In the final Global Briefing Series of the fall semester, Oklahoma State University professors held a discussion titled “Consequences of the Presidential Election on U.S. Global Engagement” on Thursday evening.
The discussion was moderated by Randy Kluver, dean and associate provost of the School of Global Studies and Partnerships, with Jami Fullerton, strategic communication professor and director of the master's program in global policy at OSU; Glen Krutz, professor of political science and dean of the OSU College of Arts and Sciences at OSU and Stephen Nemeth, associate professor of political science, sharing their various expertise on different issues regarding how a potential new presidential administration will affect the U.S.’s impact on the rest of the world.
Fullerton’s said her research focuses on the US international reputation, which has fallen among some of our closest allies such as Canada and Japan, among others. She said based on surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center, how favorable other countries have held the US has fallen over the past 20 years.
“From what I hear, it’s pretty hard to be a foreign service officer during the Trump administration,” Fullerton said. “I’ve heard stories of unexpected tweets that come in right before a diplomat’s going into a meeting to work on a negotiation that’s been going on for months that totally undermines their efforts. For this and for other reasons, many foreign service officers have left their posts.”
Fullerton also said one of the main concerns that has arisen with much of the country split on numerous issues is the fact that other countries, especially anti-democratic countries, have allowed propaganda to become a tool for such regimes.
“Public diplomacy and propaganda often go hand-in-hand,” she said. “There was a time when diplomats called themselves propagandists, at times. Right now, the problem with propaganda is that our adversaries like Russia and our competitors like China are using the unconventional election that we’ve just been through as a tool.
“All these days of counting votes and the president questioning the legitimacy of the election is really being used as a propaganda tool in these countries to tell these people in authoritarian countries that free democracy doesn’t work, so it’s not a good look for the United States right now. We’re supposed to be a model of democracy and at this time, they are using our current situation against us.”
A major effort of a potentially new presidential administration needs to be for the country to reaffirm its commitment to global efforts that the Trump administration was fond of exiting, Nemeth said.
He said it may be difficult for the U.S. to be taken seriously when it comes to its commitments to such efforts, mainly due to the fact that they could suspect the U.S. of potentially leaving such agreements again in the near future.
Nemeth also said how the US treats its own citizens, or immigrants or the way the government responded to social justice protests are important in how we deal with other countries.
“It becomes apparent that America has some problems and this decreases our moral leadership. It becomes very difficult to tell other countries to create a freer press, or such as fair elections, if we have questions about that in our own country,” Nemeth said.
Another perception of America that the Joe Biden administration would have to try to rectify is that the fundamental concepts of democracy have come into question of late, Nemeth said.
He said there was a wave of right-wing populism in Europe, and the viability of democracies has been called into question by some. He said Biden will have to reestablish the US as a symbol of democracy.
“What Biden is going to have to do is kind of a heavy lift," he said. "To reassert that democracy is kind of the preeminent and the best form of government that we have. So some of his foreign policy goals have talked about a meeting of democracies in order to reestablish faith in democracies.”
Krutz discussed how foreign policy is by nature a coalition effort. He said Biden has shown to be adept at creating coalitions to tackle certain issues, which is contrast to how President Trump handled such aspects of foreign policy.
“Some of that reliance on both the agencies and the Congress frustrated President Trump,” Krutz said. “He really wanted to be more in charge of foreign policy. While foreign policy is an area where a president has more tools at their disposal to carry out than domestic policy, it’s still the case that in foreign policy, the president doesn’t lead alone. While the president is the single most important position in American foreign policy, the president can’t do it all on his or her own. I think we will see President Biden be more coalition focused in his focus. He’s a proven coalition builder, a proven team player with other state leaders around the world, so I think you’ll see us, in addition to rejoining other international efforts, I think you’ll see him coordinate more with other leaders.”