Will Trump unpopularity affect US diplomacy, interests?

According to Pew study the US president Donald Trump and his policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, see e. g.  While hardly desirable it is not the first time when the US is not very popular and open or latent antiamericanism is the reality in many countries. But would you say that such unpopularity also somehow affects the ability of the US to pursue own diplomatic, strategic interests or it is not a big problem, and why? Read few comments.

Kurk Dorsey, Professor of History, University of New Hampshire

The low popularity is probably not a short-term problem because 1) governments around the world will still follow what they perceive to be their long-term national interests and 2) public opinion is often different from how leaders view the world.

Having said that, though, if over time the world concludes that the United States is a selfish nation rather than one with temporarily bad leadership, or if the world concludes that the United States is drastically cutting back on its commitment to global leadership based on the principles of democracy and freer trade, even though that leadership has often been flawed, then governments will recalculate their national interests.

I think many people around the world basically like Americans and basically like what the United States is supposed to stand for, and hence surges in unpopularity are in part a product of disappointment that our government is powerful and hypocritical and are temporary–there aren’t many governments that would rather have Russian or Chinese hegemony.  If instead more decide that the US is powerful and a bad influence, then governments will not want to align themselves with US policies nor will they have as much faith in the general trend toward global integration that the US has led.

Trump risks damaging America’s ability to build coalitions to get things done.  George W. Bush did the same, but at least he thought that he was defending the world order that his dad and many other people had painfully built up.  Trump is rejecting it altogether and it doesn’t seem like he has any idea why, since he can’t agree with his Secretary of State or his Defense Secretary in their public pronouncements.

Paul Miller, Associate Director, Clements Center for History, Strategy & Statecraft, University of Texas at Austin

All else equal, I’d love for the United States to be popular abroad. However, US foreign policy is not a popularity contest. Being unpopular is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes the US has to do things that the rest of the world does not like, but still benefits from.

That said, I think the new wave of unpopularity does not stem from the US’s understandable role as guarantor of global stability, but from Donald Trump’s personality, policies, and Twitter account. I regret his affect on the US’s standing in the world and hope the world does not judge the rest of us by his Tweets.

The US’s unpopularity undermines our soft power and will probably make it harder to win international support for diplomatic initiatives, such as sanctions on Iran or Russia, which is, again, regrettable.

Jack GoldstoneProfessor of Public Policy, George Mason University

In this very interconnected world, how the US (or any country) is perceived around the world matters – it matters for national strategy (which countries will ally with you and how loyal will they be?), for economic growth (will people desire your products and workers, invest in your country, and expect you to honor your trade deals?), and for security (how much do your enemies want to take you down?).

Trump’s “America first” foreign policy has greatly weakened favorable views of the US around the world, as shown in the most recent PEW poll.  Only Israel (slightly), and Russia (significantly) have increased their positive view of the US since Trump was elected; all other nations had moderate to very large negative changes.

It is hard to tell exactly what Trump’s foreign policy goals are, as he has laid out no strategic vision. He seems willing to retreat from influence in Europe and China and make concessions to Russia, wants to wall off Latin America from the US with a renewal of sanctions on Cuba and erecting a wall at the Mexican border, is hostile (but ineffectually) to Iran and North Korea, and is only interested in close partnerships with Israel or countries with Trump hotels (Turkey, the Philippines, the Persian Gulf states).  He seems willing to escalate the US military role in Syria and Afghanistan, but to what end is not clear.

Trump seemed to promise his supporters the US would be stronger, less burdened, and more secure in the world.  In fact, so far his policies have made the US look weaker, less popular, and more confused.

Darrell WestVice President and Director of Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

It is difficult for the United States to be effective in foreign policy when so many people around the world have doubts about American leadership. There needs to be trust and confidence for people in other countries that the U.S. is reliable in what it does. When people have major doubts, it is more difficult to exercise leadership and negotiate deals with other countries. This is not the first time people have doubted the United States, but these viewpoints are problematic today because there is so much chaos and uncertainty in every part of the world. Countries need more reliability than they are getting from the United States right now.

Garret Martin, Professorial Lecturer, School of International Service, Editor at Large at the European Institute, American University

In a nutshell, I don’t think that Donald Trump’s unpopularity has or will have a fundamental impact on the US’ ability to pursue its diplomatic and strategic goals. First, that was the case during George W Bush’s presidency, who was equally unpopular across the world. Second, many states will continue to closely cooperate with the US, despite its current unpopularity. They will do so mainly for pragmatic reasons and because the US remains such an influential player on the influential stage.

That said, you can imagine that some foreign leaders will be tempted to be more vocal in their opposition to the US, if they believe that it can appeal to their public opinion. I can think of the parallel with Gerhard Schroeder who took an anti-American line in 2002 in Germany, as he thought that would play well with voters before elections. So that type of development might become more likely with an unpopular US president, and could hinder to some extent US policies. But it should still only be a limited impact.

 

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