Dr Mervyn Bain, Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Aberdeen discusses this interesting topic.
Dr Bain starts off the program commenting that over the past 60 or 70 years, there has been a change in public perceptions as regards America, but recently we have seen more negativity developing, and people now perceive Trump as being much more dangerous than Obama. "But there was also ‘unhappiness' with G.W. Bush as well, so the dissatisfaction has moved to a different level under Trump. It is not just the language under Trump that is different, it is also the communication, it's the use of Twitter, so, therefore, there is a lot more undiplomatic dialogue; it is almost becoming a vicious circle, and that is causing uncertainty around the world."
A discussion takes place regarding the reason that America is behaving irrationally in the international arena. Host John Harrison proposes that one reason is the increasing polarization of Americans between pro and anti-Trump supporters, and also between racists and non-racists. Dr Bain points out that we see polarization taking place in America even within the Republican Party; with two former Republican presidents criticizing Trump's position on the race riots in Charlestown Ville. People in Europe see this irrationality, and it damages America's credibility. "If there is instability internally, a country then tries to have an expansive foreign policy to try and counter that… We see Trump trying to portray a strong America both to the world and to certain parts of the internal US and world political dynamics. That is changing the perception of the US globally, and that is hurting the US as America is not being seen to be behaving in a way that others expect."
The concept of a ‘failed state' is discussed, and Dr Bain clarifies that a failed state is a state where the government has lost all ability to rule by law and isn't really operating as a government at all. Clearly, the US cannot be called a failed state, "it's still playing a role in the UN, it still has a foreign policy, maybe some people don't agree with that foreign policy, or with the internal policies, but it is still a functioning country in pretty much every respect."
In the second half of the program, America's foreign policy is looked at policy by policy. The decision by President Trump to move troops into Afghanistan is regarded as probably being a temporary policy; as it is not at all clear how long Trump will be in the White House and secondly, what his successor will do in this regard. Dr Bain mentions that much depends on what Trump's policy will be as regarding the use of drones in Afghanistan. The issue of Trump's possible dislocation of troops into Ukraine is discussed in terms of the US-Russia relationship. If Trump does move troops into Ukraine, this move could be played as a President defending the world against Russia, thus bolstering the position of a failing President inside the US. Dr Bain points out however, such a policy could have serious repercussions if it goes wrong. US-EU relations are also discussed and it is noted that a sea change in opinion about America is taking place within Europe. Finally, N. Korea is discussed. Dr Bain says that this is a zero-sum game, but that he hopes that cool heads will prevail, in a situation where N. Korea feels that it has to keep on with its missile program for its own defense.
Another issue which Dr Bain brings up at the end of the program is that of Climate Change. Trump talking about pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement has had the effect of adding to the distrust in America. Dr Bain though thinks that the present situation is not permanent, that even Trump will not be around for more than 8 years.
As regards the main question of the program — Has America Become a Threat?, Dr Bain says that "things have changed so fundamentally in the last 18 months, that has added to people's worries. The US is acting in a way that allows it to be perceived as a threat. As with the situation with N. Korea, you have to hope that cool heads will prevail, but you can certainly see that many people all over the world have decided that the US has become a threat, maybe that has been the case in the past, but then again, maybe it is just the speed of the way things are happening, that has exacerbated the idea of this potential threat… We just have to hope that the US system works, that there is going to be another election relatively quickly…"
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