It seems the world doesn't much care for Trump. He's "arrogant, intolerant and even dangerous," according to global opinion. The world does see him as a "strong leader," although his strength comes in consistently doing the wrong thing: His "withdrawing from international trade agreements and climate change accords," his "efforts to restrict entry into the U.S. by people from certain Muslim-majority nations," and his "intention to back away from the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran." All this, from Pew Research.
In the Rose Garden earlier this month, Trump asked, "At what point does America get demeaned?" That would be now.
Trump and many of his key policies are broadly unpopular around the globe, and ratings for the U.S. have declined steeply in many nations. According to a new Pew Research Center survey spanning 37 nations, a median of just 22% has confidence in Trump to do the right thing when it comes to international affairs. This stands in contrast to the final years of Barack Obama’s presidency, when a median of 64% expressed confidence in Trump’s predecessor to direct America’s role in the world.
For eight years, Republicans ridiculed President Obama's foreign policy as one of weakness, confusion, and apology tours. They also intentionally misinterpreted an Obama advisor's phrase, "leading from behind," which was borrowed from Nelson Mandela: "It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership."
Mandela's phraseology is almost Sun Tzu-like; it might have come from the latter's "Art of Diplomacy," if he had ever written such a thing. The essence of Mandela and Obama's wisdom was that people will appreciate your leadership because of your quiet graciousness. This diplomatic philosophy indeed played out under Obama — it played out in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris Accord, and the Iran nuclear deal. Now, under Trump's brutishness, it has all gone to hell — and in hellishly perverse ways. Continues Pew:
The sharp decline in how much global publics trust the U.S. president on the world stage is especially pronounced among some of America’s closest allies in Europe and Asia, as well as neighboring Mexico and Canada. Across the 37 nations polled, Trump gets higher marks than Obama in only two countries: Russia and Israel.
In a mere five months, Trump has alienated our allies while warming our relationships with a harsh autocracy and apartheid regime. Hence we needn't ask, "At what point does America get demeaned?" The world is onto us.
What Trump is not onto is a coherent foreign policy, some organizing principle, even a smattering of a lucid worldview.
Last night, in a statement that caught "several [U.S.] military officials … off guard," the White House announced that "The United States is in Syria to eliminate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. If, however, Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price." Such warnings are generally issued behind the scenes, not publicly. As the NY Times further notes: "Monday’s message appeared designed to set the stage for another possible military strike."
What's more, such a strike would be designed for domestic consumption. Trump desperately needs a major distraction; something, anything to detract from his litany of policy failures and mounting catalogue of corruption. A war would do.
As a sociopathic carnival barker, Trump is less interested in chemical attacks than in keeping his numbers up among his base. If he at all cares that four-fifths of the world is now against us, it's only a depraved care: His base actually takes pride in global disapproval. So as for Pew's research, pshaw, who cares?
His base would, though, care very much about a war, because it would be Trump's war. Thus they would rally around it. The rest of the world be damned, just as we are.