Americans have watched President Barack Obama humiliated at this week’s G-20 summit — first, by China’s deliberate refusal to provide the usual staircase and red carpet for his arrival, as it did for all the other leaders; and second, by President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, who insulted Obama verbally even though he needs American help to protect his country.
The next G-20 summit will be in Hamburg, Germany — featuring a new U.S. President, whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Clinton would undoubtedly represent more of the same — or worse. Though she would certainly be greeted more warmly by Angela Merkel than Obama was greeted by China, the two leaders will be joined at the hip by their awful response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Merkel’s decision to open the borders to migrant flows destabilized Europe, culturally and politically — and Clinton wants the same for the U.S., even after benefiting from the lessons of Germany’s ongoing disastrous example.
Add to that the fact that Clinton plans merely to continue Obama’s foreign policies — which she faithfully represented as Secretary of State for four years, from the ill-fated Russian “reset” to the deadly mess in Libya to the premature withdrawal from Iraq — and it seems likely that G-20 2017 would simply be the next chapter in American decline. Clinton would arrive, sign a few meaningless, unenforceable agreements about climate change or some other policy fad, and be whisked away.
Contrast that with what the G-20 might look like with Donald Trump representing the U.S. Trump has already proved his ability to stand on the world stage, with his successful meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico City last week. (The best measure of the meeting’s success is that Clinton has snubbed Peña Nieto’s invitation to her, which was issued at the same time he invited Trump: she cannot improve on Trump’s performance and so is best served politically by staying home.)
While being diplomatic, Trump would bring a new American swagger to the G-20, combined with a new willingness to reach agreement in certain areas where the Obama administration has been reduced to hand-wringing. On trade and defense, Trump would confront China, and would be able to enlist the help of 18 other nations, many of which have also been seething under the effects of cheap Chinese imports. He might also have better interactions with Vladimir Putin — though critics of Trump’s conciliatory Russia policy, which is essentially the same Clinton adopted in 2009, might object. Trump would also press for Syrian refugees to be resettled in the Middle East — a “disruptive” idea that actually conforms to existing international norms.
Above all, Trump would demand respect at the G-20, seeing American strength, not humility, as the key to diplomatic power. It might work, and it might not, but it would certainly make the G-20 more interesting and more consequential than it is today.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.