American Leadership 5/24/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

On the day in which I am writing this post (which was a few days prior to this posting), there were three news articles that truly struck me.

First, the president is pulling us out of the “Open Skies” treaty. This treaty allows for “flyover” of airspace by unarmed aircraft. In essence, it allows for international aerial spying at least between Russia and the US. The idea is to increase transparency of military capabilities to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to military conflict. It’s not clear to me if it involves other countries as well, but the reason given was that Russia has already violated the treaty. I have no way of knowing if this is true or not but with the recent advent of the US “Space Force”, it does seem as though the US with its recently divulged secretive space shuttle and perhaps other technology simply no longer needs to do flyovers with traditional aircraft. Intriguingly, the president, after accusing Russia of violating this treaty, immediately referred to Russia as a friend and leaving the door open for renegotiation which sends significant mixed signals.

Something that the president does not seem to understand is that inter dependency between nations is a good thing. It makes the world significantly safer because no nation would declare war on a country on which they depend. For his tenure in the Whitehouse, he has walked out on treaties, declared financial wars against many friendly countries including, but not limited to China which is probably one of our greatest trade partners, and sought national isolationism that is helpful to, frankly, nobody.

The second article dealt with a letter he wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) in which he attempts to cast blame for the US Coronavirus woes on the WHO slow response and over reliance on China. While the letter was filled with inaccuracies and misdirection, the upshot of it was the decision to withhold funding from the organization, and a threat to withdraw altogether if it does not make certain vaguely worded changes.

Of course, this is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to divert blame for his own poor performance during this crisis. In the early days, when he should have been honest and ramping up preparations for the pandemic, he banked on the virus not spreading in the US as it had in other countries and that he could boost his approval rating with false hopes rather than true leadership based on honesty and preparation.

These are but the latest examples of the president insulting our allies, severing international ties, and casting aspersions in an attempt to deflect blame for his own actions and the consequences thereof. With these newest news articles, the third cannot be a surprise in which surveys of citizens in European countries shows that the reputation of the US has been seriously eroded in recent years. The findings reflect the fact that trust in the US is in significant decline, and that our nation is no longer viewed as a leader in the world by many people. Interestingly, as the US influence is waning, the view of China has been on the increase as it has been making efforts to increase its influence on the world, and with significant success it seems.

Trump ran for president in 2016 with less political experience than any president in history. His platform capitalized on this inexperience, claiming he would be the political outsider giving him the edge in cleaning up the dirty politics that has invaded our nation’s capital. The people who voted for him did so in good faith that he would fulfill his promise to “drain the swamp”. Unfortunately, he won not only because of those who voted for him (which was not a majority vote but was enough for the electoral college win), but also because many refused to vote for his primary opponent. Between the two, he knew where to spend his time and resources to secure the electoral win. Unfortunately, today we are seeing the dangers of giving the highest political office in the land to one with no political experience. Not only is our international influence waning, but the tariff war with China and other nations has yielded no success but has been a great drain on the resources of several companies, tax breaks failed to bring any significant off-shore holdings back to the country but instead furthered the wage gap between the super wealthy and the rest of us, and treaties that have kept us at peace for decades is being thrown away decreasing faith in the US to be able to honor treaties with no “winning” negotiations of new treaties to replace them. In November I hope that we have learned our lesson.

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