THE Capitol Hill mobs egged on by the president and his associates dealt the United States an unfathomable international embarrassment that doubled as a gift to its adversaries — one they were all too eager to exploit.
As packs of rally-goers stalked the halls of Congress, and soon after the violence was quelled by law enforcement, the chattering classes concluded that the day’s events have crippled U.S. global leadership.
Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass wrote on Twitter that it’ll be a long time before Washington can “lecture others they are not stable enough to have nuclear weapons.”
The Washington Post’s Karen Attiah was similarly pessimistic, and her post reflected what now seems the prevalent thinking among opinion makers: “When the President of Zimbabwe is telling America to sod off with moralizing about democracy to other countries, you know its [sic] a wrap.”
These observers and others are right to lament the damage that this does to U.S. democracy promotion efforts and the gift that it’s been to foreign authoritarian regimes. Still, the precise extent of that harm remains to be seen.
This depends on how — and whether — Americans remedy the ills wrought by the mayhem and confront the political forces and disinformation epidemic that enabled it. In the short term, though, these efforts should be accompanied by a forceful rebuttal of foreign authoritarian efforts to exploit the moment.
In the aftermath of the storming of the Capitol, there’s been an obvious difference between the good-faith international responses and those that sought to weaponize the crisis toward anti-democratic ends. U.S. allies responded with a mix of shock, expressions of confidence in American institutions, and condemnation of the president.
They sized up American democracy not by the depths to which it has plunged this election season, but by the yardstick of the example that the United States has historically set.
French president Emmanuel Macron recorded a short video address: “What happened today in Washington, D.C. is not America, definitely.” “Democracy in the US must be upheld — and it will be,” assured Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau.
The U.K.’s Boris Johnson called it “vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transition,” and the government of Japan said in a statement that it is “hoping” for one.
Some were more pointed. Former European Council president Donald Tusk warned that “there are Trumps everywhere,” and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte issued a plea: “Dear @realDonaldTrump, recognize @joebiden as the next president today.”
The difference between the world’s democrats and its autocrats could not be more stark. Just take the tweet Attiah mentioned, posted by Zimbabwean president Emmerson Mnangagwa:
Last year, President Trump extended painful economic sanctions placed on Zimbabwe, citing concerns about Zimbabwe’s democracy.
Yesterday’s events showed that the U.S. has no moral right to punish another nation under the guise of upholding democracy. These sanctions must end.Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Then he congratulated Joe Biden on his victory and offered the friendship of the Zimbabwean people. – U.S. National Review 🔺