WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20: (AFP OUT) Secretary of State Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks to the media during a cabinet meeting at...
Kevin Dietsch

Despite Tillerson’s boasts, U.S. standing falters abroad

Last week, ahead of a United Nations vote on Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, the American president pressured member nations to oppose the measure. Trump even threatened U.S. allies, warning that he might cut off foreign aid for those who criticize his decision.

The U.N. General Assembly ignored Trump, voting 128 to 9 to rebuke the White House’s policy. As international rebukes go, the vote was a dramatic setback for the United States.

It’s against this backdrop that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wrote a new op-ed, published in today’s New York Times, assuring the public that Americans “should be encouraged” by the Trump administration’s diplomatic “progress.”

That’s one way to look at the international landscape. The L.A. Times had a good piece this week examining a more realistic view.

China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led. Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration, whose officials Moscow recently deigned to invite to negotiations only as observers.

France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to, after President Trump wavered on how supportive his administration would be toward the North Atlantic alliance.

And in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S., once the only mediator all sides would accept, has found itself isolated after Trump’s decision to declare that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

Across the board, on practically every issue, American influence under Trump has waned, at times as part of a deliberate White House strategy. The Timesarticle cited international critics of the administration saying the Republican president has taken positions on a range of challenges that have “disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant.”

The assessments are bolstered by quantitative evidence that shows international confidence in the White House, most notably among our closest allies, collapsing in 2017.

Nicholas Burns, a former senior American diplomat under Republican and Democratic administrations, added, “Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

During Barack Obama’s presidency, Republicans chose a line of attack that, in retrospect, was hilariously misguided. As regular readers know, Obama’s GOP detractors seemed absolutely convinced that the Democratic president had done real damage to the United States’ international standing. The opposite was true, but GOP officials nevertheless argued, with unnerving vigor, that America had forfeited the admiration of the world – and it was Obama’s fault.

During the Republican presidential primaries, for example, Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends.” Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump had a chat about “how poorly” the United States was “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”’

The Republican whining was ridiculously untrue at the time, but if we swap out “Obama” for “Trump,” the assessments are apparently accurate now.

Diplomacy, Donald Trump, Foreign Policy and United Nations

Despite Tillerson's boasts, U.S. standing falters abroad