The world’s reaction to the assault on the Capitol building by pro-Trump mobs ranged from delight to horror, depending on their views of America. Those who see the U.S. as an enemy, like Iran and China, found a measure of schadenfreude in the incident after the United States had spent decades trashing their government’s repression.
But those nations that celebrated freedom were shocked and appalled at the carnage in the Capitol. Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Great Britain called it “disgraceful.”
America’s longtime allies were aghast at the scene. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has seen as ideological cousin of America’s rightwing president, urged an end to the “disgraceful scenes in US Congress”.
“The United States stands for democracy around the world and it is now vital that there should be a peaceful and orderly transfer of power,” he wrote on Twitter.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also condemned what he described as “horrendous scenes” depicting an attack on a longtime ally’s most crucial institutions. “These are not ‘protestors’ – this a direct attack on democracy and legislators carrying out the will of the American people,” he wrote on Twitter.
Left-wing leaders seemed more willing to place the blame for the mob’s actions at the feet of Donald Trump.
But other US allies were more willing to call out Mr Trump for his role in promoting the rioters. “These images made me angry and sad,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said during a meeting with members of her political party. “A ground rule of democracy is that after elections there are winners and losers. I regret very much that President Trump has not acknowledged his defeat since November and also again not yesterday. Doubts about the election outcome were stirred and created the atmosphere that made the events of last night possible.”
“What is happening is wrong. Democracy — the right of people to exercise a vote, have their voice heard and then have that decision upheld peacefully — should never be undone by a mob,” echoed New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.
The reaction of the French government was a little different. The French have always had an affinity for America and President Emmanuel Macron demonstrated his solidarity with American democracy. In a recorded statement, Emmanuel Macron said “what happened today in Washington, D.C., is not America, definitely.”
“We believe in the strength of American democracy,” he added.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) January 7, 2021
The French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, also referred to an “attack against democracy.”
“The violent acts against American institutions are a grave attack against democracy,” wrote Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
“The American people’s will and vote must be respected,” he added.
As you might expect, the response from the government of Iran was, shall we say, a little more colorful?
Iran, another country that faces routine U.S. criticism over violations of human rights and democratic values, jumped on the insurrection as proof of American hypocrisy.
The semiofficial Fars news agency called the United States a “fragmented democracy,” while Iran’s pro-government Twitter accounts gloated, circulating photos of the mobs with hashtags that included #DownfalloftheUS.
China, where U.S. condemnation of their human rights record has stung the Communist leadership, was positively gleeful.
Communist-ruled China has long accused the U.S. of hypocrisy in its efforts to promote democracy and advocate for human rights overseas.
The Communist Youth League ran a photo montage of the violence at the Capitol on its Twitter-like Weibo microblog with the caption: “On the sixth, the U.S. Congress, a most beautiful site to behold.” That appeared to mock House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her June 2019 comments in praise of sometimes violent antigovernment protests in Hong Kong.
There is no doubt that the Capitol assault has damaged American standing in the world among both friend and foe. While our friends despair and our enemies gloat, Americans can only watch to see what the new president might do to try and restore what has been lost.