To remain in good standing with the World Pundit League, the hard-working staff here at Spoiler Alerts has proffered a few of these takes. In particular:
We have a snapshot answer to that question, courtesy of the latest snap poll from William and Mary’s Teaching, Research & International Policy (TRIP) Project of more than 900 U.S.-based international relations professors. The TRIP folks published their top-line results in Foreign Policy on Friday.
All of their results are worth perusing, but a few stand out. When asked to rate the nation’s role in coordinating the international response to the coronavirus pandemic, only 3.2 percent of the respondents said that the United States has been very or somewhat effective. More than 80 percent of respondents said the United States has not been effective at all. There was also a strong consensus that these failures would cause foreign publics to view the United States as less charitable and less powerful in the future.
The folks at TRIP were kind enough to let me design three questions to ask in their snap poll. The question that produced the least surprising results: “Five years from now, will barriers to international economic exchange be higher or lower than they are today?” In response, 41.7 percent of those surveyed said “higher,” 31.6 percent said “about the same” and 14.2 percent said “lower.” Given all the talk about nationalizing supply chains and decoupling from China, let me just say that I want whatever that 14.2 percent is smoking.
My second question asked respondents to rate the effectiveness of international cooperation in response to a bevy of 21st-century global challenges, including the coronavirus, the 2008 financial crisis and climate change. The response suggests that I am not the only scholar who believed the system worked in 2008, but not in 2020. A full 76.3 percent of respondents described global cooperation in 2008 as very or somewhat effective. Only 34.6 percent of scholars felt the same way about the global response to the coronavirus.
Alas, that result is only the second-most depressing response to that particular survey question. The most depressing response was that scholars are even more bearish on the global response to climate change. Just 21.1 percent of respondents characterized international cooperation on greenhouse gases to be very or somewhat effective.
The final question I asked was whether the coronavirus pandemic would fundamentally alter the distribution of power in world politics. My hunch remains that the answer is no, and as it turns out, that is the majority hunch in my discipline, too. A full 54 percent of scholars said the distribution of power would not fundamentally change. However, 31.7 percent of respondents thought it would change. My discipline has a majority view, but it is far from the consensus view.
That said, the overall scholarly consensus on the coronavirus′s effects is rather strong. The United States is not leading on this crisis, at a cost to the nation’s reputation. Cooperation on the pandemic has been worse than what it was in 2008 — and yet, there is a bigger problem on the horizon where cooperation is even more dysfunctional. The world will get more protectionist. But in the end, the distribution of power is not likely to change much.
If this sounds like a very jaded and pessimistic view of the world, welcome to the land of international relations professors. In the best of times, we are not an optimistic bunch. And these are not the best of times.
[Editor’s note: the original version of this column misidentified the number of international relations professors who responded to the survey.]