Opinion » Editorial

Trump: No Longer “Leader of the Free World”


Typically, we use this space to consider matters of local importance — a term whose scope will stretch statewide, as cases dictate. But there is no mistaking that we belong to the national and world communities, as well, and from time to time, events in those larger spheres necessarily dominate in our consciousness. Such a moment is upon us now, when the national leader elected in 2016 is busily out and about remaking the guidelines we live by.

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  • Donald Trump

It has become something of a cliche for pundits to observe that President Trump is effecting drastic changes in an international order that has persisted for the 70-odd years since the end of World War Two, with the United States at the head of that order and the arbiter of its principles. Trump, with his election as president of the United States, inherited with that office the title of "leader of the free world." In the wake of the president's purposeful disruption at last week's meeting of the G-7 nations in Canada, it appears necessary to question the continuing relevance of the term to the office. It is difficult to function as the leader of a concord, when you a) challenge its premises and disturb its coherence, as Trump did when he arrived at the G-7 summit late and with conspicuous casualness; b) while there, comport yourself insultingly and argumentatively vis-a-vis the representatives of the other nations; and c) depart early, leaving unresolved quarrels in your wake, openly launching trade wars against the other G-7 nations, and refusing to sign on to the ritual communique which, whatever its specific language, essentially merely says, "we are together."

The fact is, the United States is no longer "together" with its associates in the post-war international order — not with the aforesaid "free world" component of it and not with the larger tribunal of the United Nations, where, for the first time ever, the U.S. representative failed to get a single co-sponsor for a major resolution. This one attempted to fix the blame entirely on the Palestinian side for the wholesale deaths in the Gaza strip of demonstrators who were fired upon as they protested the moving of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

This tragedy stems essentially from the go-it-alone impulse that spurred Trump, for evident domestic political reasons, to dispense with cautions honored for generations and, with no Mid-East settlement at hand, to tread clumsily and arbitrarily on the diplomatic realm's most high-voltage third rail.

Meanwhile, the president, on his way to North Korea for the "honor" of what could turn out to be no more than a photo op with that nation's dictator, has issued a call for the re-admission to what would thereby become an enlarged G-8 of Russia, whose authoritarian ruler, Vladimir Putin, he also honors. This, despite Russia's continued subjugation of the neighbor nation of Ukraine and its documented attempts to sabotage the Democratic process both here and in Western Europe.

It’s worse than going it alone. Call it what you will, but it’s obvious Trump is more comfortable buddying up with the world’s bad boys than creating accord with our traditional allies. It’s a high-wire adventure in which we are unavoidably trapped, unless the GOP Congress musters enough courage to do something about it.

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