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.

7 thoughts on “No More Leader of the Free World

  1. On V-E day, Harry Truman proclaimed “The flags of freedom fly all over Europe,” even as the Red Army hoisted its flag over the Reichstag.

  2. It’s been my thought all along that the rest of the world would just work around Trump (and us,) rather than be trolled by his incendiary dramatics. We’ll just have to catch up when we finally come to our senses.

  3. Who cares that America is losing her standing in the world? The important thing is that Ivanka had a successful debut on the world stage. She’s built up such an impressive portfolio that we might be looking at our first female president in 2020.
    I’ll tell you..I’m really having a hard time with this Trump circus presidency. Maybe some of you might have guessed that, but really, it’s a totally bizarre experience being weaned off of the archaic concepts of decency, integrity, truth, and honesty. I’ve come face to face with an inverted reality… ex: Today I read that Steve Mnuchin described Trump’s participation and intellectual input in the G20 summit as being brilliant. If that doesn’t qualify as sycophantic butt sucking…I don’t know what does.

  4. OC, the EU-Japan “free trade agreement” contains a separate legal system which bypasses that of the governments involved. Japan has a history of protectionism, but its trade barriers could be reduced without that degree of surrender of sovereignty. So-called “free trade agreements” these days are making the world safe for multinational corporations.

  5. The United States of America, was born on ideas from The Enlightenment.
    Imperfect men (yes, sadly, they were all men) created imperfect documents and laws – and, finally, a government and a nation.
    But those imperfect men, documents, laws, and the government and nation they created, all sought a higher level of ideals. Ones we could strive for. And, hopefully, achieve.

    And so it went for almost 200+ years:
    Two steps forward, one step back.
    To paraphrase MLK Jr.:
    ‘The arc of the moral universe was/is long, but it bent (bends) towards justice…’

    One of the smartest things the founders did, was make sure that church and state were kept separate. No conjoining playgrounds between those schools of thought!
    The Enlightenment (philosophical movement) happened at a time of Civil War in Europe:
    When governments and their opponents were of different sects of the same religion, and fought for power.

    Our founders baked in that separation of church and state into the US Constitution. A document – rare at that time – that encouraged people to follow their own religion. Just keep that/your religion to yourself, and don’t bring it into government.
    And then, in the mid/late 70’s, Reagan invited the Manichean “Christian” Dominionist Evangelicals aboard his campaign…
    And so, religion entered into all of the levels of government.

    And since then, the US has never been the same.
    Instead of people of different parties, and different governing philosophies, getting together, and hammering out some bills – where both sides compromised – we get the oh-so uber “Christian” Republicans not allowing compromise to soil their concept of whatever it is their socio/psycho-pathic tendencies deems to be “pure” and “perfect.”

    And so, since 1776 – when we were born from the flames of Europe’s religious wars for power – when Enlightenment principles were our guiding star(s), we have entered into what I call, “The Endarkenment.”
    It’s a time when an incurious, stupid/ignorant/bigoted billionaire has taken on the thorny crown of Christ and used is as a totem to get the “Christians” on his side – and keep them there.
    A time where we have lowered ourselves downwards, from “the leader(s) of the free world,” to a 3rd World Banana Republic – all thanks to banana’s Republicans!

    With Obama, we had a leader for the Ages. An intellectual, a thinker, and then, after careful reflection, he was a doer.
    Now, under t-RUMPLE-THIN-sKKKin, we have a president who’s the complete opposite of Obama – a non-intellectual, non-thinker, who is impetuous, temperamental, and lets every barb, every question of his leadership, get to him.
    He is revengeful.

    A person like him, can’t be the leader of anything other than a gang of thugs. Thugs who worship those richer and more powerful than they are.

    Is it any wonder that the world looks at a woman – Angela Merkel – as the “new” leader of the free world, and not t-RUMPLE-THIN-sKKKin?
    Hell, not to me!

  6. Swami: ” I’ve come face to face with an inverted reality… ex: Today I read that Steve Mnuchin described Trump’s participation and intellectual input in the G20 summit as being brilliant. If that doesn’t qualify as sycophantic butt sucking…I don’t know what does.
    Hard to believe just a few short years ago we were making fun of “Bagdad Bob.” Anyone remember him? I’m certainly not laughing at him now.
    Cund: I used to be convinced years ago that modern conservatism was all about reversing the New Deal, and Great Society. Someone more astute than I said to me, “No, they plan to repeal The Enlightenment.” She was so right.

  7. I’m kinda glad that Trump’s idiocy is finally goading Europe into getting it’s collective schessemerde together to take it’s place as a separate Global Power. They have been hiding behind the US military for too long; it’s time for them to:
    – create a European Military which can defend Europe without depending on US
    – stop supporting stupid US military adventurism around the world
    – use their soft-power influence to move the world toward better Global choices
    – show that Nation-States can cooperate at larger scales (continental, then Global) for mutual advantage & prosperity

    Yes, I’m embarrassed to be an American, but that’s old news. Churchill got it right: “The Americans can be counted upon to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else”. Still true; and I’m enough of an optimist (except about Global Warming) to think that we will return to sanity – in my lifetime, even!

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