Magazine article USA TODAY

The Challenge of Governance

Magazine article USA TODAY

The Challenge of Governance

Article excerpt

AFTER WORLD WAR n, the U.S. led an effort to construct a secure political order outside the Soviet sphere so that war-torn allied governments could provide their people with political stability and economic development. The rebuilding of Western Europe was part of an effort to enhance European unity and end the quarrels that had produced two world wars. The United Nations, while not producing global peace, was a vehicle for broad international efforts against disease, illiteracy, and regional wars. The International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs were designed to facilitate international trade, prevent currency wars, and assist in economic development. These initiatives prevented another great power war, achieved a large degree of European reconciliation, and aided the transition for post-colonial countries in Africa and Asia. None of this would have happened without strong and persistent American leadership.

The U.S. negotiated a series of defense treaties with more than 35 nations, easing those countries' burden of self-defense and allowing them to place more resources into the reconstruction of their economies. In the Middle East, the Arab States and Israel saw the U.S. as an honest broker, assisting in the negotiation of peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Jordan.

The U.S. was a model of stable government and economic success. Its ability in the late 1940s to transition successfully from a wartime to a civilian economy, end its own shameful tradition of racial segregation and legal discrimination, establish regulations for environmental protection, and open up opportunities for women, minorities, and the disabled made America a model for the rest of the democratic world.

Strong American leadership encouraged steadfast allies with strong leaders--Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in Britain, Helmut Kohl in Germany, Lech Walesa in Poland, and Anwar Sadat in Egypt. With the U.S. at its back, the rest of Western Europe allowed West Germany to rearm and join NATO; Egypt could expel the Soviet Union; the NATO allies could place American intermediate missile on their soil against stem Soviet threats; South Korea felt secure from another North Korean invasion; Kuwait was assured it would not be annexed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq; and even tiny Grenada knew it never would become a Cuban satellite.

During the Obama Administration, there has been a steady American retreat from world leadership. The United Nations, NATO, IMF, and EU are far less effective without a strong U.S. presence. Allies such as Israel, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, the Baltic States, and Iraq no longer see America as having their back. Hence, China, Russia, and Iran, with little interest in a stable world, are asserting hegemonic claims.

All of this speaks to a world torn by devolution and fractionalization. Countries are finding it more difficult to govern themselves, and forces of global and regional cooperation are in disrepair. The United Nations stands helpless against Russian aggression, civil war in Syria and Libya, and ISIS atrocities across the Middle East and North Africa; the EU is facing possible revolts and succession from the UK and Greece and waning allegiance in much of Europe; NATO offers the Ukraine no more than its good wishes, as Vladimir Putin's Russian military swallows the country bit by bit. …

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