Two Presidents and the Value of International Alliances
George H. W. Bush Knew that America Was Stronger When Leading Effective Alliances
“We don’t want an America closed to the world” —President George H.W. Bush
The goal of President George H.W. Bush was that America be a leader of the free world–one of many in a coalition of
democratic states. He believed in the importance of democracies if you want to do things in this world.
President Bush should be forever celebrated for the way he ended the Cold War. When the Berlin Wall came down, he did not do as President Trump would certainly have done: stand up in the midst of the rubble and say “This was me, I won.” Bush handled the historic moment very carefully, knowing that there would be a great danger of violence and chaos in the wake of the end of the Cold War if the West did not play a subtle game. Very few were predicting at the time that East and West Germany could reunite or that the electoral victory in Poland of the Solidarity movement leading to Polish independence would be allowed to play out. It also was not a given what role NATO would play post- Cold War.
Bush not only negotiated the end of the Cold War helping with American leadership to create a strong NATO and an
united Germany but he also supported the international rule of law at the time the U.S. led the first Gulf War. The UN and the international community supported the war because Saddam Hussein had violated the international rule of law on the violation of national sovereignty and the brilliance of President Bush was that he stopped the war after succeeding in expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and restoring their sovereignty.
President Bush also exemplified a value that greatly helped in exercising U.S. leadership in the world and that was a respect for public service. Nobody thought that President Bush was out for himself in his international actions. It was a fitting tribute to him when one of the things he did in retirement was to found the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
What could stand as a greater contrast with President Bush’s values, service, and accomplishments than President Trump at an international conclave where he shuns democratic leaders and the autocratic leaders he most wants to be close to are two murderers, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince MBS and Russia’s Vladimir Putin.
Trump Wants America to Stand Alone: G20 Summit
President Trump came to office pledging to break down the status quo when it comes to American trade policy, threatening to withdraw the US from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and to overturn Washington’s traditional policy of American economic engagement with China.
From the perspective of America’s trade partners and investors at home and abroad, it was clear that if President Trump would carry out his threats, leading to trade wars between the U.S. and its two leading continental allies and the world’s second largest economy, the consequences for the entire global economy would be devastating.
At the G20 meeting, it appeared that the US and China had taken a step back from a full-blown trade war, which was clearly a piece of good news for the markets that have been celebrating it this week. Putting it in different terms, the alternative to the pause in the trade battles would have been growing tensions between the two countries.
After threatening for several months to take that step, President Trump did seem to make a concession by agreeing to postpone his threat to increase tariffs on $US200 billion on Chinese goods to 25 percent from 10 percent.
The Chinese have apparently agreed to purchase more American agricultural products and to give US firms
more access to the Chinese markets, but without making it clear how they were planning to fulfill these pledges.
However, it’s not clear how negotiators from the two governments would be able to reach within 90 days a series of agreements on complex issues, including allegations that the Chinese engage in theft of intellectual property and that they are failing to follow through on an anti-cybertheft commitment, not to mention American demands that China stop forcing US companies to share their technology as a condition for entering their markets.
— Elizabeth Spiro Clark, Chair, Committee on Public Policy and Political Action, and Alyn Hadar, Chair, Task Force on Foreign Policy