After World War 2 the US (and West in general) supported its former enemies. Rebuilding cities, legal systems, and economies on a massive scale. Germany and Japan were the primary beneficiaries of that financial aid and guidance and today those two countries are large stable entities that improve the West’s standard of living by providing both solid trading partners and political allies.
Some argue that those countries now take “our” jobs when in fact the evidence is clear that those countries have expanded the global economy for all. It is true that the US, Canada and the UK have a smaller slice of the global economic pie in 2018 compared to1950, but the pie is many times larger, so the net benefit to those countries is irrefutable.
The rebuilding (not reconstruction) plan was named after then US Secretary of State George Marshall. Today the Marshall Plan is touted as the cure all for every failing state, from Afghanistan to Mozambique but, as this New Yorker article explains, for a Marshal Plan had a lot more to do with reassurance and a lot less to do with money than most people think.
When the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR, Russian: СССР) fell in December 1991, did the West provide support and guidance or did we just TELL the Russians what to do? There was more combative instruction and less support and technical assistance than most would like to remember.
The Russians are a proud and capable people but at the time of the USSR collapse, they were very keen to ingest all things Western especially our legal, economic and democratic systems. We had a window of opportunity to extend our influence through guidance but we frittered it away. Once Vladimir Putin was elected, the West saw this potential slip away over a very few short years.
Ian Bremmer, President of the Eurasia Group, explains it this way:
It is important to note that the USSR / Russia ‘situation’ is notably different from the Germany and Japan, but we think that more support and less instruction could have lead Russians down a very different path from the one they are on today.
Many US citizens in the middle and lower income brackets see globalization as a failed strategy for domestic growth. They see resources flowing out of the US with little coming back. Western politicians have failed to articulate the benefits of a stable global economy and political environment to most in the lower 3/4’s of the population.
Like it or not, if Europe fails and returns to its roots of boarder squabbles and outright takeovers and China fills the leadership gap left by the US withdrawal, the West will be in grave danger… again.
This does not mean that changes should not be made; the world is a dynamic place and the US, Canada, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and others need to change with it.
President Donald Trump’s active withdrawal from international affairs may make good short term domestic politics but in the long run, it is likely to be very costly.