Wednesday, 25 Nov 2020

‘Shining city on a hill’: America’s global image is on the line this U.S. election, experts say

As the U.S. presidential election draws near, the eyes of the world are turning to America.

“I think that most people of the world have really high hopes for the United States and want us to fulfill the vision that we have of ourselves, which is the shining city on a hill, as Reagan called it,” said Grant Golub, a PhD candidate and graduate teaching assistant at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“And they feel that we are falling short of that.”

Originally from Sarasota, Fla., Golub now lives in England.

He said he was surprised to learn how others view America and described it as a mix of “pity and disdain.”

“It was really quite an eye-opener to sort of really be hearing that, because I think that it sort of crushes the way that you view yourself and the way that you view your country,” Golub said.

“So it has led me to sort of re-evaluate, not only the way that we’re viewed but also the American place in the world and how can we bridge that gap between how we are viewed and how we want to be viewed.”

In many parts of the world, America is still seen as leading the world’s economy — although China is closing in.

A 2019 Pew Research paper found that, “Generally, most non-European countries see the United States as the world’s leading economic power, while those in Europe tend to name China.”

Bessa Momani, a political scientist and University of Waterloo professor, says America is also slipping on the international stage thanks to faltering international cooperation and the behaviour of the sitting U.S. president.

“I think what one needs to realize is that for many world leaders — and for just all, you know, multilateral cooperation — there’s been a holding pattern … for at least 18 months, if not longer,” Momani said.

“Much of the world has been alarmed by some of the actions of Donald Trump, particularly pulling away from multilateralism, increasingly being very transactional and a bold and unpredictable personality.”

Trump doesn’t hold back, especially on social media, and foreign leaders have not been spared. Depending on the day and subject matter, it could be a tweet of support or one of scathing criticism.

Also hurting his country’s image, Trump’s administration has pulled out of numerous international agreements since taking office in 2017, such as The Paris Climate Agreement, The Trans-Pacific Partnership, The Iran Nuclear Deal, The UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO and the Open Skies Treaty.

It has also been suggested that Trump wants to leave NATO.

“I think that if Donald Trump were to win a second term, the possibility of the United States leaving NATO, which is a cornerstone of trans-Atlantic security for the past 75 years, he would be much more likely to do that,” said Golub.

“That could be a real possibility,” said Golub.

Momani says this election is being watched closely by the international community because it will shape international affairs, and clear American foreign policy is needed for global stability.

“They have a very strong military footprint. They have wreaked havoc on a lot of countries, but at the same time, there is at least — was, at least — an implicit understanding that they defended countries that pursued liberal democratic values.”

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