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‘Sadness’ and Disbelief From a World Missing American Leadership

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Katrin Bennhold writes in the NY Times:

BERLIN — As images of America’s overwhelmed hospital wards and snaking jobless lines have flickered across the world, people on the European side of the Atlantic are looking at the richest and most powerful nation in the world with disbelief.

“When people see these pictures of New York City they say, ‘How can this happen? How is this possible?’” said Henrik Enderlein, president of the Berlin-based Hertie School, a university focused on public policy. “We are all stunned. Look at the jobless lines. Twenty-two million,” he added.

“I feel a desperate sadness,” said Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European history at Oxford University and a lifelong and ardent Atlanticist.

The pandemic sweeping the globe has done more than take lives and livelihoods from New Delhi to New York. It is shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism — the special role the United States played for decades after World War II as the reach of its values and power made it a global leader and example to the world.

Today it is leading in a different way: More than 840,000 Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and at least 46,784 have died from it, more than anywhere else in the world.

As the calamity unfolds, President Trump and state governors are not only arguing over what to do, but also over who has the authority to do it. Mr. Trump has fomented protests against the safety measures urged by scientific advisers, misrepresented facts about the virus and the government response nearly daily, and this week used the virus to cut off the issuing of green cards to people seeking to emigrate to the United States.

“America has not done badly, it has done exceptionally badly,” said Dominique Moïsi, a political scientist and senior adviser at the Paris-based Institut Montaigne.

The pandemic has exposed the strengths and weaknesses of just about every society, Mr. Moïsi noted. It has demonstrated the strength of, and suppression of information by, an authoritarian Chinese state as it imposed a lockdown in the city of Wuhan. It has shown the value of Germany’s deep well of public trust and collective spirit, even as it has underscored the country’s reluctance to step up forcefully and lead Europe.

And in the United States, it has exposed two great weaknesses that, in the eyes of many Europeans, have compounded one another: the erratic leadership of Mr. Trump, who has devalued expertise and often refused to follow the advice of his scientific advisers, and the absence of a robust public health care system and social safety net.

“America prepared for the wrong kind of war,” Mr. Moïsi said. “It prepared for a new 9/11, but instead a virus came.”

“It raises the question: Has America become the wrong kind of power with the wrong kind of priorities?” he asked.

Ever since Mr. Trump moved into the White House and turned America First into his administration’s guiding mantra, Europeans have had to get used to the president’s casual willingness to risk decades-old alliances and rip up international agreements. Early on, he called NATO “obsolete” and withdrew U.S. support from the Paris climate agreement and the Iran nuclear deal.

But this is perhaps the first global crisis in more than a century where no one is even looking to the United States for leadership.

In Berlin, Germany’s foreign minister, Heiko Maas, has said as much. . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Later in the article:

“There is not only no global leadership, there is no national and no federal leadership in the United States,” said Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Growth Lab at Harvard’s Center for International Development. “In some sense this is the failure of leadership of the U.S. in the U.S.”

Written by Leisureguy

23 April 2020 at 1:10 pm

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