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The Year Ahead 2021

America’s Post-Trump Reckoning

After four years of Donald Trump wrecking US relationships and disengaging from international arrangements, it will take more than comforting words to restore America's standing in the world. The key to US re-engagement lies in international law, where a savvy administration will find many effective tools.

NEW HAVEN – Whether America can restore its global standing over the next four years will depend on the American people’s ability to come together, as a nation, to lead the world in addressing global problems in a manner consistent with the rule of law.

During the first three years of Donald Trump’s presidency, America faced mostly self-inflicted crises, but the COVID-19 disaster cast Trump’s signature weaknesses in stark relief: topsy-turvy policymaking, unbridled mendacity, and conspiracy mongering. Everyone now appreciates the profound deficiencies of Trump’s obsession with “deals.” His transactional approach – marked by cascades of threats, tit-for-tat retaliations, abrupt reversals, and hollow photo-ops – has devastated longstanding relationships and alliances originally built on genuine bonds of mutual interest, affection, confidence, trust, cooperation, and sacrifice.

Worse, Trump’s contempt for relationships was paired with an equally stunning scorn for truth, diplomacy, bureaucracy, and other essential ingredients of sound administration, at both the national and the multilateral level. His startling disregard for expertise and science has resulted in the erosion and degradation of previously independent and effective national institutions such as the US Postal Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the FBI, and the US intelligence community.

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