Photo: AFP/Nicholas Kamm
Photo: AFP/Nicholas Kamm

The world should move on, with or without the US. This was the message that Donald Trump conveyed to the world leaders gathered at the most prestigious international platform, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

The world is, indeed, moving on. At the current UNGA session, held in New York, the US president’s boastful claims that his administration is the most accomplished in the history of America provoked laughter. Keeping it low yet audible, the world leaders laughed at him. Startled and rattled, as he appeared on the world podium, Trump tried to laugh away the derisive response, and, this time, the notables laughed with him. Later on, Trump explained that they were laughing with him. At him or with him, the world was laughing. Trump was, for sure, overplaying his hand by putting forward the “isolationist vision” at an international forum like the UN. The US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Hailey, while emphasizing her daily meetings with the world leaders, clarified that the laughter, in fact, was “out of respect for the US.”

Even so, the laughter reflected many trends and shifts in the behavior of the world leaders towards the US. The most conspicuous is that the world is uniting against Trump’s isolationist vision as the US departs from the global commitments and engagements. The states are moving ahead with their national agendas without abandoning the slogans of globalization and internationalism.

The world is uniting against Trump’s isolationist vision as the US departs from the global commitments and engagements. The states are moving ahead with their national agendas without abandoning the slogans of globalization and internationalism.

The trend that Trump wants to set by his “America First” approach is very clear: Look out for yourself and do not rely on the US anymore. At the UN, he made this clear very loud and clear. Trump’s idea of championing the cause of “patriotism” and rejecting the trends of “globalization” did not go well with the world leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron, who was venturing to get along with Trump, seemed to give up on this policy of “appeasing Trump” at this UNGA session.

As noted precisely by Nicole Gauoette, Macron not only delivered a fiery rebuke to Trump but also signaled his readiness to assume the global leadership and urged the statesmen sitting in the cavernous halls of the UNGA to stop trading with those who do not comply with the Paris Climate Agreement. The world is not standing against Trump but its allies are. As of now, this is the peak of resistance that the US is facing from its allies.

There are two prevailing views on whether it is a bad sign for the US or not. For those who are not too pessimistic, the world will merely be chaotic without any unified system. Fareed Zakaria, in his article in The Washington Post, writes that the most prominent efforts to sidestep Washington come from its European allies and quoted the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, as saying that it is unacceptable for Europeans to let others decide – even close allies and friends – with whom they can do business.

In the face of such unprecedented opposition from Washington’s European allies, Fareed is optimistic that the dollar will rule the world. For others, the supremacy of the dollar, however, might be very difficult to sustain if Russia and China, along with the European countries, keep finding ways to evade US sanctions and weaken the role of the US dollar in the world.

It does evoke a despondent chuckle that a country like the US, which is a top contributor to the UN, stands isolated in this international organization. It is, again, debatable whether this is Trump’s isolation or America’s. In any case, it can be ended; it can be transformed. Ironically, one of the striking examples of how leaders ended their states’ isolation is Russian President Vladimir Putin. Today, even European countries seem to be joining him against Trump’s isolationism. The German delegation at this UNGA session was all snickers and guffaws when Trump stated that Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy.

Trump’s foreign policy, for many reasons and on multiple occasions, has provoked laughter. Firstly, it is pandering to the narrow vision of procuring to one nation’s needs only, disappointedly lacking any appreciation for the fact that no nation can live, develop and prosper in isolation. Secondly, it is rallying anti-US forces in the world and pushing American allies to look for help from others – presumably China and Russia. Thirdly, once a staunch champion of internationalism and globalization, America now evokes laughter when it hosts UN sessions and tells other nations to look for “patriotism” only.

The US decline is happening at a somewhat slow pace but Trump’s foreign policies are only accelerating this process. The Chinese and Russians are laughing in their sleeves but the latest UNGA session showed something worse: It is not just them, it is the world that is laughing at him.

Ghazanfar Ali Garewal is Lecturer in International Relations department of the National University of Modern Languages in Islamabad (NUML). He holds an MS degree in International Cooperation from Yonsei University, Seoul, an MSc in international relations from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and an MA in English from NUML.

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