We'll be alright without him

Stop doom-mongering: the world?s not doing too badly

By Vincent Bongers

Trump really isn’t a harbinger of the end of time, Indian-Canadian political scientist Amitav Acharya argues. American world order never existed and beyond the doom and gloom of the West, everyone has a much brighter outlook.

Will Donald Trump and his America First politics destroy our carefully constructed free, democratic world? “Nonsense”, retorts Amitav Acharya, Professor of International Relations at American University, Washington. The professor recently visited Wijnhaven to give a talk. “If there ever was such an order, its demise has practically nothing to do with Trump – he’s no more than symptom. In 2014, long before this president arrived on the scene, I said in my book The End of American World Order that some things about America’s role in the world were changing.”
More and more international alliances sprung up after the Second World War. The United Nations were founded, and America was to support the spread of freedom and democracy. “Nowadays, columnists are claiming that the world is disintegrating”, Acharya continues. “To my mind, that’s a rash, superficial claim. Newspapers like The Washington Post and The New York Times are not interested in how the population of countries beyond the boundaries of the West are faring, while quite a lot of people in those countries reckon that the world’s not doing too badly. They’re much more optimistic about the future than people in Europe and America.”
Why? “I frequently visit China and India, the country where I grew up, where life has improved for a large number of people; there, they are not convinced that the world is crumbling. They don’t lie awake worrying about the Ukraine brawl.”
According Acharya, there never really was an American world order. “It was more a club for Western countries, of which China and India, for instance, were never members. Besides, that so-called order has always been very fragile and precarious. Violent conflicts still happened. In fact, there are fewer conflicts nowadays.”
The political scientist concedes that Trump’s America has gone “into attack mode and is eroding certain elements of the so-called free world order” but he believes that won’t undermine international organisations. “OK, the United States have left UNESCO. Big deal. They’re withdrawing from the UN’s Human Rights Council too, but they are still members of the Security Council, the IMF and the World Bank.”
International cooperation will not simply disappear if the US have a less active role in it. “I think that the influence of global organisations like the UN will wane. This is an era of more regional alliances – I call it a multiplex world, in which private foundations, companies, regions and nations often team up to solve specific issues.”
Europe’s fatalism is exaggerated too, according to Acharya. “Sometimes, it might seem as if the EU is collapsing. No way. That alarmist attitude is the result of the huge hype about the Union, an alliance that was the model to which everyone should aspire. In reality, the EU could never meet those overblown expectations.”
But what about Brexit? “Ah, the British. They were late to join, never really had their heart in it and always kept their major interests outside the Union, and now they’re the first to leave. But it’s not the end of the Union. Many things in the EU still work. There’s no need for all that doom-mongering.”

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