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As America's influence & prestige declines worldwide…

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« on: December 27, 2017, 01:26:58 pm »

from the print edition of the Los Angeles Times....

Foreign leaders say U.S. losing stature

Trump claims he's boosting American influence, but many policy experts see a country in retreat.


President Trump visits Saudi Arabia in May. Some leaders worry about Trump's unpredictability. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.
President Trump visits Saudi Arabia in May. Some leaders worry about Trump's unpredictability. — Photograph: Evan Vucci/Associated Press.

WASHINGTON D.C. — China has now assumed the mantle of fighting climate change, a global crusade that the United States once led. Russia has taken over Syrian peace talks, also once the purview of the American administration, whose officials Moscow recently deigned to invite to negotiations only as observers.

France and Germany are often now the countries that fellow members of NATO look to, after President Trump wavered on how supportive his administration would be toward the North Atlantic alliance.

And in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S., once the only mediator all sides would accept, has found itself isolated after Trump’s decision to declare that the U.S. recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In his wide-ranging speech on national security last week, Trump highlighted what he called the broadening of U.S. influence throughout the world.

But one year into his presidency, many international leaders, diplomats and foreign policy experts argue that he has reduced U.S. influence or altered it in ways that are less constructive. On a range of policy issues, Trump has taken positions that disqualified the United States from the debate or rendered it irrelevant, these critics say.

Even in countries that have earned Trump's praise, such as India, there is concern about Trump's unpredictability — will he be a reliable partner? — and what many overseas view as his isolationism.

“The president can and does turn things inside out,” said Manoj Joshi, a scholar at a New Delhi think tank, the Observer Research Foundation. “So the chances that the U.S. works along a coherent and credible national security strategy are not very high.”

As the U.S. recedes, other powers including China, Russia and Iran are eagerly stepping into the void.

One significant issue is the visible gap between the president and many of his top national security advisors.

Trump's national security speech was intended to explain to the public a 70-page strategy document that the administration developed. But on key issues, Trump's speech and the document diverged. The speech, for example, included generally favorable rhetoric about Russia and China. The strategy document listed the two governments as competitors, accused the Russians of using “subversion” as a tactic and said that countering both rival powers was necessary.

Russia reacted angrily: America continues to evince “its aversion to a multipolar world,” said President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitri Peskov.

At the same time, Trump's refusal to overtly criticize Russia, some diplomats say, has emboldened Putin in his military actions in Ukraine, where Russian-backed rebels are battling a pro-West government in Kiev. Kurt Volker, the administration's special envoy for Ukraine, said that some of the worst fighting since February took place over the last two weeks, with numerous civilian casualties. Volker accused Russia of “massive” cease-fire violations.

Nicholas Burns, who served as a senior American diplomat under Republican and Democratic administrations, said the administration's strategy was riddled with contradictions that have left the U.S. ineffective.

Trump “needs a strong State Department to implement” its strategy, he said. “Instead, State and the foreign service are being weakened and often sidelined.”

Trump's “policy of the last 12 months is a radical departure from every president since WWII,” Burns said in an interview. “Trump is weak on NATO, Russia, trade, climate, diplomacy. The U.S. is declining as a global leader.”

The most recent example of U.S. isolation came with Trump's decision to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, delighting many Israelis, but angering Palestinians and reversing decades of international consensus.

On Thursday, an overwhelming majority of the U.N. General Assembly, including many U.S. allies, voted to demand the U.S. rescind the decision.

For the last quarter-century, successive U.S. governments have held themselves up as an “honest broker” in mediating peace between the Israelis and Palestinians. Trump insisted he is not giving up on a peace deal, but most parties involved interpreted his announcement as clearly siding with Israel.

“From now on, it is out of the question for a biased United States to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine,” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a summit of more than 50 Muslim countries that he hosted in Istanbul. “That period is over.”

Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, said that if a peace deal is to be made now, “it won't be from American policy.”

“Trump took himself and the administration out of the peace process for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Trump had boasted of his ability to convene Muslim leaders during his trip to Saudi Arabia in May, but that would seem far less possible today. In Jordan, arguably Washington's closest Arab ally in the Middle East, government-controlled television has started 24-hour broadcasts of invitations to follow a Twitter account whose hashtag roughly translates as “Jerusalem is ours … our Arabness.”

Regional leaders and analysts also say that for all of Trump's tough rhetoric, they see few concrete steps by the U.S. to counter Iran's steady expansion of its military, economic and political influence, a perception that Iranian leaders are happy to exploit.

“Trump is ranting and making empty threats,” said Hamid Reza Taraghi, a conservative Iranian politician with close ties to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Russia, China and Iran are gaining ground in the Middle East, and America is losing ground and influence.”

That view is also shared by Iranian moderates, with whom the Obama administration thought it could work.

“The reality on the ground in the Middle East is that the American administration has failed to form an efficient coalition against its self-proclaimed enemies,” said Nader Karimi Juni, an independent Iranian analyst who writes for reformist dailies and magazines.

“Now Russia is celebrating its victory in Syria, and America is watching as an onlooker,” Juni said.

In Syria and Iraq, the U.S. under Trump has succeeded in helping its allies drive Islamic State militants out of their strongholds. But Washington has opted to take a back seat in the other conflicts roiling the two countries.

Another round of recent U.N.-mediated and U.S.-backed peace talks on Syria wrapped up in Geneva without any progress. Instead, a Russia-led process is gaining traction.

Even some longtime opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad quietly acknowledge that Sochi, the Black Sea resort where Russia aims to convene a “Syrian people's congress” next year, and not Geneva, will be the focus of efforts to bring an end to the war.

Trump has won praise in parts of South Asia, a region his team has re-dubbed the “Indo-Pacific” and where it is favoring India and Afghanistan over Pakistan. The administration has asked Congress for $350 million in aid to Pakistan for 2018, not quite one-tenth the amount Washington provided five years ago.

Afghan officials say they are encouraged by Trump's renewed pressure on neighboring Pakistan to take “decisive action” to stop militant groups operating from its soil.

“Our partnership, which reflects a renewed U.S. commitment, will set the conditions to end the war and finally bringing peace to Afghanistan,” Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's office said in a statement.

But even there, officials say they worry that Trump's bellicose rhetoric will strengthen China's status as a power broker.

China has also benefited from Trump's refusal to join other nations to work against climate change. Even as Trump removed climate change from the list of threats menacing the United States, China announced it would begin phasing in an ambitious program to curb carbon emissions by establishing the world's largest market for trading emissions permits.

Trump was not invited to an international climate summit hosted earlier this month by French President Emmanuel Macron because of his decision to pull the United States out of 2015 international climate deal.

“You cannot pretend to be the guarantor of international order and get out of [an accord] as soon as it suits you,” Macron told France 2 TV.


Los Angeles Times staff writers Tracy Wilkinson, Alexandra Zavis Zavis and Shashank Bengali Bengali reported from Washington D.C., Beirut and Mumbai, India, respectively. Special correspondents Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran, Omar Medhat in Cairo and Samir Zedan in Bethlehem, West Bank, contributed to this report.

• Tracy Wilkinson has covered wars, crises and daily life on three continents. Her career began with United Press International, where she covered the Contra war in Nicaragua. She moved to the Los Angeles Times in 1987, first as a writer on the Metro staff, then as a foreign correspondent based in San Salvador. In 1995, she moved to Vienna, where she covered the war in the Balkans, winning the George Polk Award in 1999, and then to Jerusalem. From there, she went to Rome, where she covered two popes and did several stints in Iraq. In 2008, she became Mexico bureau chief, where her coverage was part of a team Overseas Press Club Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Wilkinson was also the 2014 winner of the Maria Moors Cabot Award for coverage of Latin America. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Vanderbilt University. Her book The Vatican's Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century has been translated into a dozen languages. She joined the L.A. Times' Washington, D.C., bureau in 2015 to cover foreign affairs.

• Alexandra Zavis is a writer and editor on the Los Angeles Times' Foreign Desk who has reported from more than 40 countries. She spent a decade with the Associated Press, covering Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, among other war-torn places. Since joining the L.A. Times in 2006, she has served as a Baghdad correspondent and as a California reporter covering poverty and veterans issues. She is a recipient of the American Academy of Diplomacy's Arthur Ross Award for distinguished reporting on foreign affairs and was part of teams of reporters awarded the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award for foreign correspondence and APME's International Perspective Award. She is a graduate of Oxford University and City University in London.

• Shashank Bengali is the Los Angeles Times' South Asia correspondent, covering a stretch of countries from Iran to Myanmar. He joined the L.A. Times in 2012 as a national security reporter in the Washington bureau. He has reported from more than 50 countries since beginning his career with McClatchy Newspapers, where he served as a foreign correspondent in Africa and the Middle East. In 2016, he shared in the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the L.A. Times staff for coverage of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, California. Originally from Cerritos, California, Shashank holds degrees in journalism and French from USC and a master's in public policy from Harvard. He lives with his wife in Mumbai, India.

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« Reply #1 on: December 27, 2017, 01:41:17 pm »

The above article was published on the front page of the print edition of the Los Angeles Times.

One day, Donald J. Trump may work out that America has lost most of its influence & prestige in the world, and I guess that will be when the Thucydides Trap will be sprung and the world could potentially suddenly become an extremely dangerous place as the Jesuslanders (with a maniac residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue) react to the new reality.
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2017, 09:52:52 pm »

from The Washington Post....

The decline of U.S. influence is the great global story of our age

Trump's administration is foolishly withdrawing the country into self-centered isolation.

By ZAREED ZAKARIA | 7:51PM EST - Thursday, Deember 28, 2017

President Trump turns to talk to the media during a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the mIlitary at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. — Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press.
President Trump turns to talk to the media during a Christmas Eve video teleconference with members of the mIlitary at his Mar-a-Lago estate
in Palm Beach, Florida. — Photograph: Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press.

DANIEL KAHNEMAN, who won a Nobel Prize in economics for reshaping our understanding of human motivation, once said: “No one ever made a decision because of a number. They need a story.” That's as true for nations as for individuals. Countries have always oriented themselves within a larger international story. But what is today's global story?

For decades, the great overarching narrative was the Cold War. Almost every nation acted or reacted in the context of that ideological, political and military struggle. Then came 1989 and the collapse of communism. For the next 20 years or so, the opening up of the world — globalization — became the dominant thread, as countries jostled to become hot new markets and Western democratic capitalism seemed inevitable, undergirded by U.S. power and prestige. The attacks of 9/11 dealt a sharp blow to this benign narrative and, for a while, Islamist terrorism seemed to be steering the course of history. But terrorism has proved too weak and limited a force to be the big global story.

So what is it now? I would argue that the largest trend today is the decline of American influence. Not the decline of American power — the country remains economically and militarily in a league of its own — but a decline of its desire and capacity to use that power to shape the world. The current administration seems intent on dismantling the United States' great achievements — as it is doing with the World Trade Organization — or to simply be uninterested in setting the global agenda. Donald Trump will be the first president in nearly a century to end his first year in office without having held a state dinner for a foreign head of state.

And this erosion of U.S. global leadership is already causing other countries to adjust.

This month, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel declared that “the most important changes affecting our Western world and, indeed, the world as a whole” stem from “the United States' current withdrawal under Trump from its role as a reliable guarantor of Western-influenced multilateralism.” That shift, he noted, “is accelerating the transformation of the global order … and the risk of trade wars, arms races and armed conflicts is increasing.”

For Europe, Gabriel argued, the situation is almost existential. Since the end of World War II, he said, “Europe had been an American project in the United States' clearly understood interests. However, the current U.S. administration now perceives Europe in a very distanced way, regarding previous partners as competitors and sometimes even as at the very least economic opponents.” He urged Europe to take its fate into its own hands and decouple itself from U.S. foreign policy.

Consider also the speech in June by Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, in which she thanked the United States for its seven-decade-long stewardship of the international system and strongly implied that, under the Trump administration, American leadership of that system had reached its end.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping gave a speech to the 19th Communist Party Congress in October that reflected his recognition of these new realities. “China’s international standing has risen as never before,” he noted, and the nation is “blazing a new trail for other developing countries to achieve modernization.” Xi announced “a new era … that sees China moving closer to center stage and making greater contributions to mankind.” In previous speeches, he suggested boldly that China would become the new guarantor of the global trading order.

This, then, is the global story of our times. The creator, upholder and enforcer of the existing international system is withdrawing into self-centered isolation. The other great supporter and advocate of the open, rule-based world, Europe, has not been able to act assertively on the world stage with any clear vision or purpose and remains obsessed with the fate of its own continental project. Filling the power vacuum, a host of smaller, illiberal powers — Turkey, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia — are surging forward in their respective regions. But only China truly has the wherewithal and strategic prowess to potentially shape the next chapter of the story of our age.

A decade ago, I described a “post-American world”, brought on not by the decline of the United States, but by the “rise of the rest.” That world is indeed coming to fruition because other countries are prospering, but the changes are being dramatically accelerated by the Trump administration's foolish and self-defeating decision to abdicate the United States' global influence — something that has taken more than 70 years to build. As the president might tweet, “Sad!”

• Fareed Zakaria writes a foreign affairs column for The Washington Post. He is also the host of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS and a contributing editor for The Atlantic.


Related to this topic:

 • VIDEO: What we learned from the 19th Chinese Communist Party Congress

 • Trump's national security strategy ignores the lessons of Europe's bloody history

 • Glimpse of a post-American world

 • Is war between a rising China and a dominant America inevitable? A thought experiment.

 • How Trump could avoid the Thucydides Trap

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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2018, 02:21:33 pm »

from The Washington Post....

The South China Sea fell off Trump's radar last year.
He may have to pay attention in 2018.

Chinese construction has continued at an accelerated pace, despite a tribunal ruling against it.

By EMILY RAUHALA | 1:27PM EST — Monday, January 01, 2018

The ship Tian Kun Hao is launched at a port in Qidong in China's eastern Jiangsu province. China has unveiled Asia's largest dredging vessel, and the South China Sea may be its first base of operations. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.
The ship Tian Kun Hao is launched at a port in Qidong in China's eastern Jiangsu province. China has unveiled Asia's largest dredging vessel,
and the South China Sea may be its first base of operations. — Photograph: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images.

HONG KONG — President Trump railed against a lot of things in 2017. Chinese construction in the South China Sea was not really one of them, despite his campaign tough talk.

Focused on North Korea and evidently enamored of President Xi Jinping, the voluble U.S. president said relatively little as China continued to build on disputed islands, rocks and reefs.

A recent Chinese report hailed progress in the South China Sea last year, noting construction totaling 290,000 square meters, or 72 acres. That included work on hangars, missile shelters and large radar and sensor arrays, according to satellite images reviewed by the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a U.S. think tank.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea. In 2016, an international tribunal ruled against those claims, but the finding has largely been ignored — both by the Philippines, which brought the case, and by Beijing.

Having added thousands of acres to the Spratly Islands in recent years, China is now building out bases there. Once operational, these outposts will enable the Chinese military to better patrol the South China Sea, potentially changing the regional balance of power.

It is both a territorial dispute and a test of regional influence, with an increasingly assertive China often appearing to set the terms.

Though Chinese reclamation and building predate Trump, many expected the Republican president to push back more forcefully than the previous administration.

The National Security Strategy released last month does say China's “efforts to build and militarize outposts in the South China Sea endanger the free flow of trade, threaten the sovereignty of other nations, and undermine regional stability.”

But experts see few signs the issue is a White House priority.

“Nobody in the White House is super focused on South China Sea stuff, at least as far as we know,” said Julian Ku, a law professor at Hofstra University School of Law and an expert on the South China Sea. “I think it's going to remain on the back burner, and that's definitely going to help the Chinese.”

The administration's quiet approach gave China a “free pass” in 2017, ceding ground at a critical time, said Jay L. Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea.

“If China does base ships there and move in weapons, it will complete their planning, it will make permanent their dominance of the South China Sea,” he said. “Because once they do that, they won't be pulling back.”

In 2018, that may create new challenges for Trump.

As a candidate, Trump cast China as an always-winning upstart that ought to be cut down to size.

China will “go in the South China Sea and build a military fortress the likes of which perhaps the world has not seen,” he warned in 2016. “Because they have no respect for our president and they have no respect for our country.”

But in his first year in office, Trump has been the one showing respect, heaping praise on China's authoritarian president.

President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9th. Trump called the red carpets, military parades and fancy dinners that were lavished upon him “magnificent”. — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.
President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9th.
Trump called the red carpets, military parades and fancy dinners that were lavished upon him “magnificent”.
 — Photograph: Andrew Harnik/Associated Press.

A readout from his November visit with Xi said Trump raised the issue of the South China Sea, but he did not stress it publicly. In Vietnam, Trump casually offered to mediate — though there did not seem to be any takers.

The president's approach so far has been to regularize the type of Freedom of Navigation Operations, or FONOPs, that the Obama administration authorized in 2015. May saw the first FONOP of the Trump era, when a destroyer, the USS Dewey, sailed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. There have been several since.

A spokesman for the National Security Council said the FONOPs program challenges excessive maritime claims by various states to preserve free movement on the sea and in the air.

The problem, experts said, is that FONOPs have thus far failed to stop Chinese building — and are therefore unlikely to stop whatever comes next.

“FONOPs are not a full strategy,” said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“It was not enough in the Obama era and it's not enough under Trump,” Glaser said.

Though Trump has given no clear signs that he plans to make the South China Sea a priority in 2018, his hand may be forced.

The president's push to get China to rein in North Korea is not going according to plan. He has said as much on Twitter. In the months ahead, he will probably face pressure to take a tougher line with Beijing.

“We know that the Pentagon, unlike the Trump administration, is very much worried about the South China Sea,” said Richard Javad Heydarian, a Manila-based security analyst. “The Pentagon is looking at options to bring the fight to the Chinese and up the ante there.”

The question is what the Chinese side does next.

Most experts say they believe China will press ahead with both civilian and military building projects. Having constructed facilities for planes and ships, it may soon start rotating them through on a regular basis.

Beijing could declare what are known as “straight baselines” in the Spratlys. These are in effect perimeters connecting the outermost points of a group of islands, turning the sea within into “internal waters”. In the case of the Spratlys, straight baselines would enclose features occupied by other nations.

China declared straight baselines in the Paracel island chain in 1996 and has in recent years signaled that it may do so in the Spratlys, a move that would be hotly contested and would almost certainly draw a U.S. response.

A less likely scenario would be Beijing beginning to dredge near Scarborough Shoal, a disputed, U-shape reef not far from the Philippine coast.

Since Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte took office in 2016, China has held off land reclamation there. If the Xi-Duterte truce falls apart, Beijing could decide to start, crossing what has long been seen as a U.S. red line.

Any of these moves would require the United States to rethink the status quo and take South China Sea strategy off “autopilot”, said Glaser of CSIS.

“There is not enough thinking about what the U.S. will do to deter or respond to what will be the next Chinese actions in 2018,” she said.

Shirley Feng in Beijing contributed to this report.

• Emily Rauhala is China correspondent for The Washington Post. She was previously a Beijing-based correspondent for TIME, and an editor at the magazine's Hong Kong office. In 2017, she shared an Overseas Press Club award for a series about the Internet in China.


Related to this topic:

 • What Donald Trump talks about when he talks about China

 • Beijing's claims to South China Sea rejected by international tribunal

 • China is the winner in the GOP debate

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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2018, 10:17:37 pm »

A recent example of America's waning prestige & influence in the world....

....long may the decline continue.
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« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2018, 12:14:51 am »

the un is useless
trump should kick them out and unfund them
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« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2018, 12:20:09 am »

I agree....the UN should move to Europe and expel America, including from the Security Council.

And I'm sure China will love to fill the vacuums created by the Americans waning influence in the world.
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