The international order established after World War II was extraordinary. The idea that prosperity should be shared with all, the promise not to repeat the atrocities that had been committed, disarmament and the integration of diverse communities (not just in Europe, but also in Asia) inspired a global economic architecture that brought about the longest period of peace, economic stability and prosperity in human history. Leadership of this new international order was assumed by the United States, which was already clearly the dominant economic power.
It was a world order rooted in economic liberalism and globalization, which were giving rise to dissatisfaction as much through trade and the flow of capital as through accelerated technological change. Workers were being displaced, and certain regions and cities were being ruined, while others prospered. There was a convergence between Europe, Japan and the United States, joined later by East Asia, China (which is shaping up to be the big winner in globalization) and India. In some of these areas, we are starting to see the resurgence of an ethnic and atavistic nationalism, which advocates curbing the influx of immigrants, reverting to protectionism and stirring the baser human instinct to attack one’s fellow man.
Brexit in England; the rise of the ultranationalists in Eastern Europe and in Austria, France and Germany; the threat of an independent Catalonia; but above all, Donald Trump’s win in the U.S. election − these are all symptoms of the disintegration of the world order built over the past 75 years. Trump personifies the worst of the United States: the racists, the misogynists, the religious sects, the enemies of science and those who hold the art of politics in contempt.
Trump torpedoed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which was an attempt to build a free trade area between Asia and the West, isolating a China that has been rapidly gaining strength. The abdication of leadership by this nativist and ignorant president, who is abandoning his allies all over the place, only makes it easier for China to do this. He is on the verge of destroying the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada, shooting himself in the foot in the process.
The United States undermined the Paris climate agreement meant to address climate change, taking the lead in environmental irresponsibility and putting the future of the planet at risk. Trump has undercut the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, acquiescing to Russia’s aggressive acts against its former territories, and has declared his love for Vladimir Putin and other dictators, like Recep Erdogan in Turkey and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. He has weakened the seven-nation accord to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions and is proposing to dismantle the agreement. He openly favors Israel and Saudi Arabia, destabilizing an explosive Middle East even more. He has taken an aggressive and bullying stance toward North Korea, which has not been provoked … so far. He is proposing to move forward with nuclear weapons for the U.S. itself and for Japan, so not one stone on earth will be left standing upon another in case of a new conflict.
Trump’s rise is not an accident. He represents the U.S. plutocracy, but he has allied himself with the poor white working class. This came about more because of the government policies the plutocracy pushes than because of the Hispanic and Arab immigrants or the impacts of international trade. He is not the cure; he is the disease itself.