Floyd Protests Show How US Retreated From World Leader’s Position
America’s global image as world leader has diminished with its increasingly coercive attitudes to allies, rivals.
The killing of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police has sparked a furious response from all sections of American society. One poll showed that police violence against the public is a major problem, while 58 percent support the view that racism is one of today’s biggest problems. Another poll showed two-thirds of Americans believe their country is .
The US has been brought to this point by a long-term of the American elite, accompanied by rising levels of mass discontent and coercive state responses. The Floyd killing appears to be the spark that lit the fuse. The protests are at other recent deaths of minorities from police brutality, and at the disproportionate effects of the on African-Americans.
At the same time, America’s global image as world leader has further diminished as it adopts increasingly coercive attitudes to allies, competitors, rivals and international institutions, to protect its positions in the face of greater competition.
This is a long-term shift that President Donald Trump’s “America First” approach has systematically intensified to previously unseen heights.
The European Union, using language normally reserved for undemocratic states, over Floyd’s killing and police response. It hoped “all the issues” related to the protests in the US “will be settled swiftly and in full respect for the rule of law and human rights”.
Racism and Foreign Policy
America, the land of the ethno-racial melting pot, is once again facing what the Swedish economist Gunnar Myrdal optimistically called in 1944. He explained this as the chasm between white American’s apparently deeply-held creed of equality – a fundamental attachment to democracy, freedom, equality and humanity as defining core values – and the country’s glaring levels of racial inequality.
Yet, there was also US elite recognition, in the context of the anti-Nazi second world war, that scientific racism and American racial segregation . This was reinforced by the needs of wartime production and the imperatives of US-Soviet cold war competition to recruit allies at the UN from among newly independent, post-colonial states.
The permissive environment also helped create favourable conditions for the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
To be a world leader after 1945, the US had to be seen to be anti-racist. The world was watching to see what kind of culture the fledgling American superpower really was.
From Obama to Trump
But the longed-for post-racial society was exposed as a myth even before the end of Obama’s first term. Obama, known among pollsters as a moderate “no-demands black”, had in a sea of soaring rhetoric about the American dream.
The Whole World is Watching
American media has long projected its news and culture to a fascinated global audience. And the world has been watching as Trump tries to remake American identity along even starker racial lines. Trump harnessed growing anxieties among white, mainly Republican, voters, about an emerging non-white majority in the US population, predicted .
In foreign policy, Trump has controversially challenged, undermined and begun coercing or withdrawing from key institutions of the liberal international rules-based order.
The US under Trump has stepped back from multilateral cooperation, and “soft power”, and adopted a coercive and transactional approach to foreign policy steeped in America First nationalism. In doing so, it has retreated from its position as a world leader.
A world view based around ideas of western and white superiority is embedded in the Trump administration at home and abroad. in its policies regarding immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and attitudes towards China. The immigrant is as a disease-carrier, the coronavirus is “Chinese”, and China is a “non-Caucasian” and western power.
This trend has been confirmed by the fourth of the infamously hawkish Committee on the Present Danger, a group of national security experts, think tank members and former military staff, some with links to the far right. This time its sole focus is on China, and it is headed by Trump’s , Stephen Bannon.
As Trump’s America seeks neither global approval nor cross-party electoral appeal, it no longer worries so much about who is watching. Coercion is trumping leadership at home and abroad.
(Published in an arranegemnt with The Conversation)
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