By Iqbal Khan
American policies have always been a hallmark of self-serving contingencies; however, this mosaic was marketed in the name of better global standards and wellbeing of the World at large. With President Donald Trump in driving seat, the US is chanting “America First rants”. Like a passenger stripped of all the cash, ticket, and belongings while travelling, the US wants to quickly make up for the short fall that has come forth as a result of protracted overreach since post-Cold War era. The first step America is taking in this direction is to embrace the Cold War strategy once again and that too in a clumsy way.
The US National Security Strategy 2017 is full of paradoxes; it revolves around three irreconcilable cardinal points: “America First” shall be the underwriter of the US national security strategy; America shall compete against China and Russia; and, Climate change is no longer a priority. Strategy explicitly designates China and Russia as top national security threats, based on presumption that the two countries “challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” Policy has also hurled unsubstantiated allegations towards Pakistan. Pakistan has rejected these unfounded accusations that belie facts on ground and trivialize Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism and its unmatched sacrifices. Document has also attracted strong rebuttals from China and Russia.
The NSS is supposed to map out a strategy, but over time, it has degenerated into a rhetorical exercise, pigeonholed by America’s lofty ambitions and misplaced urgencies. Rather than forcing the US government to engage in serious strategic planning, it has become an interesting case study in not doing so. NSS was envisioned to review the United States’ “worldwide interests, goals, and objectives”; to “lay out “proposed short-term and long-term uses of the political, economic, military, and other elements of the national power”; and “to assess the capabilities required to enact the designated strategy”. It achieves none of these objectives and has since then, become increasingly detached from genuineness.
Presumptions aired by the NSS 2017, about China and Russia, are based on America’s ill-perceived assumption that both are trying to extend their power globally, citing China’s island building in the South China Sea and Russian annexation of Ukraine in 2014. Interestingly, earlier Trump had emphasized cooperation and not competition, both with China and Russia. Document has, understandably, skipped reference to Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, even though matter is under scrutiny and may trigger President Trump’s impeachment, just short of the next US elections in 2020.
Trump’s impressions about China have been fluctuating over the years. China is a “rival in its ambition to dominate Asia,” he wrote in his 2000 book “The America We Deserve”. It wants to “beat us and own our country,” he tweeted in 2011. However, when Trump visited China last month he was projecting hyped optimism about the possibility of closer ties between the two. And for Russia, Trump continues to praise President Vladimir Putin and believes a better relationship with him will lead to World peace. This dichotomy indicates that this strategy is not reflective of all of Trump’s aspiration— may be Pentagon has prevailed. Will Trump start to follow the path laid out by his own national security team is hard to believe. Moreover, this NSS document is unlikely to influence the Trump administration’s foreign policy in any meaningful way.
The document also names North Korea and Daesh as global threats. It reiterates the administration’s position that North Korea can’t have a nuclear weapon that can reach the United States on a missile—rest of the World can go to hell; and it also says the US will defeat Daesh wherever its members are, around the globe. Hence, the US attempts to acquire the right to unilaterally intervene anywhere in the World, that too militarily, on the pretext of presence of Daesh elements there.
NSS also includes Trump’s flagship stupidities like: the border wall; stricter immigration laws to protect the US from so called terrorists coming from six Muslim countries; need for reworking North America Free Trade Agreement, the free-trade deal between the US, Canada and Mexico, in order to retrieve the jobs back to America etc.
Pakistan’s name calling with regard to terrorism is another obsession of Trump, notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan has long been at the forefront in the fight against regional and global terrorism. It is because of Pakistan’s cooperation with the international community that the Al- Qaeda core was decimated from the region. NSS 2017 belies facts on ground and trivializes Pakistan’s efforts for fighting terrorism.
A malicious campaign is under-way to undo Pakistan’s achievements in the war against terrorism. The US continues to repeat its “do more” mantra and has called Pakistan an epicenter of terrorism and the one exporting terrorism to other countries. The US has also said that all future aid is conditional to Pakistan’s performance in eliminating terrorist hideouts. Surprisingly, the strategy does not talk about terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan.
China and Russia have criticized the United States for its new national security strategy that labels both countries as “competitors” challenging American interests. China has commented that the new strategy has demonstrated a “Cold War mentality”. “We urge the US side to stop deliberately distorting China’s strategic intentions and abandon such outdated concepts as the Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game – otherwise it will only end up harming itself as well as others,” said Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry. “We hope that the United States can correspond with the trend of the times and the will of the people, put the world and China-US relations in perspective, honour the relevant commitments, and join hands with China to uphold the sound and steady growth of China-US relations,” she added.
Russia has also criticized of Trump’s new strategy. “A quick read of the parts of the strategy that mention our country … [shows] an imperialist character,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. Peskov said Russia also does not see itself as a threat to US interests. The new US security strategy shows “an unwillingness to give up the idea of a unipolar world – moreover, an insistent unwillingness, disregard for a multipolar world,” he said. “We cannot agree with an attitude that sees our country as a threat to the United States,” said Peskov.
Trump’s NSS mentions terrorists 58 times, and pledges to “defeat jihadist terrorists,” just as all previous NSS documents have done since 9/11. While drug-induced deaths this year, in the US, would be 20 times the loss of life due to 9/11; yet the NSS only mentions opioids once. Trump’s NSS assumes that America’s drug problems are exclusively based upon the supply, rather than the insatiable demand from Americans themselves. And leading grower of opium is a country under American occupation—Afghanistan.
Trump has again claimed that European allies were “delinquent” in paying for security “while we guarantee their safety and are willing to fight wars for them.” National Security Strategy document also breaks with allies on the threat of climate change, avoiding the term altogether and instead calling for “energy dominance.” “America’s central position in the global energy system as a leading producer, consumer, and innovator — ensures that markets are free and US infrastructure is resilient and secure,” it says.
A reincarnation of “Ugly American” is in the process, riding the unbridled horse of wish list to serve American interests in the World. Indeed, Trump’s first National US Security Strategy is not a strategy at all. Document is an attempt to turn Trump’s “America First” instincts into a foreign policy doctrine, notwithstanding huge gaps between ambitious ends and feeble means.
*The writer is freelance writer and can be reached at Iqbal.firstname.lastname@example.org