From Tokyo to Guadalajara, and every city in between, they recognize his face, and know his name.
How could they not?
His image is a staple on newsstands, television, the internet; pick a medium, any medium, and there he is.
The President of the United States.
According to various on-line sites and poles, former Presidents Barak Obama and Donald Trump are among the only world leaders more recognizable than celebrities, musicians, titans of industry, even The Pope; and Joe Biden will likely gain similar recognition.
When it comes to knowledge of foreign leaders however, less than half of Americans can name the leaders of Mexico or Canada, our only neighbors to the North and South.
Why fault the average American for this lack of knowledge? For them, the leader of another country makes little, if any difference in daily life. For the rest of the world however, the American President and America’s foreign policy do matter. To those in Asia, Africa, and The Middle East, even more so than their own leaders.
I wasn’t always American, well, not a citizen anyway. I was born and lived nearly a decade in Lebanon before my family moved, first temporarily, then permanently, to the United States.
Transitioning took years and came with a fair share of hardships. American culture, language, and sarcasm, are full of complexity, contradiction, and nuance; establishing any level of competency let alone proficiency, didn’t come easy. That said, nearly everyone I knew in Lebanon then, and practically everyone I speak to now, would gladly trade places with me.
Lebanon is not unique in this sense.
America, for many, feels like the center of the world. Plenty of people across the globe would happily trade economic, political, and personal insecurity for America, regardless of who’s president.
While America under Donald Trump was not the most welcoming of places; it also made life difficult for others across the globe. The Trump Administration (as well as previous presidents) imposed a various sanctions, increasing hardships not only in places like North Korea, Iran, or Cuba, but Venezuela, Russia, Lebanon and others as well.
Combined, the Treasury Department, the Commerce Department and the State Department list embargoes against 30 countries or territories; that’s 1/6th of the planet.
New face, same approach
“Did he win, is it over?”
This question was posed to me recently by a friend from overseas. He wanted to know if Donald Trump had indeed prevailed, and whether American foreign policy would have a new face; and maybe, just maybe, a different approach. The answer to both of those questions is likely no. Trump will lose, but American foreign policy will likely remain almost exactly the same.
What many Americans take for granted, and have a difficult time comprehending, our leader and foreign policy have disproportionate effect on the rest of the globe.
According to Politico; The United States still maintains nearly 800 military bases in more than 70 countries and territories abroad — from giant “Little Americas” to small radar facilities. American influence is literally everywhere.
Many Americans will never realize or understand why the rest of the world is so invested in our political process.
Why do they care about our president so much?
Well, we effect them disproportionately. Our military is on their doorstep. Our monetary policy affects their currency. Our sanctions influence everything from farming, manufacturing, energy production, even freedom of movement.
In essence our leadership, our President, our foreign policy dictates their way of life. Decisions made in Washington D.C can have dire implications for a population across the globe.
We shouldn’t dismiss why others care about our elections, but wonder why, in many cases we can be so indifferent.
If it happens in the name of American Democracy, it is happening in your name, in my name. And lately, Republicans and Democrats have had the same approach. Understanding the implications of American foreign policy is long over due.
Not knowing or caring who leads another country is one thing, at minimum, acknowledge how your leader, our leader, is affecting them.