World War II Launched a New Age of Global Power. 80 Years After the War Began, That Era Is EndingRoundup
tags: Soviet Union, United States, World War 2
David Kaiser, a historian, has taught at Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, Williams College and the Naval War College.
The three Presidents who were born in the immediate wake of the Second World War—Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Donald Trump—abandoned the political and economic world order their parents’ generation created, acting almost unilaterally in Kosovo, Iraq and with respect to trade, and abandoning arms-control agreements under Bush and Trump. The American perspective that evolved out of the war would not endure either. Eight decades after World War II began, the world it created is fading into the past.
Our new world is more economically secure than the world of the 1930s, but its political leadership is weaker. In the U.S., most Americans disapprove of how Donald Trump is doing his job. In Russia, a May poll showed that public trust in Vladimir Putin was at its lowest point in over a decade. Global approval for both, as well as their Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, hovers around one-third. Today’s leaders aren’t putting forth a vision of the future that inspires a substantial majority of their own people, much less the world at large.
The political power of states in the mid-20th century enabled them to do both great and terrible things. Now we must find out if our politics can function without it.
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