man...,” she said. “I offer the next President of the United States close cooperation on the basis of these values.”

Ms. Merkel also co-wrote an opinion piece with President Obama, published in WirtschaftsWoche news magazine, stating: “Germans and Americans have to seize the opportunity to shape globalization according to their values and ideas. We owe it to our businesses and our citizens – the whole global community, even – to broaden and deepen our cooperation.”

Then this week, in a speech to the German parliament, Merkel asked her country to stand for multilateralism, security, freedom, and “shaping globalization together with others.”

Her statements are a sign of both the widespread desire for global values and perhaps the possibility of Germany taking on more leadership in the world – at least in diplomacy if not in military prowess. In recent years, Merkel has shown strong leadership within Europe during crises over Greece’s debt, Russian aggression in Ukraine, and the mass flow of migrants. Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has referred to Germany as a “reflective power.”

The pressure by Germany and other countries to maintain strong US engagement with the world may be working. Trump has modified a few of his foreign-policy statements, such as the use of torture, a ban on all Muslim migrants, and his denial of climate change. And in two key appointments – Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as national security adviser and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley as ambassador to the United Nations – Trump has selected people who have spoken of the US as the linchpin of global order.

“There [are] all sorts of reasons why we should lead, and most of them are because the international community wants us to,” said Flynn last year on the “Charlie Rose” show.

For her part, Ms. Haley, who is the daughter of immigrants from India, recently said the US is the “last, best hope on Earth.” Her state is very engaged with the world as it has been very successful in wooing large foreign investments. And after the shooting in a black church last year in Charleston, she helped the local community recover, later describing that effort this way: “We turned toward God and to the values that have long made our country the freest and greatest in the world.”

By the time he becomes American commander in chief, Trump like others before him may have realized he has inherited a tradition in which the world expects certain high standards and values, many of them seeded and protected by the US along with others. The presidency is bigger than the person in the Oval Office. And so, too, are the values that have come to bind the world.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Can the US really disengage from the world?
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2016/1123/Can-the-US-really-disengage-from-the-world
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe