In the decades following World War II, the United States solidified its position as a dominant economic and military power in the world by taking on the role of setting examples for other countries to follow and enforcing international rules and norms.
Although the US has often been criticised for commandeering the role of defender and promoter of freedom, democracy, and human rights, it was mostly unchallenged in its position as the most powerful country in the world . . . until now.
That all changed on Wednesday when home-grown terrorists stormed the US citadel of democracy, the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. It was the latest in recent assaults on America’s image but this time it was severe enough of a battering to inflict long-lasting damage.
The role of the US in the world changed and its global influence waned in just those hours when hordes of pro-Trump rioters struck repeatedly at the heart of American democracy. The fact that the anarchists were spurred on by the current occupant of the White House only made matters worse.
Donald Trump’s corrosive rhetoric, which has increased since his defeat in the November 2020 presidential elections, has accelerated erosion of public trust in the democratic process.
However, long before the constitutional crisis triggered by a difficult presidential transition, the foreign policies of the Trump Administration had already substantially altered US relations with allies and emboldened its foes.
This could have significant implications for T&T and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean at a time when there is already some turbulence in hemispheric affairs such as the T&T Government’s frosty relations with the Organization of American States (OAS).
The moral authority the US once had to pontificate on matters of freedom and democracy was lost on Wednesday.
The country seen by the world in these final days of the Trump presidency is but a faint shadow of the superpower which, as recently as mid-2017, was accusing the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela of assaulting “the democratic principles of the men and women who fought for the independence of Venezuela 206 years ago.”
That rebuke from the US State Department came after pro-Maduro civilians and paramilitary groups stormed into the Legislative Palace in Caracas, Venezuela, wounding several lawmakers. But the tables turned dramatically on the US following Wednesday’s violent insurrection on Capitol Hill, with Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza describing those developments as a “regrettable episode” and noting “the political polarisation and spiral of violence” in Washington.
Damage control, which may need to be conducted on a global scale, is one of the difficult challenges that will confront the next US President from the minute he enters the Oval Office. It is imperative that President-elect Biden quickly and decisively deals with those he described yesterday as “a riotous mob — insurrectionists, domestic terrorists.”
Otherwise, the US will see its position of power in the world completely lost as countries like China and Russia advance their economic and military ambitions and new global alliances are formed.