Posted by: ericgrimsrud | January 22, 2017

America First and Climate Change

We are presently witnessing a potential change in US international policies and alliances as evidenced by recent pronouncements of our new President, Donald Trump. Along with his “America First” isolationist preference, he has declared our NATO alliance “obsolete” and has promoted closer relations with the Russian Federation. If continued, these changes would have profound effects on many aspects of American life including our attempt to fight climate change.

Perhaps naively, we had hoped that Russia and the former Soviet satellite countries would have become more open and democratic after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989. However, ever since Vladimir Putin became the dominant leader of the Russian Federation in 1999, Russian policies and methods of governance have instead become increasingly authoritarian and dictatorial.

In addition, Putin has been doing his best to undo the accomplishments of the Western democracies by endeavoring to split and weaken their alliances such as NATO, the EU and even the United Nations. By his interference with the recent US presidential election, Putin has even managed to diminish the level of trust and respect Americans have in their democratic procedures.

The main reason why the international policies of the USA might be drifting back towards those preferred by Russia’s Putin is that one of Putin’s greatest admirers is the new President of the USA. President Trump has been consistently praising Putin’s style of leadership and has even claimed it to be superior to that of former President Obama, who happened to be one of the world’s strongest advocates of the liberal democratic model of governance. President Trump has also disparaged other democratic leaders of the Western democracies, such as Angela Merkel of Germany, while celebrating Putin’s “strength”.

One specific action recommended by both President-elect Trump and President Putin has been to promote the formation of an alliance against the Islamic State. Trump’s designated national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, has promoted such a “War on Islam” for years on the grounds that the “common enemy” of the Western democracies is radical Islam. By this alliance, the USA, Russia, and similarly minded countries would supposedly be the “good guys” and those countries with untethered Muslim citizens would be the “bad guys”, thereby creating a multitude of conflicts between the two new “Great Powers” envisioned by Trump, Flynn and Putin. In addition to the fact that this “good guy / bad guy” view of the world is grossly oversimplified and loaded with inaccuracies, there are several other aspects of it which, if adopted, would prove to be very problematic.

One of these is that this America First view and its War on Islam would sound the death knell of the world’s effort to solve its climate change problem. Only a world view that has a priority on linking, rather than dividing, all countries of the world has a chance of success in this endeavor. The global warming phenomenon is being caused and experienced by all people and all countries and the Earth is now much too small as to squander of its resources, energy, and focus by allowing any parts of it to engage in warfare against others. International order, peace, and cooperation are essential if we hope to address global warming. The phony war advocated by Putin and Trump would only serve to mask the greatest of problems ever faced by mankind.

In short, the world view of our new President must not be allowed to prevail. We must strive to get along with all nations no matter what their culture and religious preferences are. Given the fact that our planet will be home to some 9 billion people by mid-century, not doing these things will create a living hell on Earth by that time, shaped by institutional breakdowns, mass migrations, universal wars, and profound physical degradations of existing conditions by Mother Nature’s response to the impacts of mankind. Even within his upcoming four-years tenure in the oval office, wiser heads must prevail starting immediately.


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