On Sept. 11, 1990, in the final months of the Cold War, President George H.W. Bush addressed a joint session of Congress. He spoke to the American people about the crisis that was taking place in the Persian Gulf. Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi army had invaded and occupied the country of Kuwait. Iraq on its own controlled ten percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and if allowed to annex Kuwait, it would control twice that.
However, in this moment of crisis, the president saw a silver lining. The governments of the world rallied against Saddam Hussein’s imperialism and his violation of Kuwaiti self-determination. With this in mind, President Bush foretold the coming of a new world order, where an international community of nation-states would hold its worst members accountable and cooperate to pursue human rights, prosperity and democracy for all peoples of the world.
Since Bush’s presidency, American presidents have fought to uphold the idea of this new world order. President Bill Clinton signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) into law, which allowed for the free movement of goods through Canada, the United States and Mexico. It not only enabled Americans to spend less money on groceries and clothes, but also helped Mexico adapt to the changing global economy, one that is more dependent on manufacturing, rather than agriculture.
Even George W. Bush — most remembered today for his disastrous invasion of Iraq — had some redeemable globalist policies. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) pumped $80 billion dollars into HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention and research. Most of the money went to sub-Saharan Africa and it is credited with saving up to seventeen million lives. More recently, President Barack Obama signed the United States onto the Paris Climate Agreement, joining our allies in committing to the fight against climate change.
This current president, though, has separated himself from his predecessors’ internationalism. Donald Trump ran for president on the nationalist, protectionist, far-right populist platform of “America First.” He is the first president since World War II to look inward, towards isolation, rather than outward, for the future of America.
And I want to clarify, being a nationalist is not inherently a bad thing. Mohandas Gandhi was a nationalist, Simon Bolivar was a nationalist, the leaders of African independence movements were nationalists. Nationalism is simply the pursuit of self governance for a given “nation” or “people.” The issue is Trump’s harnessing of nationalism, to not only divide us from the rest of the world — but from our neighbors here at home.
Trump’s foreign policy missteps seem innumerable. He left the Paris Climate Agreement, costing America’s image as a bastion of innovation and scientific progress and setting us back years in our battle with climate change. He not only threatened to withdraw us from NAFTA, but he also withdrew us from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the proposed Obama era trade agreement that would have involved countries from Peru and Chile to Japan and Vietnam. The TPP would have also gained the United States new trading partners, many of which currently depend on China for trade. This is the kind of soft power that furthers America’s interests on the world stage and it goes to show how much Trump’s lack of diplomacy is harming our position.
The president also withdrew America from the Iran Nuclear Deal. However flawed the agreement may have been — and there is certainly an argument that it was — Trump’s decision to pull out with no replacement plan has left America and her allies in more danger. Iran is closer to developing a nuclear weapon than ever before.
Additionally, Trump has left our North Atlantic alliances in shambles. Whether it’s Canada, France or Germany, the president's words and actions over the past four years have tarnished America’s reputation on the world stage. He has insulted our allies and embraced our enemies, seemingly having more of an affinity for Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un than Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron.
He’s even gone as far as threatening to leave NATO — and this has real, serious implications. NATO — The North Atlantic Treaty Organization — was created in the early days of the Cold War. The organization, which includes the United States, Canada and much of Western Europe, was intended to be the bulwark of democracy against the new threat of communism. But even though the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc belong to the history books — and some former communist countries have actually joined NATO — there is still an urgent need for multilateralism amongst the world’s democracies.
The forces of authoritarianism in this world have never been clearer. It's been less than a decade since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula and to this day they support the war criminal Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, who famously used nerve gas against his own people. Iran is funding terror groups throughout the Middle East, fueled by the Ayatollah’s religious fundamentalism. Possibly the most dangerous is China, which is actively committing genocide against its ethnic Uygher minority in East Turkestan. Over one million Uyghers have already been detained in re-education camps.
America must regain its place on the world stage because we are the only country capable of leading the new world order. We are the only nation with the sheer size, the population, the industrial capacity, the military might and the strategic geographic location to stand up to the bullies and autocrats of this world and to really address the issues that we as a species need to reckon with.
That's why I cast my vote for Joe Biden. He understands that America can be a force for good when we dedicate ourselves to it. He has immense experience in foreign relations, having chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his tenure as a Senator. He was a key player in America’s response to the Yugoslav Wars and Serbia’s ethnic cleansing campaign in Kosovo. He is also an adroit diplomat: As Vice President he met with leaders from Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan, helping negotiate key settlements. Plus, his platform emphasizes working to strengthen our alliances after the damage Trump has done to them, while also rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement.
On Nov. 3rd, we have a choice between a wannabe autocrat who harkens back to a mythic past that never was — and buddies up to the dictators and strongmen of the world — and an experienced statesman who recognizes that the problems of the future will be solved through multilateralism; working with our fellow democracies is our best shot at promoting liberty and curbing the influence of fanatics and authoritarians, wherever they may be.
To quote the late President Bush, “A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we've known.”
This election day, choose Joe Biden — choose a new world: A better world.
Jacob is a sophomore studying History and Political Science. Do you think Trump’s approach to diplomacy has been lacking? Has it been detrimental to America? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org