My Take

Some day, we might miss the world’s policeman

Russia’s Putin, China’s Xi , America’s Trump, Israel’s Netanyahu – all believe what they do in their own countries are their own business and no one else’s

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 2:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2016, 2:05am

Rodrigo Duterte is preaching to the choir – in America. Speaking on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in the Peruvian capital Lima, the Philippine president again blasted the United States for its “hypocrisy,” “bullying” of smaller nations and launching foreign wars.

“I see a lot of these Western nations bullying small nations,” he said. “They are into so much hypocrisy. They seem to start a war but are afraid to go to war. That is what is wrong with America and the others.”

The funny thing is, many Americans agree with him, including their president-elect, Donald Trump. Of course, they won’t use his vocabulary. But many would agree that it’s not in America’s self-interest to be the world’s policeman, “the indispensable nation”, “the city on the hill” or the leading light of democracy upholding the liberal international order since the end of the second world war.

Trump is famous for flip-flopping on key policy issues. But on US global dominance and responsibility, his core belief is crystal clear: it’s America First.

This means US national and security interests are defined narrowly, rather than globally. If US allies want American help, they will have to pay up. It used to be that other countries had national interests, but only the US had global interests. Trump doesn’t buy that fundamental axiom of US foreign policy.

Rodrigo Duterte says he wants to be “friends” with Donald Trump but policy differences may yet overshadow similarities in style

Of course, US institutionalised commitments, whether through international treaties and diplomacy or through its own foreign policy establishment, won’t let Trump have his way so easily. This doesn’t mean he won’t try. The question is, how far he will or can go with his instinct for narrow self-interest, whether at the national or international level.

If we take Trump at his word, US allies will have to commit more troops and resources of their own to maintain their own defence. If that’s the case, Duterte has all the more incentive to tilt towards Russia and China, which has promised massive subsidies and aid.

This is the China moment. Its doctrine of “non-interference”, a fringe idea much criticised for a long time, is now shared among many key world leaders.

Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping (習近平 ), America’s Trump, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu – all believe what they do in their own countries and backyards are their own business and no one else’s.

Some day, we may miss having America around.