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United States needs to lead again

The United States is withdrawing from world leadership and abandoning a position we have held since WWII.  The last 75 years of our leadership led to unparalleled prosperity and progress for America, our allies and friends.

But in recent months, the U.S. is pulling out of institutions and agreements that we helped create.  The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement was designed to counter China’s trade and political power in the Pacific. We left the table suddenly, but 11 nations went ahead without us.  We pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord in defiance of every other nation in the world. It is a mostly symbolic, non-binding response to climate change, but we are not there to represent our views at all.  

We are tearing up or threatening to destroy trade agreements with our closest allies. That is leading to a tit-for-tat trade war meaning, “you hurt me, so I will hurt you back.” It is an escalating tragedy that needs to end now.  We should be working with those allies to curb Chinese abuse of patent and copyright laws as well as currency manipulation. We could submit our disagreements to the World Trade Organization, another institution that we helped create and now ignore.

We just dropped out of the Iran nuclear ban treaty that the U.S. developed and convinced our European allies and even China and Russia to join.  Now we are gone, leaving our allies to carry on in bewilderment at our action. We simply left the table without offering an alternative plan even though our allies begged us to stay.

None of the above agreements are perfect; they all need improvement or modification. But pulling out in fits of anger and arrogance leaves us nowhere. We ought to be engaged. We ought to be talking more and tweeting less. There is an old saying about negotiations and engagement, “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.” If we continue to refuse to lead and participate, we will feel the negative consequences in our reputation and in our economy.  We need to act positively and do it soon.