Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Fox News last week and declared that Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord was evidence of international leadership. “The world is seeing that we have a president again who is embracing his role as leader of the free world,” Pence said, somehow delivering the line with a straight face.
In reality, the American president has done the opposite. Following a series of incidents, much of the world has begun to look anew at the United States and its role in the world, and come to the conclusion that Trump’s rise reflects a country that can no longer be counted on.
As the Washington Post reported, the sentiment has reached some officials in our neighbor to the north.
Canada intends to make “a substantial investment” in its military because it can no longer rely on the United States for leadership in the face of threats posed by terrorist groups or countries like Russia and North Korea, the Canadian foreign minister said Tuesday.
Echoing complaints made recently by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chrystia Freeland told Canada’s House of Commons that Washington is no longer committed to its position of world leadership, forcing Canada to invest in its own armed forces to defend liberal democracy…. Although Freeland was careful to say that Canada was “grateful” for the “outsized role” that the United States has played in the world, there was an undertone of disappointment throughout the speech, something seldom heard recently in Canada-U.S. relations.
The Canadian foreign minister did not mention Donald Trump by name, but in context, she didn’t have to.
The transcript of Freeland’s remarks are online here. Quotes like this one stand out as dramatic: “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.”
Not to put too fine a point on this, but we appear to be watching a new world order unfold. Canada, France, Great Britain, Germany, Australia – these aren’t just countries the United States has occasionally partnered with over the years for the sake of temporary convenience. These are core allies whose friendships have served as a generations-long foundation – through Democratic and Republican administrations – for stability throughout the Western world.
When then-President Barack Obama last visited Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the United States and Canada are “closer than friends” and “more like siblings.” Just one year later, however, Trudeau’s foreign minister is openly exploring a vision for the future in which our neighbor can no longer count on us to take on the leadership role we’ve traditionally embraced.
Whether Mike Pence is prepared to accept this or not, the office of Leader of the Free World, it appears, is currently empty.