Great Countries, Bad Leaders
China and the United States are great countries, but are being badly governed – one by Leninist autocrats afraid of their own shadow, and the other by a bizarre populist who prefers despots to liberal democrats. For now, the rest of the world has good reason to hope for better and wiser leadership in Beijing and Washington – and soon.
LONDON – I first visited the United States in 1965 on a student scholarship funded by a generous Boston philanthropist. Ever since that trip, which took me from New York to California to Alabama and back, I have been a confirmed Americophile. I love the country and have visited it more often than any other outside Britain and Western Europe.
I admire the US for its culture, entrepreneurialism, and universities, and I have many American friends. Furthermore, I know how grateful the rest of the world has to be for US leadership after World War II. Never before had a victorious power behaved so generously toward others, including the defeated. We owe so much to US policy in the second half of the twentieth century. But although I am no declinist regarding American economic, intellectual, and military power, the country’s soft power has certainly decreased, and its positive influence around the world has declined.
The reason for this is simple: US President Donald Trump is a bad man surrounded by a bad team of incompetent and dangerous ideologues. He is a loutish threat to all that has made the world a better, safer, and more prosperous place – above all, cooperation among nation-states, a global rulebook, and a widely shared aspiration for economic and political freedom.