The United States of America has just finished voting for their next president. As usual the electorate considered domestic policies as being more important than foreign affairs. The rest of the world can only imagine why the Americans voted the way they did but we can never fully understand- just like we never fully understand how it is justifiable to allow students and teachers to carry guns to classrooms, how can a political leader become popular if he/she wants to take away social security measures and how giving paid maternity leaves is antithetical to capitalism.
But we cannot just ignore the recent Presidential elections in the US for the simple reason that it has the biggest economy (nominal GDP) and the strongest military in the world which automatically makes it the most influential country on earth. So, I have made a list here on the biggest pros and cons that the rest of the world will have to deal with during Donald Trump’s presidency. These points are based on some of Trump’s most vociferous claims during the election campaign. Finally if someone thinks that Trump just said those things to win an election- I will like to remind you that it was the exact same argument that the proponents of appeasement gave when asked about Hitler, despite him writing in details what he intends to do once he is elected in his autobiography/manifesto- “Mein Kampf”. My opinions about the relation between Trump and Nazis are complicated and can be read here: https://monishborah.wordpress.com/2015/12/10/trump-butterflies-and-nazis/
So, here we go- since most of the people in the world have negative opinion about Trump lets start with the cons-
- Reject Paris Climate Change Agreement:
DJ Trump openly denies climate change. He is also gifted with a Republican dominated Congress and Senate where sentiments similar to that of Trump regarding climate change runs rampant. So, there is now close to 0% chance that the provisions of COP21 Paris will be adopted by the US. Also if the US, the largest economy in the world does not accept the Paris Agreement why should China and India put their heads into the guillotine voluntarily and reduce their economic growth rates.
Time for some irony- it is due to the same industrial jobs that the Republicans accuse China of stealing from the US, that the Americans do not face the full brunt of the impacts of climate change. Trump hopes to bring back these jobs to the US- I hope he does, if for nothing then just to realise and see first hand what climate change and green house gases does to the environment.
But economically speaking this is a false hope. Only way to snatch away those jobs from China and other developing countries is that if Trump completely scarps away provisions of minimum wages and substantially devalues the US Dollar by engaging in a currency war with China. Even then, would corporations really change their industrial/production bases from the rapidly growing large economies in the East to the stagnant economies in the West? I don’t think so.
2. Hostilities with Iran:
Through out the election campaign Trump has been very hostile to the Iran Nuclear Deal concluded by the Obama administration and has said repeatedly that he would scrap it once he becomes president.
But, for all intents and purposes, the Nuclear deal is holding quite well till now, unlike some other treaties concluded by previous US administrations. Even Israel which has an existential treat from a nuclear Iran has stopped complaining about the treaty now. This is because everyone knows time travel has not been invented yet. So, the technology currently available to the people of the world does not allow us to make nuclear weapons with the amount of enrichment that Iran is allowed under the said Treaty.
So, doing away with the Iran Nuclear Deal, taking aggressive actions against Iran which might lead to a military standoff between Iran and the US, are things whose consequences are being underestimated by the Republicans. Iran sees itself and many consider it- the guardian of Shia Islam. Iran is the perennial enemy of all the Sunni terrorist/insurgent groups most familiar to the American public like ISIS, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Al Nusra Front and the Haqqani Network. Will President Trump really like to be seen assisting some of USA’s most notorious enemies in their fight against Iran? I don’t think so.
3. Lax Attitude towards nuclear weapons-
Trump’s attitude towards nuclear weapons is a hybrid of a businessman’s instinct and a gun rights activist’s opinions. He has indicated in interviews that since the US has nuclear weapons it should use them to solve their foreign policy problems. He also seems to believe that US allies building nuclear weapons for “self-defense” is not a very problematic proposition.
The more a weapon is proliferated the higher the chances of its use. It is not a matter of opinion but of simple mathematics (probability).So, does one seriously believe that the answer to a nuclear North Korea is a nuclear Japan?
I can act to understand such an opinion when it comes from a gun rights lobbyist. But when we talk about the deadliest weapons in the world whose use could potentially destroy the entire planet – I cannot even feign an imitation of understanding.
- Better relations with Russia-
This I think is the biggest positive of a Trump presidency. Obama’s presidency and a possible Clinton presidency could have led to a complete freeze in relations between Russia and US. The understanding between Russia and US about respecting Russia’s sphere of influence that was reached at the end of the Cold War was completely undone during the presidency of Barack Obama under the influence of hawks like Hillary Clinton. As a result of which we saw aggressive actions by both Russia and NATO all over Eastern Europe and the disastrous attempts by Russia and the US to fight ISIS in Syria separately, with Russia becoming more concerned about helping Assad than fighting ISIS and NATO members like Turkey fighting US allies like the Kurds. I hope that this nonsensical situation ends as soon as possible.
2. Putting NATO on a Diet-
My current reading of the US political temperament is that hawks and war mongering neo-cons like Dick Cheney exists only in the Democratic Party now. The Republicans who now have possession of both the Congress and the Senate do not want to fight foreign wars at all unless absolutely necessary like against ISIS.
The Republican Party also demonstrate the quite understandable anger of the common American citizen against the other NATO members many of whose economies are in much better shape than the US’s but who are reducing their defense spending and military commitments and forcing US to keep NATO afloat.
Also countries belonging to NAM or the Non-aligned Movement (yes, this thing is still kicking and consists of most of the countries in the world) see the globe spanning military bases of NATO not only as a threat to their security and sovereignty but also as evidence of continued imperialism.
3. Stronger action against Terrorists-
The Indian government has been trying to pass a resolution in the UN Security Council for the last few years which will impose sanctions against any individual, organisation or country assisting or sponsoring any group involved in terrorist activities. Many NATO countries has opposed this including the US because these countries in someway or the other support groups either militarily or financially which engage in some form of terrorist activities.
But thankfully Donald Trump is a “clean break” from the past and represent the pure hatred towards terrorists the the American public seem to show, something that we Indians can associate with. Under such circumstances a Trump presidency could be expected to put its weight behind a resolution similar to the one mentioned above in the UN.
My father has never been to the US- but somehow of all the people I have met he usually has the most empathetic opinions about Americans. Maybe it is because of the mix of large number of books he read about the USA- which could be grouped as follows-low brow books about the American Wild West, high brow books from the depression era up to the 60s and popular bestsellers from the 70s and the 80s.
When I asked him about about Trump he said this- “Trump is a vyapari (merchant), despite his bluster he will not be keen to pick up fights with other countries like previous American presidents but would concentrate on the economy”.
So, I end this article the same way I began it- hoping that despite historical precedence the paper thin reasoning of the appeasers which gave the world few moments of respite before the madness of the Second World War might prove correct the second time around.