With Trump’s departure from the Iran deal, many are mourning the ‘rules based international order.’ But Trump is not the problem: the world has changed, and the idea that the U.S. dominates the world by dint of power, values, wisdom, even God’s decisions is a myth.
By Gordon Adams
America’s place in the world is experiencing an historic turning point. All the mumbo-jumbo about being the “exceptional” and “indispensable” nation, the natural “leader” of something called the “West,” the guarantor of some kind of international system of “rules” is finally being cast into the dustbin of history.
This moment is not just about leaving the Iran nuclear agreement, or even the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement. It is not simply attributable to the unpredictable, childish impulses of the current president. Nor is it the result of Obama’s failure to enforce a red line in Syria, or “leading from behind” in Libya. It is not even about Bush’s invasion of Iraq with the goal of regime change, setting in motion the destruction of what little political stability existed in the Middle East.
Of course, it is about all these decisions. But in every case, those decisions, and even the critics of those decisions, have failed to realize how they have played into, helped cause, and now accelerate a fundamental shift in global realities—the centrifugal redistribution of power and influence in the international system that has brought to an end the “American century.” The United States has become just another power in a system for which it no longer sets or enforces the rules, if it ever really did.
Both political parties fail to cope with this reality. Democrats and liberals insist that Trump’s foreign-policy decisions threaten the “rules-based” international order America built and dominated. A simple change in leadership, they believe, can restore order and America’s primacy. Republicans demand bellicose American assertiveness, believing that force and military strength guarantee that the world will behave. Columnists bewail America’s declining status, arguing that greater investment in allies and diplomacy, combined with military engagement might reverse the tide. Think tanks scurry to define new national security and military policies that can put America back on top.
This debate is a circular firing squad. Both liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans are struggling to recreate a myth: that the U.S. dominates the world by dint of power, values, wisdom, even God’s decisions. America, and only...Read More