The US election matters as much to the world as it does to Americans. The overriding reason is that an immense and present danger hangs over multilateralism and the notion of a rules-based global order. A Donald Trump victory would immediately make the world more worrying and unsettled than it already is. The US may no longer be seen as the world hegemon, whether benign or threatening, but it is still the single most important power. Its behaviour has unique potential to either make solutions possible or to add to areas of chaos. A Trump presidency would be bad for the US and dangerous for the world. A vote for is the most effective way of preventing it.
Domestic politics and the clash of personalities have dominated this campaign. But the little that Mr Trump has said is enough to know where the foreign policy risks and promises lie in the 8 November vote. A Trump victory would severely damage US standing almost everywhere. His strongman antics are a liability, not an asset. They are as distressing as they are ridiculous. Believing a man-to-man approach with Vladimir Putin will instantly dissolve Russia’s aggressive revisionism reflects more ignorance than it does bravado. Mrs Clinton has a reputation for a hawkish outlook, but this will be tempered by war-weary public opinion in the US. She recognises that in the 21st century, US power has more chances of attaining goals if it acts inclusively, and not with go-it-alone reckless tactics. She has already applied much of this as secretary of state – playing a key role in the historic deal with Iran, in pushing and managing the complex US relationship with China. A Clinton presidency should rely on soft power in a smart way, a philosophy she touched upon in her . She should pay close attention to climate change, development and working out fairer global trade arrangements. The US should also take the lead on international justice by signing up to the international criminal court – and Mrs Clinton has expressed about Washington’s refusal to join.
There are questions that Mrs Clinton’s team, should they enter the White House, need to resolve. She’s revealed precious little of , a 14-year war that president Obama pledged to end, but that is still grinding on. If she sits behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office dozens of inmates remaining in Guantanamo Bay. When she talks of an intelligence surge, there are concerns. Mrs Clinton is a politician with the experience to tackle these matters. Mr Trump is not. He is more interested in pandering to dictators than in holding them accountable for crimes. He’s spoken in favour of torture. His approach to trade is in line with his approach to immigration – the building of walls. He has portrayed global warming as a hoax. Mrs Clinton can be trusted with the nuclear button. Mr Trump cannot. A Trump presidency would be a leap into the unknown. His bigotry, his love of weapons, his impulsiveness and his America first-ism are all dangers. His victory would likely lead to more, not less, global confrontation.
The most pressing issues are the burning crises of the Middle East. These will continue to hinder a US “rebalancing” to Asia. There are no easy answers here. Mrs Clinton may want to put as much emphasis on protecting civilians as on combating Isis – she has spoken of creating a no-fly zone in Syria, . She will have to search for better leverage in the region; heftier diplomacy that perhaps includes coercion through sanctions.
For the stakes are high. Mrs Clinton is concerned about the old continent’s prospects. Mr Trump plays on American isolationism – he supported Brexit and cares little for transatlantic security guarantees. Russian muscle-flexing means that, whoever becomes president, European nations can no longer rely on the US to do all the heavy lifting. Global governance is under increased strain. Geopolitical competition is rife. US leadership has a key role to play. Mrs Clinton helped turn the page on the disastrous George W Bush era. The diplomatic accomplishments of the past eight years should not be minimised. Neither Mr Bush nor Mr Obama could have anticipated the crises that befell them once they reached office. How a president reacts matters greatly. On this count alone Mrs Clinton deserves to be elected.