Unilateralism is costing US its credibility
Trump's reckless decisions and actions have created serious problems for the rest of the world and are pushing the US toward isolation
A giant the United States unarguably is. But does it still enjoy the international community's respect despite its exceptional economic and military might? This question gained even more importance after the Donald Trump administration decided to impose additional tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports (as well as imports from other economies) in spite of the deals reached between Chinese and US negotiators in mid-May.
It seems the US administration is losing not only its respectability but also its credibility. The Chinese side's statement on Sunday suggests the constructive discussions with the US negotiators could prevent a full-blown trade war, although China made it clear the negotiated deal will not be implemented if the US goes ahead with its decision to impose the trade sanctions, including the tariffs.
China has rightly decided to be on guard, because in recent times the US has been treating its promises, even the international treaties it has signed, as a shirt that can be discarded any time. Last month, the US withdrew from the landmark Iran nuclear deal. And even its European Union allies believe the move would further alienate the US from the international community, although Trump has declared that he is making the world a safer place. The rising dispute between Iran and Israel after the US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action flies in the face of his declaration.
The US' increasingly selfish actions are turning the otherwise civilized world into a "Hobbesian" world where every other country is expected to submit to the absolute authority of the US.
Trump the catalyst for loss of respectability
The pace of the US' loss of credibility has hastened because of a series of decisions made by the Trump administration. He has pulled the US out of one multilateral treaty after another since being sworn in president in January 2017. He is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement and has threatened to bury it if the results are not to his satisfaction. Last year, within weeks of assuming the presidency, he withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the 2015 Paris climate pact. He has also pulled out of the Paris-headquartered UNESCO.
Besides, he has imposed tariffs on imports from its trade partners and threatened to do the same on more products from other countries, including China, forcing many of these countries, especially China, to take countermeasures and retaliatory actions to protect their rightful interests.
The irony is that Trump has made these decisions on the pretext of "making America great again", as if the US' cooperation with the other countries based on those agreements has sapped the sole superpower's economy.
The treaties and agreements the US has pulled out of were inked by multiple parties. If any parties to a treaty or an agreement find it unsuitable or harmful to their interest, all the parties have to renegotiate it to make it acceptable to all. And only if they cannot reach a new deal and decide to annul it can it be scrapped.
However, the US administration has turned a blind eye and deaf ear to the concerns of the other signatories to those agreements by arbitrarily and unilaterally exiting from them. A perfect example of arrogance, and contempt for cooperation with the rest of the world on an equal footing.
The US administration seems to believe there is no justice or fairness in its dealings with other economies. As such, it did not listen to even its EU allies before withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. This shows its utter disdain for the United Kingdom, France and Germany, let alone China and Russia, which too are signatories to the deal. Worse, Trump accused Iran of failing to abide by the deal before making the irresponsible decision based on Israeli intelligence while ignoring the International Atomic Energy Agency's assertion that Teheran had been fully complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
This reminds us of the intelligence the US used as an excuse to invade Iraq in 2003 and eventually overthrow Saddam Hussein. The claim that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction later proved false.
Uncle Sam believes only what it wants to believe
The US administration has been known to believe only the intelligence it wants to believe. Its decision to launch military strikes on Syria was made in the same manner. There was a big question mark on whether the Syrian government forces had used chemical weapons against its own people because it would be stupid of Bashar al-Assad to provoke the US and its Western allies when they were already desperate to find fault with his government.
It is the US invasion of Iraq that caused political instability in the Middle East and cost the lives of tens of thousands of people in Iraq alone. And it was the US' inability to help Iraq realize religious and ethnic reconciliation that gave rise to rampant terrorism and led to the emergence of the Islamic State group in the Middle East.
But neither George W. Bush who launched the war in Iraq nor Barack Obama who withdrew US combat forces from that country apologized for the horror the US has caused in Iraq and the Middle East or for those innocent lives that have been lost. The mayhem in Syria and the suffering of the Syrian people, too, can be traced to the Iraqi invasion.
And if war breaks out between Iran and Israel because of the US' withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, in which other Middle East countries could get involved, it would be the making of the Trump administration.
As the sole superpower, it may be natural and acceptable for the US to extend its influence. But it should be aware of the fact that its irresponsible action in a trade or territorial dispute could have serious consequences for the rest of the world. If such a situation arises, which is becoming increasingly likely given Trump's reckless actions, the US will not only lose the little respectability and credibility it is left with but also be completely isolated from the rest of the world.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily.