On Tuesday, Jan. 30, President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address. A tradition that started with Woodrow Wilson, the President uses this event to address members of Congress and the nation as a whole, laying out major accomplishments of the past year and proposing policies for the next.

President Trump’s speech focused heavily on domestic policy, which in some ways makes sense – delivering a speech to the American people about America in front of Congress. And there are many issues facing our nation internally that need to be dealt with – immigration, the economy, and infrastructure, to name a few.

On the other hand, with so much happening in the world, I was surprised to hear so little from President Trump about our allies and partnerships across the globe. It’s a big world out there, full of both opportunities and challenges. Major challenges not addressed by the President included climate change, cyber security and trade agreements. (To hear more about international trade during the Trump administration, you can listen to my colleague here at Fletcher, Professor Joel Trachtman, on Bloomberg radio).

I discussed many of aspects of the State of the Union on WBUR’s Radio Boston:

That said, just as he touted in his campaign, he also used this address to talk about infrastructure. As I wrote for Bloomberg View this week, President Trump called on Congress to allocate at least $1.5 trillion for “the infrastructure investment we need.” Much of this conversation relates to people’s most tangible perception of infrastructure: roads, rails and bridges. The media rightly give us increasingly frequent images of derailed train cars, collapsed trestles, and crumbling bridges, but in the 21st century, infrastructure is more than concrete and metal. Equally important is the digital infrastructure that underlies America’s economy and government. In an era when goods, services and ideas are increasingly transported via the internet, the strands of fiber, routers, servers, and seemingly endless lines of code that compose our digital highways and hubs are quickly becoming the backbone of U.S. infrastructure. It, too, is crumbling and needs our attention and investment.

If we are to begin closing the infrastructure gap, we will need interagency cooperation to provide an integrated set of requirements that reflect national digital needs. We’ll need congressional committees to stitch together bipartisan cooperation that recognizes the need for a national digital strategy, despite the obvious domestic political attractions of local construction, and we will need a White House that can demonstrate steady leadership that pushes lawmakers to pass appropriate legislation.

It will take a unique combination of political will, patience, education and creativity to tackle these challenges, all of which are necessary if the U.S. is to compete globally in the latter half of the 21st century.

Overall, this SOTU was a walk away from global leadership. I was in Australia for the address, and spoke with locals there to get their reactions to the speech and I can tell you, they’re disappointed. They’re frustrated. Most of all, they’re concerned that the U.S. walking away from this leadership position opens the doors for other, more malignant forces to step into the void.

One such force is North Korea, and that – for a Pacific nation like Australia – is cause for concern.  While it’s good the U.S. is putting pressure on the Kim regime, it cannot be done alone. A year ago, I would have put the chances of war on the Korean Peninsula at one percent. Now, I’d say we’re at about 10 percent. The difference today is that Kim Jong Un continues to behave recklessly while, on the other side, U.S. President Donald Trump is impulsive and prone to using dangerous rhetoric. As a result, the world is rightfully worried that we have two leaders set on a collision course that will impact much more than just their respective nations. You can read more of my thoughts on North Korea in The Japan News.

We need partnerships and allies to deal with the challenges that lie ahead, and President Trump’s threat to support nations who only support American interests is extremely dangerous and misses the point, illustrating this administration’s overall war on diplomacy. To hear more of my thoughts on the address, listen my the interview with WBUR’s Radio Boston.

With less diplomacy, we’ll need to rely more on our military instruments to solve crises and this will not bode well for either domestic or international audiences.

As always, thank you for reading.

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