No More Leader of the Free World

I was curious to know where the term “leader of the free world” even came from, and found this:

The first time the phrase “leader of the free world” appeared in TheNew York Times was in a November 1948 essay by the British economist Barbara Ward, which urged Western unity against the communist threat. With its unchallenged economic might, the United States was “potentially the political leader of the free world.” The term was commonly employed to refer to the United States from the late-1940s onward because of the weakness of the other democratic states (and possible candidates for leadership) like Britain and France, as well as U.S. direction to the anti-communist coalition, including Marshall Aid, the formation of NATO, and intervention in the Korean War.

And just what was or is the “free world”? Why is that term still in use?

It was first widely employed in World War II to describe the countries resisting the fascist states. … The idea of a free world peaked during the height of the Cold War, when the U.S. government depicted a Manichean struggle between a democratic alliance and a communist realm set on world domination. At a press conference in 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “[T]he reason we call it ‘free world’ is because each nation in it wants to remain independent under its own government and not under some dictatorial form of government. So, to the basic ideals, all of us must subscribe.”

The President of the United States continued to be referred to as the “leader of the free world” even after the Cold War ended, although exactly why is a bit hazy. The United States has played a leadership role, for better or worse, in many international organizations, such as NATO and G20. The term mostly seems to have been a nod to the liberal world order that formed during World War II and the Cold War.

Well, that’s over now. The other big kids in the Free World room don’t consider Donald Trump to be a leader, but an annoyance to be worked around.

For years the United States was the dominant force and set the agenda at the annual gathering of the leaders of the world’s largest economies.

But on Friday, when President Trump met with other leaders at the Group of 20 conference, he found the United States isolated on everything from trade to climate change, and faced with the prospect of the group’s issuing a statement on Saturday that lays bare how the United States stands alone. …

…What recent events have underscored, though — and especially at the G-20 — is that no nation is today large or powerful enough to impose rules on everyone else. In advancing his views, Mr. Trump has alienated allies and made the United States seem like its own private island.

Trump is doing this in the name of creating American jobs, but seems to me this is a losing strategy. Our former allies (under Trump’s leadership, the U.S. has no allies) are threatening a trade war if he goes through with some of his protectionist plans.

Targets could include American whiskey imports. “I don’t want to tell you in detail what we’re doing,” Mr. Juncker said. “But what I would like to tell you is that within a few days — we won’t need two months for that — we could react with countermeasures.”

The Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, warned that new protectionist trade measures could bring “contagion” that would slow the growth of the world economy. “We cannot waste this moment of recovery, giving signals of protectionism or of incorrect trade behavior,” he said.

But as Mr. Trump contemplates protectionism, Europe and Japan reached a landmark free trade agreement this week. Mexico and China, two of the United States’ largest trading partners, have been mulling their own deal. The world is moving ahead regardless.

… and without the United States. See also “The End of the Anglo-American Order?” at the BBC, “G20 Closes With Rebuke to Trump’s Climate Change Stance” at CNN, and “Trump leaves leaders fearing the future as G-20 summit closes” at the Washington Post.

Trump’s meeting with Putin also proved to be an embarrassment. See Putin 1, Trump 0.