America and the need for international diplomacy
It is no secret to even casual observers of global events that since Donald Trump moved into the White House after a blistering campaign to shake up Washington and the world, international diplomacy became an area where concerns mounted over statements from the new president that caused some countries to wonder whether things would change for better or for worse.
When Vice-President Mike Pence, making his first overseas jaunt to Europe, declared to allies that America stands solidly behind the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, it seemed an attempt to cool the diplomatic waters after Trump had expressed doubt over the relevance of the body — calling it “obsolete”.
That remark sent disturbing signals to those who for years have relied on Nato to provide assurance in the region that allies, including America, would be a key part of protection against military threats. The basic code was that an attack on one Nato member would be considered an attack on all. It is that posture that is generally believed to be the sustaining element that has kept the European theatre stable from military aggression on a significant scale.
An important factor to note here is a that the Vice-President has, to some degree, shifted the tone when meeting with European leaders on the role of Nato, as earlier envisioned by Trump. After an extremely stormy start in the new administration that has resulted in Trump immersing himself in a firestorm of comments that included open condemnation of the media, along with strong protests against many of his policies — with immigration and replacing Obamacare topping the list — the administration could be seeking ways to halt what appears to be a path to disapproval. Not only from a large segment of the American society, but also from allies abroad.
Although Trump insists that he has the full support from all Americans in what he has achieved so far, national polls tell a different story. A news conference by the President left the media and much of the public deeply bewildered and confused over whether Trump was aiming his comments purely at his supporters, where accuracy did not seem to matter. The big question is whether such tactics will damage international credibility especially when international diplomacy can be highly sensitive. Badly chosen words usually carry diplomatic consequences.
Many seasoned political experts who have followed elections and the results for many years in America are astonished by what they view as deliberate attempts to mislead the public by branding the media as the culprits for one of the most controversial starts to any administration in the nation's political history. While Trump still has devoted supporters who cheer his every move, some have expressed a desire for him to refrain from negative talk that detracts from the issues people are most concerned about.
Perhaps with the word “chaos” being used to describe the first weeks of the Trump Administration, and the negative effect it was having internationally, the tone of Pence was seen in European circles as a welcome change for those hoping for assurances that Nato was still essential in maintaining a solid bloc of nations willing to stand firm against any power that could be a threat.
However, the role of the Vice-President could also be seen as a move to rekindle the American image of strength, even though the administration is still struggling to put a full cabinet in place.
One might ask what all this has to do with a small island in the middle of the Atlantic? A quick answer could be: not very much. However, in the interconnected world of business and world travel, where stability plays a key role, anything of international importance should never be ignored. Bermuda's historic link with America, and the solid relationship that continues to grow, is reason that most Bermudians want any administration to succeed. Many Bermudians along with the rest of the world are waiting for a shift in political gears, with less rhetoric from the Trump Administration in dealing with controversial subjects.
The media worldwide must stand their ground in revealing facts to keep their credibility intact. When any leader of any country makes a statement that is proved false, that leader should be held accountable. No one is above that principle. The people also have a right to question those in authority when it is felt there is deviation in serving with transparency and dignity.
America's vice-president could be playing a bigger role in trying to improve the nation's diplomatic image, which has been damaged by a controversial immigration policy that was overturned by a federal Judge. Although Trump has vowed to submit another version of the Bill this week, it remains to be seen whether it will pass the legal scrutiny to become law.
Meanwhile, attention seems to be shifting to the Vice-President to send clear signals that the new administration is sound and is willing to work to make America stronger and safer.
While that is a positive sign, the real change most are hoping for is that the President himself will adopt a more positive presidential attitude in upholding expected standards from the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth.