The worries driving negative global attitudes toward the United States are different now than they were during Bush’s presidency. When anti-Americanism reached its high point during the Bush administration, the United States was seen as an unchecked superpower, unilaterally pursuing its interests, and unconstrained by the international norms and institutions it had played the lead role in constructing. In the Trump era, by contrast, critics are less concerned about the exercise of unrivaled U.S. power than they are about a U.S. retreat—from both global leadership and liberal democracy.
Rattled by the lingering effects of the 2007-08 financial crisis, exhausted by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and challenged by the “rise of the rest,” the United States is now widely seen as a fading former hegemon, disinterested in global challenges and in danger of being eclipsed by China. In an era of anxiety about the creaking liberal world order, much of the rest of the world wants American engagement and leadership—but sees the United States turning inward instead.
Gone are the days when critics assailed the United States for trying to be the world’s policeman. Now they worry about a disengaged superpower thinking only of “America first.”