By Sardar Aminullah Khan
Donald John Trump has been elected the 45th president of the United States in a “stunning culmination of an explosive, populist and polarizing campaign of the US history that was characterized by relentless aim at rebuilding US and its institutions and long-held ideals of American democracy” and failed all projections.
The major factors that appear to have worked towards Trumps’ unexpected success include anti-establishment stance, the women factor in US politics that can still hardly be ignored, racial discrimination or a tilt towards that, the economic factors (low growth), and expected/promised outrageous changes to break US conventional and orthodox system. In the process, he pushed hard against both the parties by attacking democratic establishment for rigging the system, bluntness over diplomacy, in-effectiveness of democracy to solve the problems of the people; the entire narrative became a sort of approach that voters must have embraced whole-heartedly and nobody could hold Trump from white house despite disorderly behaviour and Clinton being more qualified to be president than him.
Trump may have some “grandiose rhetoric” to accompany those ideas but without clearly deciphering the exact nature of his economic policies and treating it a complex task. Besides, he successfully capitalized the feelings of consistent disenfranchisement and neglect run sentiments for a majority of Americans and the thinking that “the economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful.” and that “traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people….” The seeds of the economic and cultural discontent were parlayed by Trump into his victory including emboldening of forces of hate. Moreover, foreign policy related reactions were also outrageous. And he won.
Things have started happening for most historic and dangerous transition. Still, it would be important to see as to what he would actually like to do in policy domain with the following baggage of his “spontaneous outflows of his powerful feelings” during campaign;
- He wants to tear up the deal constraining Iran’s nuclear ambitions that has direct impact on volatile Middle East.
- He wants to withdraw from the Paris climate change deal & wants to make it social expenditure when EU does not want that.
- He wants to finish some of America’s free trade agreements including NAFTA, TPP and others and instinctively leans towards protectionism in today’s economically integrated and dependent world which is not going to work in US interest due to involvement of large countries like Japan, Australia and Korea etc. with China emerging fast on global arena.
- He considers immigration an enormous source of economic vitality but expressed extreme views about Muslims and other communities very openly that may sponsor extremism.
- He wants to shift the focus in Syria towards fighting the Islamic State group, rather than seeking a political end to the civil war without President Bashar al-Assad and without getting down to real problem of multiple forces.
- He wants to engage with President Vladimir Putin of Russia – whom he describes as “a hero”, rather than confronting a leader that many in the West see as a re-emerging threat and weakening of NATO.
- He thinks that America’s allies in Europe and Asia must do more to pay for and provide for their own defense, even suggesting that the US might not come to the aid of a NATO country if it fails to pay its bills which is unbecoming of a super power(if No 1 status is claimed).
- He spoke of the “Americanism, not globalism from very beginning that seems difficult to be achieved in a global economic era with domestic policies considerably affecting the other economies and vice versa; and hence the foreign relations. He is known unknown in foreign policy and that that worries diplomats just as much in most of the countries and within USA that compromises US leadership.
- He considers foreign policy as transactional, a process of improvised ad-hoc deals rather than the projection of US values and interests with a famous slogan “America first”. The system may run him around in case the campaign rhetoric is forgotten by him. At least the post-win reactions are not so.
The western leaders, the other allies and countries with strategic importance think “No-one knows what he is going to do, that his focus will be on America’s domestic realms with no US known interventionist foreign policy, in the given conditions of capitalist system in the world, US economy and international economic environment in which American economy has just behind it the rising Chinese economic power that has considerable weight now and made the world Bipolar after end of the cold war on basis of its economic strength.
Trump is aware that as part of US grand strategy;
- The national interest and power starts at home with political and economic solvency;
- He has to rebalance means and ends and the nation’s needs for bringing its strategic commitments back into line with its interests, resources, and public will;
- He needs to work with other powers to draw a more inclusive and representative global order while trying to achieve the same.
In spite of all this, the American system has been exposed to a serious test after many years in the name of a change and extent thereof will certainly be interesting and different in a rather more complex world of today
Promised policy improvements in strategic and economic realms will be interesting to note. I would like to quote an excerpt from one of the US newspaper as follows;
“Americans were determined this year to send the politicians a message about the pain caused by a decades-long collapse of certainties about what America looks like, what constitutes a family and how we earn a living”.
Somehow, despite USA being a super power and Pakistan a poor country, there have emerged many things in common like ability of the candidate to contest election for top slot, exotic media, manhandling of classified information & FBIs inaction, appointments in Courts, in-effectiveness of democracy, economic inequality, leaving infrastructure to government at cost of private sector, distrust in economic policies, loose foreign policy overtures, breeding hatred, post-win protests and rigging campaign, action against tax heavens, amnesty to bring back capital to USA, treatment of strategic allies, social welfare, strengthening weak institutions, reviewing regional trade agreements, influencing central bank(FED) and establishment, border management with neighbors to save economy from smuggling and illegal immigrants through un-checked movement etc.
Therefore, I wish our political leaders also understand the state of affairs of a common man in Pakistan and make serious efforts to solve them in order to save the humiliation in 2018, like one faced by the Democratic Party in America. Any other adventures will hardly work and our voters may repudiate the status quo in Pakistan too. Republicans success under Trump is a wakeup call to get out of safe spaces, adaption of politically correct decision making & positive thinking for rising up to the occasion as charismatic leaders and availing the opportunity to truly serve the country by solving the economic problems; nothing less, nothing more will be workable.
The author is an ex-diplomat & a freelance columnist.