The optics of the G-7 meeting are encouraging. President Biden was warmly received by our closest allies and plans were laid to forge a joint strategy to confront China, our principal geopolitical adversary. The U.S. has dropped its go-it-alone policy and returned to its post-WWII alliance-based strategy of supporting democracies and opposing tyrannical regimes.
In the wake of WWII, the U.S. worked hard to build democracies in Germany, Japan and other autocratic countries that had been our enemies. We figured it would make America safer and stronger, as democracies would be less likely to rise up against us. The strategy greatly exceeded our expectations. Over the many years since, our Atlantic and Pacific alliances have strengthened our hand in dealing with the enemies of peace, most notably in bringing about the downfall of the Soviet Union.
During the last four years, our relations with traditional allies, both in Europe and Asia, suffered grave damage. It was more common to see the U.S. insulting our allies, than to see effective action being taken to counter the malign activity of the despots. The dysfunction in American government–a flailing, ineffective response to the pandemic, the proliferation of conspiracy-theory politics, and coddling of dictators–led many of our allies to question the viability of the American experiment.
A recent Pew Research Center poll of the people of 13 friendly nations found a remarkable jump in their favorability rating of the United States from 2020 to 2021, increasing 33% in Germany, 30% in Japan, and 26% in Canada. The return to an alliance-based foreign policy played a significant part in putting our country back on track.
However, there are lingering concerns by our allies. Polling across 16 populations found that 17% regarded the U.S. as a good example to follow. However, 57% of respondents said the U.S. “used to be a good example, but has not been in recent years.”
The upshot of the Pew poll is that our friends want to see us back as the leading nation, but they have been severely shaken by the chaos of the last four years. Especially in light of the January 6 insurrection and continuing false claims of election fraud, our friends in the world want to see us pull our nation out of the dismal swamp we have inhabited in the last few years.
This is not just a popularity contest. We inhabit a complicated world and are no longer able to go it alone. We are stronger and more resilient when we are able to count on trusted allies. We are weaker when we lose the trust of their people.
The signs are encouraging that the United States will again become the beacon that shines hope into the dark corners of the Earth. It will take hard work and steady commitment. Not everyone has to agree with every policy the new administration implements to strengthen our ties with friendly nations, but unwarranted, partisan obstruction won’t help.
An example of a positive contribution arrived in the form of a June 13 op-ed in the Washington Post, authored by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.).
They point to Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) as a “move that brought economic uncertainty, damaged U.S. credibility among trading partners and ceded to China hard-fought economic ground in the Asia-Pacific.” They assert that we must regain our leadership in the Pacific by working hard to join the CPTTP, the trading agreement that our former partners put together following our withdrawal from the TTP. They are absolutely correct.
By embracing this positive move the Biden Administration could show the world that we are truly back in the game, that we are one with our Pacific allies and that we are ready, willing and able to compete head to head with China.