Donald Trump means many things to many people. In this post Tehmina Mahmood offers her views on his rise to the White House.
The election of Donald Trump surprised the whole world as it went against the perception of American society where the characteristics of a president matter a lot. However, this time people ignored all the allegations levelled against Trump and it also gave rise to suspicions about the US electoral system and non-acceptance of a woman as a head of the country. ‘What went wrong’ was the question raised by the Clinton team itself. Many people came up with different narratives in this connection. However, an intriguing aspect of this debate was the role of FBI which was pinned down by the top aides of Hillary Clinton who blamed the Director of FBI James Comey for her defeat in the election. Just 11 days before the election, James Comey revealed that the FBI had discovered new emails related to the investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state and then his statement to absolve her, actually helped to bolster Trump’s turnout.
The American mastermind seems to have preferred Trump over Hillary for certain reasons. There has been a general perception worldwide that America has lost the control over the world affairs once it had possessed. Even, people do not hesitate to term it as a declining power. Some people believe that instead of resolving problems, the Americans have multiplied them and, therefore, lost the confidence even of its allies. Some examples that can be cited, in this regard, are the following hot spots where the US failed to change the course in its favour.
Russia appeared to be a hot spot, where US efforts to contain Russia over its annexation of Crimea, its influence in the southern Ukraine and its action in Syria, proved to be ineffective and as a last resort it was forced to open the channel of diplomacy and US Secretary of State John Kerry was seen visiting Russia time to time. Indeed, American mastermind came to face a dead end in settling the score with Russia in each case.
Another hot spot was North Korea, where the US, despite all its tactics, failed to prevent the country from acquiring the nuclear power and now is faced with a dead end. Hillary, during her campaign, pointed out that she would consider a nuclear deal reaching with North Korea like that of Iran. But that was not viable option as North Korea had gone far ahead than that of Iran.
Syria was also one of the hot spots where the US failure to take a timely and decisive action paved the way for Russia to take the control of Syria and now the US is faced with a dead end there. Americans know that they cannot come into direct confrontation with Russia and so far their support to the groups opposed to Syrian government has failed to bring the desired results. Some people now believe that it’s not the US that matter now in the Middle East – it’s Vladimir Putin.
Iran was another hot spot where Americans realized that they would not be able to afford a war, therefore, as a last resort they signed a nuclear deal with it. However, the hold of the hardliners over the government in Iran and their cooperation with Russia in the Middle East continues to be a hurdle in the way of normalization of relations between the two countries.
In the backdrop of the above mentioned scenario, one can easily mach the following statements of US-elect President Trump, made during his election campaign with regard to Russia, North Korea and Syria, how in each case Trump tried to provide a remedy where the US was faced with a dead end.
With regard to Russia, Trump praised Russian President Putin saying he was doing a great job in rebuilding his country and expressed his desire to work with him. (but of course he now wants an arms race). He said that how Hillary Clinton would go back to negotiate with Putin who she had made so evil. When Trump was reminded that Putin kills journalists, silences political opponents and invades countries, Trump still did not criticize him saying, ‘I think our country does plenty of killing, also.’ In return, Russia invited Trump’s adviser Carter Page to address the Russian School of Economics, where he agreed with Russian students’ view that America was not an ideal society in following liberal and democratic values. He also admitted that American policy with regard to inequality, corruption and regime change was not commendable. The result was that 90 per cent of the Russian people favoured Trump and opposed Hillary Clinton.
With respect to North Korea, Trump praised its leader Kim Jong-un and announced to hold direct talks with him. He also maintained that he would not get involved in the war between North and South Korea and also warned Seoul to withdraw his forces if it did not pay its defence share. This policy received a positive response from North Korea where Trump was termed as a wise and far-sighted presidential candidate. These developments were quite striking on both sides. The result was that people in North Korea urged American voters to elect Trump and not ‘dull’ Hillary.
On Syria, Trump warned that Hillary’s plan for Syria would lead to Third World War. He stated that fighting with Assad would mean fighting with Russia, so he would focus on defeating ISIS than persuading Assad to step down.
Faced with a wall, American mastermind might have considered Trump’s policy options as a fresh impetus to initiate meaningful dialogue with countries they have no option left and, therefore, decided to throw their weight behind him. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov once said that the Americans had taken the course of confrontation in an attempt to be the first among equals. However, this phase would pass, only it would take time for the US to become less aggressive. The Americans seem to have realized that and Trump’s foreign policy choices provide a basis to them, achieving a breakthrough in dealing with hot spots.
This is the time for the US to make a comeback as a civilized nation, respecting territorial integrity, respecting sovereign governments and respecting human rights which they have violated in many countries. Their insistence to replace all other system of governments with democracy, throughout the world, will weaken the democracy in their own country and may lead to disintegration of the US. As some people in California came up with the idea of its independence after the victory of Trump.
A post-election development again came as a surprise when Trump, in his talk with Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, praised him by calling him a terrific guy and gave him an assurance that he would play his role in resolving the long-standing problems facing the country. As Pakistan’s relations with the Obama administration have been in a state of turmoil over a number of issues including Afghanistan and war of terror, one can hope that the positive attitude of Trump towards Pakistan would help to remove the mistrust prevailing between the two countries and would lead to bringing peace in the region.
Tehmina Mahmood is Senior Research Officer at The Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.