The American “Washington Post” newspaper saw in its editorial that the COVID-19 epidemic will cause severe damage to American life and economy.
It may also indicate a decline in US leadership in the world.
And if that were the case, the loss would be especially unfortunate, because even more than other injuries, diplomatic damage would be meaningless and self-inflicted.
The newspaper said the reason is straightforward: US President Donald Trump has abdicated the role his predecessors, American presidents, played in every previous global crisis of the last century, which is to move forward to provide treatments, support their nation, and coordinate multilateral responses.
Finally, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama led international efforts to stem the 2008 financial crisis.
They also launched strong US responses to the AIDS and Ebola epidemics.
Mr. Trump’s main engagement with the world since the Coronavirus began spreading internationally has been to prevent travel between the United States and other countries.
He brags almost daily about his decision to ban travel from China last January.
When he ended the visits from Europe a few more weeks later, he did so without consulting some of America’s closest allies.
The United States currently holds the rotating leadership of the Group of Seven countries, but it was French President Emmanuel Macron who initiated the G-7 summit to discuss via video conference on the virus, after two phone calls to the White House failed to push Trump to act.
Saudi Arabia is organizing a virtual G20 summit this week.
The newspaper considered that the outcast regime of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is taking advantage of the leadership void created by Trump.
Usually, the US Secretary of State is expected to travel around the world at a time like this to make US allies work together on ways to avoid a global recession, or to increase vital supply production.
So it was surprising that when Mike Pompeo, who has kept a low profile in recent weeks, issued a statement on the epidemic on Monday, it was nothing more than another condemnation of the supreme leader’s grief.
The Washington Post said the biggest winner of this unprecedented US retreat appears to be China.
Having halted the initial disease outbreak on its soil, President Xi Jinping’s system is now providing assistance, including medical masks and much-needed respirators, to severely affected Italy and Serbia as well as to the European Union in general.
Jack Ma of Alibaba, president of one of the largest Chinese companies, provides test kits and masks to the United States as well as 54 countries in Africa.
Trump is trying to blame China for the epidemic by referring to him childishly as “the Chinese virus”.
But he opened the way for Xi’s regime to present itself as the new global leader who filled the void left by the United States.
Two veterans of China’s affairs warned, Kurt M. Campbell and Rush Duchy, in an article for Foreign Affairs recently that this could become a “Suez moment” for the United States, such as the 1956 crisis that led to the end of Britain’s role as a global player.
The newspaper’s editorial concluded that if the situation is this way, Trump will bear the responsibility for more than a slow and wretched response at home; he will preside over the eclipse of the United States as a world leader.