In the comfort zones of a bygone world, from prosperous and stable societies in Western Europe to Japan and Australia, the three-plus years of Donald Trump’s presidency have led to a prolonged season of worry. Friends and allies there have watched and wondered anxiously about whether the values they admire most about the United States, even with its many deep flaws, will endure. Washington under Trump has appeared to be heading off solo in uncharted directions, abandoning one by one the bedrock ideas long associated with America, like defending democracy, promoting alliances and building international institutions, as well as more recent, hard-won advances, like global agreements to fight climate change and prevent nuclear proliferation. Things are reaching the point where its friends and allies wonder if the U.S. can ever find its way back.
To an extent few imagined just four years ago, anxiety about the health and longevity of the so-called liberal international order established after World War II runs deep and is spreading. But it would be wrong to see this as solely a concern of a few rich, democratic countries. Throughout the dubiously named developing world, where most humans live, countries have looked on with worry and chagrin as the United States has increasingly turned inwards and basically shrugged before the world’s biggest problems.
Whichever of these worlds they come from, it is with plentiful cause that more and more people are asking themselves whether the United States can undo the damage its power and image have suffered during the Trump era and regain some of the ground it has lost.