As global order collapses, American leadership is critical

As global order collapses, American leadership is critical
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For nearly a decade, I have warned that the loss of legitimacy and broken trust in institutions — from the United States to Europe, from the Far East to Africa and Latin America — poses grave threats to the future of free societies, to the stability of the international system, and to global security.

In just the past month, we have watched Venezuela collapse, the Kremlin advance a law that would allow Russian authorities to jail individuals for insulting government officials online, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE walk away from denuclearization negotiations with North Korea (all while that rogue regime takes steps to rebuild its nuclear missile facility). 

Clearly, the international environment remains volatile — between nuclear tensions, Islamist threats, persistent poverty and instability in the Third World.

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Global uncertainty and instability are compounded by the growing power of nationalist and populist movements in the West, including major European countries and the United States.

As I argue in my book, “Collapse,” what we are witnessing is a global crisis of democracy not just around the world but also within the nation once regarded as democracy’s standard-bearer — the United States.

Indeed, what we are experiencing is a collapse of the world order.

The reasons for this collapse are grounded in the failures of institutions and intensifying public cynicism in the wake of the 2008 international financial crisis that tested governments around the world, economically and politically, and that eroded confidence in institutions in the United States and internationally.

A series of issues that speak to this crisis include the increasing momentum of authoritarian regimes around the world, the dissolving of government authority in Latin America and Africa, as well as the political and social divisions that began to explode in the United States during the Obama administration.

First, it is important to understand the causes and results of our current predicament.

Ultimately, the failure of institutions, the revolt against elites, and the breakdown of the alliance system that has underpinned world peace for eight decades have created the crisis that we are in now. Together, these factors threaten not only public confidence, but also governmental functioning.

Second, it is important that we look beyond the West to understand the threats we must confront.

Authoritarian powers, namely Russia and China, are on the move in both a material and a territorial sense, as well as in an intellectual sense. In the past decade, the Russians and the Chinese have won loyalists to their anti-democratic, anti-Western and anti-American ideological systems.

Further, the ongoing, chilling challenges presented by rogue regimes such as Iran and North Korea, as well as Islamist terror groups, roil Western values and systems.

Moreover, the collapse of institutions and escalating problems in Latin America and Africa further underscore the economic, political and infrastructural challenges that America faces as a world leader.

Despite these challenges, we must not lose sight of who we are, nor must we abdicate our central role on the world stage. The United States is strongest when we prioritize leadership and morality at home and in the international community.

Indeed, the United States should embrace an approach of “assertive democratic idealism,” by which I mean that the U.S. can and should look out for its own interests while continuing to serve as the world’s standard-bearer of democracy.

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I believe that any hopes for a more stable international climate can only come to fruition if the U.S. pursues such a strategy — not the isolationism that President Trump champions, nor the uncritical internationalism that was, in different ways, the downfall of both President George W. Bush’s and President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaClinton suggests Russia grooming Gabbard to run as third-party 2020 candidate The Hill's 12:30 Report: Washington mourns loss of Elijah Cummings Obama: Cummings showed us 'the importance of checks and balances' MORE’s foreign policy.

Rather, I see the U.S. as making necessary adjustments as needed to protect its national interests but also not abandoning the global leadership role that only we can play, including standing up for our allies and championing human rights and democracy around the world.

In our volatile modern world, the only true prospect for stabilizing the global climate will come from a renewed commitment to leadership from the United States that is informed by an idealistic, moral, yet practical outlook toward the rest of the world.

In his first inaugural address, President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHouse Democrats risk overriding fairness factor on impeachment Senate GOP braces for impeachment trial 'roller coaster' What did the Founders most fear about impeachment? MORE said, “There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

This statement rings true at home and abroad — because undeniably, in an aspirational sense, the vast majority of the world’s people continue to identify with the values and goals that define America.

Even as many Americans lose confidence in in our sense of liberty, freedom and the right to pursue one’s own destiny, it is more important than ever for the United States to lead the way on building a more stable, democratic, peaceful world.

Regrettably, we are a long way from that vision right now, and there is much work to do. 

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is a Fox News contributor and the author of several books, including “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership”