My day job is to lead the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank. Most Australians support the U.S. alliance, and Australia is America’s most reliable ally: the only country to fight beside the United States in every major conflict of the 20th and 21st centuries. We know that the U.S. presence in Asia over the past three-quarters of a century has underpinned regional stability and prosperity. Australians do not relish the idea of living in a region dominated by China. We prefer a balance of forces in Asia, with a general acceptance of international norms and the rule of law, as well as the long-term presence of the United States.
Ibram X. Kendi: Trump is in an abusive relationship with America
During those periods when it has been fashionable to argue that the U.S. is in decline—and especially at the nadir of the Iraq War, a stupid act of self-harm in which my country participated—I have argued against the declinist thesis. I have pointed to America’s enduring strengths, including favorable geography, healthy demographics, an entrepreneurial economy, and a formidable military.
Just as important as the power of America, I have long believed, is the idea of America: a democratic superpower; a flawed country that is always reaching for perfection; a nation of awesome might but also dignity and restraint; a republic with republican values.
But America has always had a tawdry side as well. In June 2015, when Trump descended the golden escalator in Trump Tower to announce his presidential campaign, he brought that other America—the mob lawyers, porn stars, and reality shows—down with him too. And when he was elected president, he inaugurated the age of American bunga bunga.
At home, President Trump’s touch has corroded America’s institutions. His cynicism has undermined the country’s self-belief and strengthened the claim of Moscow and Beijing that Western democracy is a sham.
The effect abroad has been no less grave. Trump’s prejudices have undermined America’s interests. He is not convinced that the United States does well when others do well; he likes others to do poorly. He is oblivious to the advantages of global leadership. He prefers protection rackets to alliances. Although the United States is a great trading nation, he is hostile to free trade. His weird affinity for strongmen—and his silence about their crimes—has emboldened dictators everywhere.
The genius of America’s conduct after the Second World War lay in the fact that, as the historian John Lewis Gaddis observed, Washington established “hegemony by consent.” But if you push your allies and partners to the brink in every negotiation, and present your ugliest face to the world, then this consent will evaporate.
Previous presidents have defined America’s self-interest broadly. But how can the rest of us find our place in the “America first” worldview? If Trump is not exercised by the dismemberment of a Washington Post columnist in a Saudi consulate or the detention of as many as 1 million Uighurs in reeducation camps, does anyone really believe that he cares about a few islands in the South China Sea?