The latest embarrassments of Donald Trump remind us that, with the United States missing in action, it is now up to Canada and its European and Asian allies to preserve the Western alliance while they wait for America to come to its senses.
In his first overseas trip, the President has repeatedly affirmed the incompetence of his administration. A White House press release (a White House press release!) on Mr. Trump's visit to Israel said he aimed to "promote the possibility of lasting peach."
After Mr. Trump cancelled a planned appearance in Saudi Arabia and referred to "Islamic extremism" instead of "Islamist extremism" in a speech, an aide confessed that the President was "just an exhausted guy."
Most memorably, while standing beside a bemused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mr. Trump told reporters: "Just so you understand, I never mentioned the word or the name Israel" when he leaked classified information to the Russian foreign minister, thus inadvertently confirming reports that the information originally came from Israeli intelligence. All of this in the first three days of a nine-day tour.
But we did not need to watch Mr. Trump stumbling haplessly around the Middle East to know the threat he poses to the order of things. His first act as President was to withdraw the United States from its commitment to ratify the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade treaty among 12 Pacific nations that had been painstakingly negotiated over many years.
Mr. Trump has also undermined the North American free-trade agreement, the NATO alliance, Pacific alliances and the global effort to fight climate change.
The best that allies of the United States can hope for from Mr. Trump is that most of the damage he inflicts on the planet in the coming years will prove reversible.
In the meantime, other leaders must preserve the Western alliance, which has kept the planet prosperous and at peace (in the larger sense) for more than 70 years. It will not be easy. For decades, Canada and other Western nations have acted as free riders, protected by U.S. military might and the U.S. will to rule. That protection is now temporarily impaired. Others must step up.
This will include managing this week's NATO and G7 summits, Mr. Trump's first, with a view to minimizing any presidential gaffes and avoiding any public breach between the United States and its allies.
But there is more to be done. New Zealand and Japan are leading a push to have the remaining 11 members of the Trans Pacific Partnership ratify the accord, with the United States free to join in the future. Canada hosted discussions on it in Toronto earlier this month.
NATO, including the United States, is bolstering its eastern front with an increasingly belligerent Russia. Canada is leading a battle group in Latvia. Angela Merkel, now the most senior leader in the Western alliance, has promised to increase Germany's defence spending. And France elected the enthusiastically pro-European Emmanuel Macron as President. An unintended benefit of a Trump presidency could be that it pushes Europe to stand up for itself.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rightly placed considerable emphasis on cultivating relations with the Trump White House to contain any possible damage to the Canadian economy from renegotiating NAFTA. But he too is a leader in the Western alliance. He could commit Canada to ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership, increase defence spending and defence commitments to NATO and deepen this country's economic and security commitments to Japan and South Korea.
The United Nations cemetery in Busan includes the names of 376 Canadians who gave their lives in the Korean War. Perhaps Mr. Trudeau should visit that powerful and moving monument.
The United States remains, by far, the world's most influential country: militarily, economically, culturally. That power will not disappear simply because a rogue president occupies the White House. Just one example: Any harm Mr. Trump may do in the fight to contain global warming could be more than offset by U.S. advances in green energy and electric cars.
One way or another, Mr. Trump will eventually leave the White House. America will be back. Mr. Trudeau and other Western leaders must hold things together until it returns.