Gary Horton: America: just another nation?

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America first. Donald Trump’s message for his election and, to his credit, exactly how he’s played key decisions so far.

Decisiveness is a great presidential trait when you’re right. But it’s a bull in an international china shop when you’re wrong.

The present moment and history will show Trump’s important, key decisions to be the bull in a china shop moment when, rather than making America great again, America withdrew from international leadership and became “just another country.”

And maybe a rogue one, at that.

First was our abrupt withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. Barack Obama understood the U.S. had a vital interest in further asserting U.S. economic strength and involvement in a region so quickly influenced by sometime rival China.

Just days after his inauguration, Donald Trump nixed the agreement, essentially flipping off Pacific and Asian neighbors we would have otherwise desired to hold near.

Power loves a vacuum and Trump laid out the red carpet for China to step in. Just weeks after the U.S. economically retreated from Asia, China formally rolled out its Belt and Road Initiative, essentially greasing wheels and tying up economic deals with both Asian and European nations.

We had a good stake in the game with the Trans Pacific Partnership. Now, with Trump abnegating our partnerships, we’ll passively watch as China becomes fully dominant on half the globe.

What will America be to Asia? Just another customer and maybe sometime protector.

Some 73 years back, heroic American soldiers stormed Europe, turning the tide of war. These men incurred tremendous losses as America gained a foothold in Europe during WWII. American soldiers numbering 135,000 died in Europe, along with 80 million soldiers and civilians from all sides.

These staggering losses, along with continuing threats, led to the United Nations and to NATO. Decades in, these two institutions have largely preserved peace in Europe amidst great upheaval.

Disrespecting the sacrifice of American soldiers who Trump would have had die for nothing, Trump snubbed our NATO allies with no mention or recommitment to NATO’s Article 5, calling for collective military defense by all should any one NATO country be attacked.

As he tends to do, Trump left NATO hanging; no commitment, one way or the other. But in international realpolitik, confusion and indifference invite disaster.

Vladimir Putin could hardly have asked for more. Indeed, if Russia did hack the election, they just hit the jackpot for their efforts. Trump left Europe hanging to such an extent that German Chancellor Merkel mused, “Europe would have to really take our fate into our own hands.”

Divide and conquer. Putin bides time as Trump pulls the U.S. longstanding, hard-won European leadership.

There’s sadly more. Leadership takes many forms, and moral leadership may be the highest of them all. Looking to unwind anything “Obama,” Trump dumped the Paris Climate Accord – as “a terrible deal for America” – even as clean energy creates ever-increasing jobs every year.

Here again, where America had a chance to lead in moral, societal, and technological advancement, Trump looks inward and backward – inviting China, Germany and other European players to take a permanent lead.

Trump sees America’s international leadership as efforts not worth his time and not worth our dime. Double fun if you can unwind Obama’s key achievements.

Thanks to Trump, China is now free to rise in world-wide economic leadership and dominance, even as Germany remarkably ascends to moral leadership of the Free World.

History will record these Trump decisions as the moment when America became “just another nation.” Nothing special. Just another big country, but with big pollution, bad crime and a bunch of guns.

Yes, we’ll still have our military, spending greater sums of treasure on military offense capability than the next seven countries all combined.

Our revved-up war machine has stirred up trouble in no less than 24 wars and incursions since WWII. Even today, America battles in conflicts large and small throughout the globe.

And here at home, we’re re-stoking our prison industry, which already incarcerates a jaw-dropping 2.3 million members of our citizenry.

At a time when technology and society are pushing change at an ever-increasing rate, Trump leads America away, inward, and backward.

Isolating America, we’re becoming not “just another nation” – but a bully nation, raging with guns, prisons and walls.

So much leadership and potential trashed, all in 138 days. As Obama faced an economic meltdown of nearly unimaginable proportions to overcome, similarly, in 44 months our next president will face a leadership meltdown previously inconceivable to any rational American.

God bless America. We’re going to need it to recover.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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