Donald Trump

Smog Mask

Markos Kounalakis on China's attempt to gain global influence through environmental leadership and policy.

As President Trump strains alliances and relationships around the world, some of the nation’s top career diplomats are breaking publicly with him, in what amounts to a quiet revolt by a cadre of public servants known for their professional discretion. On Monday, the chargé d’affaires at the American Embassy in Beijing, David H. Rank, announced his resignation after telling his staff he could not defend the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

The No. 2 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing resigned Monday, telling staff his conscience would not permit him to formally notify the Chinese that the United States is withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. David H. Rank, a career Foreign Service officer of 27 years, had been acting ambassador until former Iowa governor Terry Branstad (R) was confirmed as the new ambassador last month. Rank held a town meeting with embassy employees to explain he had offered his resignation and it had been accepted.

The problem with “America First” is that it describes an attitude, not a purpose. It substitutes selfishness for realism. It implies that nations can go it alone, that we stand for nothing beyond our immediate self-interest, and that we should give little thought to how the rest of humanity thinks or lives. It suggests that if we are strong enough, we can prosper no matter how much chaos, disorder or injustice surrounds us. America First leads to the diplomacy of narcissism. And narcissism is as unhealthy for nations as it is for people.

Public diplomacy is perception. Remarkably—and, unthinkably, as recently as one year ago—today China seems to be the world’s most likeable superpower. [...] Li, who landed in Berlin on Wednesday, hoped to use his three-day trip, with stops in Germany and Belgium, to “voice support for an open economy, free trade and investment [and] global regional peace and stability."  Trump, on the other hand, failed to support NATO, decried Germany as “very bad” for its trade policies, and even pushed aside Montenegro’s prime minister to the front of a group photo. 

June 2, 2017

Donald J. Trump’s first foreign trip as U.S. President is now history, but the repercussions are likely to be felt for years to come. [...] Trump disrespected the entire NATO alliance system, broke with the rest of the G-7 on the Paris climate change agreement and, in general, behaved boorishly. Given the chance to welcome NATO’s newest member, Montenegro, Trump pushed its prime minister aside to claim his own front row spot for the traditional “family photo” of NATO summit leaders.

President Donald Trump's decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement is yet another manifestation of how he continues to see U.S. interests as narrowly economic. Had the president a more expansive view of both the nation's interests and influence, he would have kept the U.S. in the accord. Instead, he not only harmed global efforts to address a pressing problem, but also deprived the U.S. of an important source of so-called soft power. In a world in which military might is increasingly difficult and costly to use, America will suffer from this loss. 

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