America’s political turmoil hampers its capacity to lead through yet another Global Crisis

10:00 18.10.2023 •

The turmoil in America’s politics – plagued by internal extremism, threats to democracy and the hyperpoliticization of foreign policy – means it will be an impossible task to bring the country together at a perilous moment, CNN comments.

A weekend of terror in Israel has sharpened already grave questions about the capacity of the politically fractured United States to lay out a unified and coherent response to a world spinning out of its control

When the House of Representatives descended into chaos last week, many Republicans, Democrats and independent experts warned that anarchy raging in US politics sent a dangerous message to the outside world. But no one could foresee just how quickly the paralysis in Washington would test the country’s reaction to a major global crisis.

The horrific Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians, which have killed hundreds of people and shattered the country’s sense of security, thrust the Middle East to the precipice of a new era of violence and instability. This followed a period of relative calm and after US presidents spent years trying to extricate American forces from the region.

Israel’s response to the carnage raises the possibility of a wider regional war that would further destabilize the global order already rocked by the war in Ukraine and China’s flagrant challenges to Western power.

A situation this dangerous requires a calm, united and thoughtful US response, supported across the political spectrum. But the turmoil in America’s politics – plagued by internal extremism, threats to democracy and the hyperpoliticization of foreign policy – means it will be an impossible task to bring the country together at a perilous moment.

And the US is also facing an unprecedented election season. A president with low approval ratings confronting questions about his advanced age could go up against a potential Republican nominee who could be an indicted felon by Election Day. This means, at best, the United States will spend the coming months preoccupied by its own political plight. At worst, the world’s superpower guarantor of democracy could actually worsen global disruption and instability.

Foreign policy issues rarely decide US elections. But the danger for Biden and the opening for Trump is that yet another crisis abroad could foment an idea that the world is in turmoil, American power is weakening and Biden is hapless. At home and abroad, chaos is Trump’s friend as he seeks to foment the classic conditions that benefit aspiring autocrats promising strongman rule.

The spectacle also suggests to US enemies – including Iran, the main supporter of Hamas, and Russia and China – that the US is hopelessly divided and may struggle to wield power to safeguard its interests.

The shuttered House created a particularly damaging symbol of the US – and the democratic system of governance it promotes around the world – in disarray. The Biden administration has the capacity to send immediate military aid to Israel, whose government has asked Washington for JDAM precision-guided munition kits and more interceptors for the Iron Dome air defense system as Hamas rockets rain down on Israeli cities. But any delay in seating a new speaker and creating a functioning majority in the House could have serious consequence.

Already, the political showdown over Ukraine is causing deep concern in Kyiv that it will be unable to continue its fight against Russia in the current form without the more than $20 billion in assistance that the Biden administration has requested.

In a broader sense, the possibility that a populist, nationalist wing of the Republican Party under Trump could desert a democracy under attack from Russia threatens to not just shatter the logic of decades of US foreign policy, but to fundamentally change the US’ role in the world and the values on which its allies believed they could depend…

The extraordinary and sudden Hamas attack on Israel – which has been compared to the September 11 attacks in the United States, and in terms of per capita casualties was far more bloody – falls into the category of tragedies that could change the world.

Aside from the awful human toll – now also being felt by Palestinian civilians in Gaza, where hundreds have perished in the initial Israel reprisal attacks on the infrastructure of Hamas – the onslaught will have far-reaching strategic consequences that will be felt in the US.

The horror in Israel presents Biden with another fearsome foreign policy crisis as he contemplates his reelection bid – alongside the war in Ukraine and a rising confrontation with China.

It comes at a moment of political vulnerability for the administration as it seeks to explain why it made a deal to release US prisoners from Iran that resulted in the release of $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday tried to defuse the political impact of the agreement. “Not a single dollar has been spent from that account. And, again, the account is closely regulated by the US Treasury Department, so it can only be used for things like food, medicine, medical equipment,” he insisted…


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