Lasting damage is being caused by President Donald Trump’s destructive approach to foreign agreements and treaties. Americans must not lose sight of harm that comes from turning inward and against each other.
You know things are getting bad when the last Republican president feels obliged to chide the current one on the direction he’s taking the country.
Yet that’s what former President George W. Bush did in a timely speech last week that didn’t name President Donald Trump but spoke to him and those supporting his divisive and isolationist approach.
Bush wasn’t known for his oratorical skills, but he eloquently defended America’s lasting values. He called for respectful dialogue and humility and reminded us of the tremendous contributions of immigrants.
Defending international trade and globalism, Bush said we must not forget that “conflict, instability and poverty follow in the wake of protectionism.”
The latter is of particular concern here in the nation’s most trade-dependent state and around the Pacific Rim.
Americans should be just as shocked as our allies by Trump’s persistent effort to shred, weaken or discard treaties and agreements that provide stability, strength and opportunity.
The list includes the Paris Climate agreement, NATO, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, most recently, the Iran nuclear deal.
The merits of each of these deals can be debated.
But Trump’s dismissive, destructive approach to all of them is causing lasting harm.
This is alienating other nations that were signatories to these deals, often under pressure by the U.S. It weakens our leadership, security, strength and authority to shape future agreements.
U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, experienced this first hand at a recent meeting in Japan with members of its national legislature.
Kilmer said they asked why the U.S. withdrew from the Paris climate agreement and were perplexed by Trump’s threats to withdraw from a free-trade agreement with South Korea.
“There are concerns when your allies start to question whether your word is good — that’s a problem,” Kilmer said.
The biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s isolationist, disruptive behavior are not displaced factory workers in the Midwest or billionaires in his swamp.
No, the big winners are Russia and China, whose stock as superpowers rises as Trump snips the guy-wires supporting America’s pedestal.
Russia has long sought to undermine the stability and ideals propagated by the U.S. and its Western allies. China’s ascent is accelerating as it fills the void in global leadership that Trump created and forges economic partnerships across Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Americans are kept in a lather over more emotional and ephemeral issues stirred up by Trump. We must not lose sight of lasting damage that comes from turning inward and against each other.
As Bush said last week, “our security and prosperity are only found in wise, sustained, global engagement.”