The United States used to be viewed as a “force for good” or a nation that supports humanitarian interventions and shared wealth through free commerce and navigation, notwithstanding its many diplomatic blunders. When we fast-forward to 2022, the situation drastically changed. The US is reverting to its historical trend-setting pace under the Biden administration, where despite all of its hegemonic strategies, it still profited from favourable approval ratings. The nation is no longer admired as a role model for democracy, intolerance, pluralism, and coexistence but rather as a source of conflict, a failing superpower with a propensity to demonise other governments and a predisposition to foster the geopolitical divisions of the cold war. In 2022, Washington, D.C., will no longer be regarded as a trendsetter.
The causes are plain to see. While most people would assume that America’s waning economic influence and the growth of regional powers like China are the main reasons for the country’s deteriorating approval ratings, certain indicators point in a different direction. One of the reasons Washington, D.C., was seen as an unrivalled powerhouse was because the US no longer controls the global order. With the emergence of populist movements in Italy, Poland, and Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, there are tensions in Europe as some see an open commitment to America’s narrow interests as being detrimental to their own goals. Even though NATO is still a mostly cohesive force, differences have emerged on how to effectively deal with Russia, Russian oil imports, and the use of force by arming Kyiv for the Ukraine war. Although this image is fading, America has long taken pleasure in being the hub of Europe’s united front against oppression, tyranny, and dictatorship, particularly about Russia and the Eastern axis.
Similar to this, it is commonly believed that America’s large military presence and aggressive philosophies are to blame for the numerous problems that are arising across the South China Sea in East Asia. Consider Taiwan, where frequent visits by House Speakers and contentious members have only heightened tensions and thwarted the island’s peaceful reunification with mainland China. Even seasoned diplomat Henry Kissinger criticised the American approach for lacking historical awareness in light of the countless joint communiqués that the US and China had signed. In the joint communiqué of Shanghai in 1972, America vowed to uphold the “One-China” policy and refrain from adopting any steps that might jeopardise regional peace and stability. Even though efforts to improve ties were generally effective during the Kissinger and Richard Nixon eras, the Biden administration has opted to disregard such historical precedents. To Beijing’s dismay, the policy on Taiwan has been to incite, agitate, and equip separatists, including the Tsai Ing-Wen administration.
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North Korea’s circumstance is also not an anomaly. The Biden administration has never sought to resolve the Korean Peninsula situation by negotiation or diplomacy, but even his predecessor, the isolationist, white supremacist Trump, took a superficially accommodative tone. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) are being openly fired by Pyongyang, endangering regional stability and undermining the deterrent situation on the Korean peninsula. The nuclear safety net that Seoul ostensibly enjoys as a result of American guarantees is nonetheless insecure since the DPRK reacts hostilely and suspiciously to any overtures from the US. While Pyongyang continues to be shunned by the international community, the US is sowing division that even the most obstinate governments are forced to use force. The DPRK’s nuclear threats, which Washington dismisses as mere bluster, are eroding the non-proliferation framework that nations throughout the world have worked diligently to defend and reinforce.
The ongoing rhetoric of US aggression against Russian imperialism in the Ukraine crisis indicates that the conflict will remain unresolvable. A poor strategy is demonstrated by the provision of modern weaponry, backing for partisan conflict, and the mobilisation of NATO states to compete economically with Russia. There is little question that Russia’s invasion and attempted annexation of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas through referendums are wrong, but the chances for peace remain dim due to the lack of effective ways to put a stop to the fighting. Contrary to the leadership of Turkey, Senegal, and Qatar, the Biden administration has never advocated for peace and dialogue and holds the false belief that an economically crippled Russia will eventually give in to Western demands in the absence of security guarantees. Amid major climate change difficulties like droughts in the Horn of Africa and catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, the Ukraine war is extending and aggravating a serious food security catastrophe.
America’s credibility has taken a hit as a result of the current worldwide leadership crisis, which also significantly dims previous notions of mature, though transient, leadership. Today’s populism, unilateralism, lack of policy planning, and increased insecurity on the political, military, and economic fronts define the global order. As scepticism about international institutions’ capacity to manage challenges of great relevance for the global community grows, confidence in multilateral institutions is eroding among nations all over the world. As evidence of its flaws, the US can no longer claim to be the leader of the rules-based system given its waning influence.
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