It’s a well-known saying, mostly passed on from mother to child, that if you cannot say anything nice, you should say nothing at all. The Interpreter, a newsletter by columnists of the New York Times that is posted twice a week, today reflected on Donald Trump’s announcement to withdraw the United States from the agreements to combat climate change from Paris. It reminded me strongly of that mothers’ saying – quite literally. What would we do in a world without Trump?
According to Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, who put together The Interpreter, the scenario where the world presses on ahead without the United States could be a better one. Knowing that the US won’t pull its weight could mean everyone works so much harder to cancel out the loss and still get out ahead. Furthermore there is the Love Actually moment of standing up against a bully in the wrong, and fortifying support at home.
Given that Trump likes to inject himself into matters via Twitter like a petulant child that realises their parent is giving a sibling attention, we might have to resort to another motherly piece of advice – to ignore Trump and proceed with everyone else reasonable enough to sit at the adults’ table.
In the face of this (as well as potential perceived threats such as the election of ‘Marxist’ Jeremy Corbyn here in the UK) there has been a suggestion that the markets should step into the breach in the absence of political power. I think this is not necessary, but complementary. Plenty of devolved powerholders in the United States have committed themselves to upholding climate change targets on their local level. Furthermore, any businesses that want to champion the way are free to forge ahead beyond these (and kudos to them!), but there are plenty of sectors that wish to lag behind as far as possible to maximise gains that must be dealt with.
Beyond climate change I think foreign aid should much be approached in the same way as some countries seek to turn inwards with funding. Another saying says a rising tide would lift all boats, but again President Trump doesn’t seem to agree, and it’s up for discussion in the UK, which leaves China the opportunity to massively invest in infrastructure and other projects around the world.
Finally of course defense is a crucial issue. It is uncertain whether the United States would come to assist any NATO member states under attack by Russia on the Eastern front, so self-reliance and new coalitions are key. While most of Europe is under-militarised, options like the sly but sensible build up of the German Army are necessary to provide the protection that countries need close to potential areas of conflict.
The United States has ceased to be Free World. There doesn’t have to be a natural replacement – try and think of it as a job share, I guess.
(Photo credit goes to Michael Coghlan)