Defending Western Values Time for an International Front Against Trump

With the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. president, America is set to move into a more isolationist and more self-interested direction. The rest of the West must now stand up to defend our values.

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A Commentary by Ullrich Fichtner

Our current times have all of the elements of a good television series, but they are not the kinds of things you want to see in real life. Behind every corner there's a juicy surprise, a sudden change, a shock.

China's president is now apparently the foremost proponent of free trade, who would have thought. The British prime minister is eschewing compromise in Brexit negotiations in favor of a full break. In France, the right-wing populists are dangerously close to power and same is true in the Netherlands. In Germany? Who knows? And Trump? He crowns everything, with a fat "T" embossed in extra-thick gold. NATO? "Obsolete." Merkel and Putin? Six of one, half-dozen of the other. BMW? Can start saving for punitive tariffs. The Iran agreement? A scrap of paper. Trump talks like a caricature of a used-car salesman who sees the world as a marketplace for Donald's great deals.

We need to prepare ourselves for the following: From now on, the most powerful person on the planet, along with his entourage made up primarily of billionaires like himself, will be regularly stomping on that which the international community has spent decades negotiating with effort and care. Who thinks, for example, that Trump's troupe will feel bound to the Paris Climate Agreement for the reduction of greenhouse gases? That anybody in the White House will still care for the protection of animals, oceans or forests? That Trump could have any priority other than maximizing his own profits? Does anyone think he will support culture? Strengthen women's rights? Show consideration for minorities? That he would be willing to think about the limits of capitalism? Of course he won't.

Once it has pushed Islamic State further into retreat, the U.S. will withdraw as far as possible from its role as the world's protective power. There have been similar phases in American history, periods of isolation and self-interest, and we are likely headed for another. America has always been the standard bearer for Western values, even if it hasn't always managed to abide by them itself, but now the country will send those values into hibernation. From now on, there is a risk that active global policy might primarily consist of Trump, in the middle of lonely nights, inciting diplomatic crises on Twitter -- insulting the Chinese, provoking India and denigrating Europeans.

It's Time to Defend Our Principles

This won't be fun. It reflects a new American desire for the survival of the fittest -- in a world where the U.S. is still the strongest. Trump's government won't strive for global compromise, opting instead to try to get the most it can out of negotiations with individual nations. This president will do everything he can to weaken international organizations like the UN, the EU or the G-20 in order to make space for bilateral deals -- just like his counterpart in the Kremlin. Maybe this will allow him to achieve a small American economic miracle, but a great many will pay the price: more global inequality, unchecked climate change and, in his own country, an even more jittery society with marginalized minorities.

The depth of the ultimate tragedy will depend on how quickly the opposition forms. Even the power of a U.S. president is not unlimited. He isn't an absolute ruler, answerable to no one. Trump will be faced with the strength of civil society, the intelligence of his opponents, the courage of American citizens. This president cannot allow himself even the smallest litigable mistake for fear of being chased out of office.

Until then, the rest of the world needs to get to work to block American machinations against international standards, to ward off unfair American economic greed and to protect global agreements. What's needed is a front against Trump.

The UN will need to show that it can be a countervailing power in the civil sphere and an advocate for its especially vulnerable members. The European Union should see Trump as a new justification for its existence and make the best of it. It's very possible that previously unthinkable constellations might emerge -- that Europe and China, for example, could act in concert on some issues. Impossible? That's what we thought. But in the now-dawning Trump world, it's not about believing or about hoping. We have no choice but to forcefully defend our interests and our principles.

Discuss this issue with other readers!
22 total posts
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Page 1 01/21/2017
1. Defending Western Values
If you don't like what you see, then better get in touch with the source of your problem, learn details, think about win-win solution, then negotiate and find the answer you can accept. If you want to confront the USA, think again, and be prepared to pay the price for failure. These negative comments by Mr. Fichtner will not get answers, certainly not for the German people and the world of business. Perhaps the Berlin Politicians are helpless as well.
donnaelvira 01/21/2017
2. Europe & China
Donald Trump's vision of America's place in the world, where relationships with others are all based on a win-lose mentality and where the words cooperation and compromise are absent from the vocabulary, is indeed very scary. However, Donald Trump is not America and if he survives without being impeached for 4 years, we can hope that someone with a more positive and constructive world view will be elected to replace him. Meanwhile yes, Europe would be well advised to hedge its bets, get its act together locally by revisiting/redefining the role of the EU in a manner which makes it more attractive to the citizens of all the European countries ie. more visibly "Europe first" thorugh a common "robust" European defense structure, controlled migration and defense of European interests in international trade. It would also be well advised to revisit how the Euro functions as the strains resulting from the common monetary policies that come with the common currency could blow up in our faces again any time. Europe should also be looking at working closer with other powers, notably China & India, maybe even Russia if Russia stops behaving like the bully on the block regarding the near abroad to its West.
emeryderek 01/21/2017
It there is one country in the world that could make everything it needs, grow all its food and be virtually cut-off of the rest of the world it's the US. It doesn't need to buy cars from the rest of the world, computers, smartphones etc. It's the single biggest market in the world. The rest of the world needs the US more than the US needs the rest of the world. Trump is saying if you want to sell here you have to build here. Trump will maintain a world presence. He has vowed to wipe radial Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth. He may never achieve this but it does mean endless future attacks outside the US. He still says he will ban Muslims from the US and keep a registry of those in the US
anthonyhrkn 01/21/2017
4. screw the world then!
We in America say, "Screw you!" to the leftist brainwashed media and their supporters across the world! 01/21/2017
Now would be the time for honesty about America. America is BARELY one of the "good guys" any more. People have LONG kept their mouths shut out of fear of America, but that can now stop. So hey Der Spiegel, let's see some proper exposés about US foreign policy through the ages, about US corruption and about US culture. If not now, when?
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