October 17, 2019

The Old World Order Is Over

“Across Europe, and indeed around the world, America’s allies have developed a bunker mentality. They are waiting, hands over their ears, for the assault to end, for peace and quiet to return, for commerce and diplomacy to resume as normal. In a year and a half, or 5½ years in the worst-case scenario, President Trump will go back to his vulgar tower and take his incompetent offspring with him. The world will revert to the status quo ante. America will be led by someone who can read a briefing paper, someone who won’t embarrass a head of state when he or she comes to visit, someone who remembers that alliances are the basis of U.S. power and that trade is not a zero-sum game. Or will it?

We have just had an important two-night debate, during which we heard some of America’s most prominent journalists put questions to potential presidents. Most of the analyses describe who won and who lost, who struck blows and who parried them. But if you were listening outside the United States, as I was, something else was far more arresting: the near-total absence of the rest of the world. There was no Europe, no China, no Venezuela. The glancing references to the Middle East mostly involved posturing about the past — specifically about how the candidates did or didn’t support the Iraq War more than 16 years ago.

Nor were there enlightening discussions of international trade. Andrew Yang did point out that robots and artificial intelligence are now a greater threat to U.S. jobs than Chinese factories, but no one talked about the money that Americans earn from foreign trade and foreign sales — for example, Midwestern farmers. No one talked about the material benefits of the peace in Europe, ensured for three-quarters of a century by an American presence, or how that might be threatened by an American departure. Although New York Mayor Bill de Blasio flagged it, nobody even talked much about the possibility of an imminent war with Iran. Even if your main concern is the economy and jobs, you have to concede that a crisis in the Persian Gulf, with the implications that has for the oil trade, might well have some knock-on effects in the American heartland.”

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