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America’s self-inflicted decline

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord has drawn widespread condemnation and criticism. But it is just the latest example of a self-inflicted blow to America’s position on a world stage

By : Hamza Siddiq

Since the Second World War, the US has positioned itself as a global leader. It emerged as a leader of global governance, guardian of human rights and values, and a champion for openness. But under Trump’s administration, that may no longer be the case. With Trump’s America First approach, the global economic and political architecture constructed in postwar period is crumbling.

Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the Paris Climate Accord has drawn widespread condemnation and criticism. But it is just the latest example of a self-inflicted blow to America’s position on a world stage. Trump’s moves under his mantra of ‘Make America Great Again’ are accelerating the decline of America on a global stage, leading to profound shifts in the global power structure.Climate change is perhaps the greatest challenge faced by humanity. From increased risk of droughts, deadly heat waves to rising sea levels, the threat posed by global warming around the world is indisputable.

In December 2015, over 190 nations signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing themselves to confronting the greatest challenge faced by civilisation. The Paris Climate deal was hailed as a historic step in the fight against climate change where signatories pledged to reduce carbon emissions in order to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degree Celsius. It was strong and committed American leadership on the world stage that made that landmark achievement possible. Under the accord, the United States had pledged to cut its greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and commit up to $3 billion in aid for poorer countries by 2020. However, in a bid to put American workers first, President Trump announced to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord, disrupting efforts to combat global warming.Trump justified his decision by arguing that the Paris Agreement imposed unfair environmental standards which would hurt American jobs and businesses. Trump’s decision to abandon the agreement has been condemned by international development community, environmentalist, business executives and political leaders around the globe. But more importantly, by pulling out of the Treaty, Trump has threatened America’s competitiveness as well as job growth in future industries and sabotaged America’s claim to leadership on a global issue.Trump’s America First approach is fundamentally changing the role of the US in the world. It has marked a complete break with a foreign policy that shaped American global leadership.

This is most clearly manifested in the reversal of the global order that was created following the devastation caused by the Second World War Underpinned by global institutions such as the World Bank and the United Nations, a new system of rules-based governance was designed to promote peace and development around the world.With the United States as the largest shareholder in these global institutions, it assumed leadership on global issues such as poverty, human rights and freedom. Foreign aid became an important tool of American influence in the developing world. For decades, the US has operated the largest and most expensive overseas aid programme in the world.But the Trump administration has vowed to make significant cuts to development aid and withdraw support from international organizations including the United Nations. Such measures will not only threaten the global fight against poverty and disease but are likely to cede US influence in other regions and countries.Another key area of global leadership has been human rights and values. For years, the US has shown exemplary leadership and commitment to promoting basic human freedoms and ending worst forms of abuse around the world. This project of promoting human values began with the Enlightenment movement which promoted reason, tolerance and scientific inquiry.

With the Enlightenment also came a commitment to eliminate our prejudices. As the idea of human equality developed, societies began struggling to eliminate discrimination on the basis of race, gender and eventually other aspects of human identity including sexual orientation. Trump seeks to reverse all of that.His rejection of science, reflected in his scepticism toward climate change, threatens technological progress. And his bigotry toward women and xenophobic policies including the deeply divisive travel ban on Muslims has challenged the position of the US as a champion of human rights.In pursuit of isolationist policies, Mr. Trump has created a vacuum of global leadership that presents rich opportunities to allies and adversaries to reorder the global structure. As Trump announced its decision to withdraw America from the Paris Agreement, many other world leaders, most prominently, the new French President Macron reiterated their commitment to protect the planet from global warming.Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany, admitted at G7 summit that Europe could no longer rely on the US. The western alliance, the world’s biggest economic bloc and largest repository of knowledge, is now disintegrating. China, with its rising global influence, is most well-placed to fill the void that America is leaving on everything from setting the rules of globalization and environmental standards to financing the infrastructure projects such as OBOR that give Beijing vast influence. It is definitely an exciting time for academics and students of global politics and international relations.

‘Courtesy Al Jazeera’.

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