When Donald Trump ran for the presidential office he displayed a tendency to promote “America First”, with the view to “Make America Great Again”. However, this policy has seen him get into many issues with other leaders around the world.
In the intervening years, President Trump has questioned several policies put in place by leaders before him. Not only has he debated the point of NATO, military alliances in Asia and held a trade war with China, Trump has also removed America from the Paris Climate Accord, the nuclear agreement with Iran and most recently, withdrawn funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) following its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
And it is his handling of the pandemic that could be the main issue that affects his campaign to return to a second term in office.
Many American citizens feel his poor handling of the crisis has led to the high numbers of cases – and more worryingly the large numbers of fatalities – the country has seen. Currently America has seen over a third of all the world’s cases on our own doorstep while there have been several nations who believe he has not shown any leadership outside of the country.
Oxford University historian, and fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Timothy Garton Ash said, “I would like to think that the world’s leading democracy gave an example of how well it dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, better than China. But it doesn’t look good. The American health system and the American political system are coping with this much worse than many European democracies are.”
Coronavirus has spread rapidly throughout the world, affecting more countries than many could name, and yet there does not seem to be any international leadership, as the majority of the wealthiest countries appear to have ‘shut up shop’.
While it is acknowledged that over 3 million confirmed cases has left many unable to send resources to each country, analysts are confused as to why Trump does not seem willing to at least send a message of reassurance to citizens around the world.
Garton Ash backs this concern up, commenting that he thinks there should have been “some element of international leadership in coordinating a global response to what is, after all, a global threat.”
Trump’s stance of only refusing entry to travelers if they had visited Iran or China, followed by a poorly executed cancelation of US flights to many European countries was seen as a move that was needed. However many felt he had not warned of the move before implementing it. Furthermore, the suspension of US funding to WHO has been widely criticized around the world. A demand for an investigation into what he believes is an organization that favors China has also been questioned, although Trump maintains if WHO had dealt with the crisis in a better fashion at the beginning, the virus would not have become a pandemic.
With an attitude that America has a leading role to play within the world critics have long called for an end to what they see as an oversized position in global affairs. And with what has been seen as a lacklustre response from Trump the debate regarding whether America should stand down from their self-imposed ‘leader of the world’ position.
President of the Eurasia Group Ian Bremmer agrees that this view of America has long been seen as a burden.
“The idea that Trump is somehow responsible for this is ludicrous. It allows you to believe that if you just get rid of Trump then American exceptionalism will return. And no, the reason that Trump became elected is because large swaths of the American population were so disillusioned.”
It is vital to understand why America’s standing in the world has become seen by some as being ‘priggish’ or ‘overbearing’. The country’s involvement in wars such as within Iraq and the false claims of weapons of mass destruction caused many to start to question the morals of the White House. While many have seen this ‘illegal’ war as the start to many terrorist sects, especially after they failed to implement policies and structure in the countries they have liberated. There have also been claims that America has done little to try and balance the global economy.
International relations professor at Harvard, Stephen Walt backs this theory up:
“The United States has traditionally been quite good for the last 70 or 80 years at coordinating international responses to global problems. And there are things the United States could have done by leading a more coordinated effort in response to this pandemic had we recognized the problem for what it was early on.”
The lack of response to the current pandemic by America has been felt worldwide and some, including Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole believes that the world has started to view America differently. “Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger. But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the U.S. until now: pity.”