Trump administration is harming American brand

Jessie Wright

Americans have always been known for openness and generosity, but the Trump Administration has tarnished the American brand. Once revered as the nation of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” we are now thought of as a narrow-minded, bigoted nation of wall-builders.

I recently spent six weeks in Europe and had an opportunity to sample European opinion. The news is not good. Newspaper editorials and television programs endlessly feature stories of Donald Trump’s American First policy and how selfish and futile that strikes them.

Worse still, our president does not command the respect of serious world leaders. They openly refute his many inaccuracies and his tweets have been characterized as “utterly ridiculous.”

The president’s many capable advisors, in their trips to Europe, have tried to calm nerves and soothe hurt feelings. But as the Times of London recently editorialized, Mr. Trump then goes on to undercut or contradict his top advisors, leaving our allies confused. As a result, they have come to doubt the dependability of our security guarantees.

Mr. Trump echoes the propaganda of our enemies when he says that we, “kill plenty of people” and he diminishes our democracy when he says that our elections are “rigged”; our press is “the enemy of the people” and our judiciary is not independent.

For seventy years the United States led the free world against the forces of oppression with a combination of hard power (unquestioned military might) and soft power (our admired values, democratic institutions and popular culture). But, as newspapers around the world are increasingly making clear, we are in danger of ceding the moral high ground if we continue to pursue an isolationist, xenophobic America First policy.

The world does not wait for a country to sort itself out; already our friends and adversaries are beginning to ring-fence us.

President Xi of China has positioned his country as a defender of free trade and climate change and offers the Chinese government-led, authoritarian model as an alternative to the U.S.-led liberal democratic model of society. The Chinese have moved ahead with their One Belt, One Road program of massive infrastructure aid to more than sixty countries spanning Asia to Europe.

Mexico, disgusted by Mr. Trump’s threats and insults, will by year’s end conclude a trade treaty with the European Union. And Chile, Mexico and Peru will join Chinese negotiations for a regional Pacific Rim trade pact. Mexico, Latin America and our Asian friends are looking beyond NAFTA and the Trump-demolished Trans Pacific Partnership.

In the face of Mr. Trump’s characterization of NATO as “obsolete”, the European Defense Initiative, which excludes the U.S., has received a boost recently.

Increasingly, the best and the brightest, who in the past created jobs and leading-edge corporations, are now shunning America-the-closed. Canada and European countries are holding open their doors and welcoming this vital group of immigrants.

The State Department’s diplomacy and development programs may receive a 31 percent cut in funding under the Trump Administration. Then-General James Mattis, now Secretary of Defense, once quipped to Congress, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Mr. Trump has appointed a man, far out of the mainstream, to be in charge of Treasury Department’s international affairs.\

He does not believe in multilateral institutions and has set about reducing the U.S. role in these organizations. Almost tit-for-tat, China has stepped into the breach and is supplanting the U.S. in these world organizations.

If this continues, the U.S. will increasingly lose its ability to influence trade, financial and security arrangements around the world.

How many Trump supporters voted for this radical turning away from our country’s long-standing foreign policy? How many desired the end of Pax Americana?

By now we know that his policies are turning us into a reviled and unfollowed country. If the world turns away from U.S. leadership and embraces darker authoritarian models of government, your grandchildren will suffer an unhappier and less prosperous future.

America has long been the world’s most respected country, but under this President, we have become the butt of international ridicule. It’s time to reclaim the respect and admiration for the American brand.

Editor’s Note: Jesse Wright of Marquette is a retired Northern Michigan University professor who has spent his entire career in the international arena.