Op-Ed | ‘America First’ not the way to preserve international order

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House after meeting with lawmakers about border security, Friday, Jan. 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/ Manuel Balce Ceneta)

TOKYO (The Japan News/ANN) — The U.S.-centered alliance and development model, based on democracy and the rule of law, faces a blatant challenge from China and Russia. World affairs have undergone a huge change over the 30 years since the end of the Cold War.

In the United States and Europe, domestic political turmoil and social divisions are conspicuous. Leaders of the United States, Europe, and Japan bear grave responsibilities for maintaining alliances and international order.

Insecure security policy

U.S. President Donald Trump is approaching the halfway point in his first four-year term in office. Due to his excessively arbitrary leadership and antagonism with Congress, there is concern that his management of the government will be paralyzed.

Many Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking U.S. government officials have been replaced or forced to resign due to confrontations with Trump. The turnover rate of his administration officials is higher than that of previous administrations. Anxiety cannot be dispelled about whether mistaken policies will be carried out because expert checking does not work.

As a result of midterm elections held last year, the opposition Democratic Party has gained a majority in the House of Representatives, thus creating different majorities in the House and the Senate. It is almost certain that deliberations on bills and budgets pushed by Trump will have rough going.

Investigations into the Russian scandal, in which the Trump campaign is suspected to have conspired with Russia in connection with the 2016 U.S. presidential election, will become destabilizing factors. It is inevitable that the rift between pro- and anti-Trump elements will further deepen.

If Trump cannot realize his campaign pledges related to his domestic political agenda, including the construction of a wall on the border, he will try to find a way out in foreign policy.

How will he resolve trade frictions with China? Can he make North Korea take concrete steps toward denuclearization? Won’t the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and the reduction of those in Afghanistan lead to the emergence of radical groups?

It is problematic that no firm strategy or solutions can be seen in any of these cases. With the radicalization of his “America First” policy, it will become necessary to be wary of a decline in the credibility of alliances with the United States.

U.S. troops stationed overseas contribute to the defense of the United States and its allies and sustain the stability of regional situations. Based on awareness of this, the Trump administration should recast its foreign and security policy. Efforts by Japan and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to reinforce alliances with the United States will be indispensable, too. Confusion continues to roil the Middle East situation.

Growing U.S. support for Saudi Arabia and the increasingly close relationship between Iran and Russia have become elements in the struggle for supremacy between Saudi Arabia and Iran, making the situation more complex.

It is vital that the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, in which these other powers are also involved, are brought to an end and hotbeds of terrorism are stamped out. The international community should spare no effort to bring stability to the Middle East situation, which also would ensure stable energy supplies and prevent refugee outflows.

The European Union, which deepened regional integration in Europe, has arrived at a turning point. The “grand experiment” that aimed to construct a community transcending nation-states can be said to have reached a crucial moment of truth.

EU must rebuild

Britain’s exit from the European Union on March 29 is quickly approaching. It is difficult to see a path toward an orderly departure. This is a very serious situation. Britain and the European Union must not forget that they bear a heavy responsibility to prevent their divorce from having negative repercussions for the global economy.

EU member nations have crafted close ties by gradually transferring their authority on trade and immigration policies to the European Union. The turmoil enveloping Britain vividly shows the reality that “reclaiming sovereignty” from the European Union is not as simple as the hardline Brexiteers had insisted.

The current situation in which the leaders of Britain, France and Germany — the foremost powers in Europe — are facing adversity and losing authority is causing apprehension.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel vacated her position as leader of the ruling party after being unable to shake off criticism of her refugee acceptance policy. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has promoted structural reforms, came under fire for policies viewed as “favoring the rich” and was forced to make a course correction in the face of intensifying protests against his administration.

Getting the European Union back on its feet will become possible only when there is stability in the domestic politics of the major member states. The European Union must regain public trust by learning from its experience of the backlash from EU member nations that was sparked by its handling of the massive influx of refugees and the fiscal and financial crisis triggered by Greece.

Just how many seats political forces Trumpeting “anti-EU” and “nationalist” policies pick up in European Parliament elections scheduled for May will be a barometer of Europe’s prospects.

Prevent rifts widening

Divisions among citizens along lines such as urban versus rural, the establishment versus the working class and globalism versus nationalism are becoming common phenomena in the United States and the advanced nations of Europe.

There are concerns that such widening rifts and growing turmoil could invite the further growth of populism and far-left and far-right ideologies. China and Russia also could use these developments as material when advocating for the stability and superiority of their own authoritarian models.

Constantly reviewing the U.S.-Europe model and efforts to advance policies that can unite people will be needed.

By Editorial Desk | Published in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan. 4, 2019