US President Donald Trump continues to complain that the world is “ripping America off,” as he tears up agreements, mounts trade wars, creates geopolitical conflicts and bullies friends and allies. But in doing so, he may be bringing down, or at the very least tarnishing, the United States’ reputation as a fair and reliable ally.
For example, Trump is scolding the leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member states for not spending enough on defense (with the exceptions of the UK, Greece, Poland and others) and treating America “unfairly” on trade. Another example of US imperialism is threatening sanctions on European companies for doing business with Iran or buying the Islamic Republic’s oil.
In Asia, Trump is just as, if not more so, bullying and condescending, ordering South Korea not to make any peace deals with North Korea without first consulting him and getting his approval. The Japanese government is being pressured into relocating a military base in Okinawa amid overwhelming opposition.
Why US allies are pushing back
US allies in Europe and Asia did not expect to be treated like vassal states, at least not openly. Succumbing to Trump’s demands is an admission of being a lapdog.
US allies in Europe and Asia have no choice but to push back against Trump’s bullying and condescending stances. They are elected by their citizens to protect the countries’ sovereignty and interests, after all. Too, these leaders must save face and protect their legacies.
One of the first European leaders having the courage to defy Trump is French President Emmanuel Macron, calling for the establishment of a European Union army independent of the US to defend itself against Russia, China and possibly America itself. His proposal is supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Asian allies, particularly India, also seem to have pushed back, buying Iranian oil whether the US likes it or not.
Washington’s attempt to revive the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising itself and soulmates Australia, India and Japan may be losing support. Instead of joining with the US to contain China, India and Japan are seeking rapprochement with the Asian giant. Even “deputy sheriff” Australia is apparently having second thoughts, as one of its states is officially joining China’s Belt and and Road Initiative.
In short, these three allies might finally realize that joining the US in containing China is harmful to their national interests. Fighting that nuclear power on their own soil might not be a good idea.
No country treats the US ‘unfairly’
The fact of the matter is no country treats the US “unfairly” or is “eating its lunch.” On the contrary, it could be argued that it is the other way around.
Having emerged as the world’s strongest nation during and after World War II, US foreign policies have one goal: Shape the world to its image. That process began at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference, insisting on using the US dollar as the world reserve currency and writing the trade rules. In this way, the US has accumulated a very powerful tool, printing as much money as it wants without repercussions to itself. For example, when a country wants to cash its US Treasury holdings, all America has to do is print more greenbacks.
To that end, the US is clearly “eating other countries’ lunch.” Indeed, a major reason the US can afford to build so many weapons is that other countries are paying for them.
US trade practices
On trade, the US in 1950 rejected the UK’s proposal of forming an International Trade Organization (ITO) modeled after the International Monetary Fund and World Bank because it feared the ITO might have harmed American manufacturing. In its place, the US proposed and succeeded in forming the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) framework to negotiate tariff rates on goods.
Being the world’s most powerful economy and biggest trading nation at that time, the US dominated the world trading system and wrote its rules. For example, it was the US that invented and implemented non-tariff trade barriers such as anti-dumping duties and national-security concerns to block imports. For example, the US imposed tariffs on Canadian, EU, Mexican and other countries’ steel and aluminum from entering its market for security reasons.
It is laughable for the US to accuse Canada, the EU and Mexico of posing a national-security threat. They are, in fact, America’s most staunch allies.
US foreign direct investment abroad
US companies bring with them ideas and technology (for which they charge exorbitant prices) when investing in a foreign market such as China and elsewhere. The capital needed to build factories is largely funded by the host country or other partners. For example, it is Taiwanese and Japanese investors that built Foxconn factories in China to assemble American electronic gadgets such as the iPad.
What’s more, US companies charge huge prices for the products they make in China. According to the Asian Development Bank and other research organizations, Chinese labor, for example, receives a small percentage of the profits Apple takes in from gadgets it produces in China. This lopsided profit distribution raises the question: Who is “eating whose lunch?”
America has itself to blame
The US cannot blame China or any other country for its declining global influence and dominance – America, particularly under Donald Trump, did that to itself. Chinese President Xi Jinping, indeed, has advocated cooperation and dialogue as ways to defuse conflicts and attain a better world.
No country has ever even hinted at attacking the US; it is after all the world’s most powerful nation, armed with enough conventional and nuclear weapons to blow up the world. The “threats” are exaggerated or invented by US neoconservatives and vested interests to scare Americans into supporting huge defense spending.
‘Fake news’ can only go so far
Using “fake news” to pressure countries into submission might work with those unable to fight back, but could be extremely costly against powers such as China and Russia. For example, Trump’s escalating trade tensions with China are already adversely affecting the US economy, as seen in falling GDP growth, decreasing stock prices, a huge agricultural inventory, and rising poverty.
According to United Nations, the impoverished American population is being hit the hardest under the Trump administration. The US Federal Reserve and others are projecting significant economic decline in the foreseeable future if the trade war does not end.
One can only imagine what a nuclear war would bring.
Donald Trump is probably no less bullying than his predecessors (perhaps with the exception of George W Bush), but he is more open about it. Bush’s outburst, “You are either with us or against us,” earned America a bad reputation when he demanded that allies join him to invade Iraq.
Trump has bullied or offended everyone, friends and foes alike. Unless he shifts gear, he could alienate friends as well as foes, which could erode US geopolitical influence and economic growth or might even bring the country down. He cannot threaten sovereign nations without incurring huge costs to America.