Tuesday, 31 January 2017

America's Unseemly Retreat

That sound you’re hearing is one Americans don’t hear very often. It’s the sound of a panicked full scale retreat. Fearful of the wide world, convinced of his own narrow prejudices, disdainful of anything like facts Trump has chosen to pull up the drawbridge and cower behind walls rather than continue 70 years of strong American global presence. Far from being a beacon for the rest of the world, America under Trump is turning into a stagnant pond. The Statue of Liberty must be blushing.

So much for welcoming the poor and meek
Since World War II America has provided a blanket of economic and military stability for much of the world. Yes, there have been serious lapses like Vietnam or Iraq, but there are very few who can doubt the huge role that the United States has – up to now – played. Now Trump wants to change all that. According to him, the world is filled with deadbeats and cheats who have been getting a free ride under the American security umbrella and who have undermined the American economy with cheap imports.

American troops helping defend NATO ally Estonia. Just another deadbeat?
Does he have any idea that these years of bi-partisan American leadership were essentially an exercise in enlightened self-interest? Doubtful. Absent from his fact-free rants is any serious analysis of who or what will fill the vacuum created by the American withdrawal. What malignant forces will this retreat let loose? Not for him any serious analysis of trade. Does he even understand or care that American companies are the undisputed winners – not losers -- in globalization? Does he even understand that the real profit for a company like Apple is in the design and engineering done in California, not the manufacturing done in China? Why should American companies be forced to retain low profit, low value-added plants in the United States? There is nothing Trump can do to change the economic realities of the modern world.

But these are mere details, and we all know Trump has no time for details. I am not even sure that he realizes just how much he mimics the isolationist, anti-Semitic rants of the earlier ‘American Firsters’ led by Father Charles Edward Coughlin in the 1930s. Coughlin’s radio broadcasts were hugely popular as he excoriated Jews and praised Hitler and Mussolini in the run-up to World War II. In theory that war taught Americans the harsh consequences of isolationism. But obviously, Trump never bothered absorbing that lesson. Substitute Moslems for Jews and you have Trump of 2017.

Now the White House hyperventilates in the presence of foreigners in general and goes weak in the knees at the mere sight of Moslems. What’s worse, Trump and his acolytes simply don’t care. As he told TheWall Street Journal when asked if the U.S. should encourage political stability and economic growth in Mexico he replied, “I don’t care about Mexico. Honestly, I really don’t care about Mexico.”  If this is how he regards America’s southern neighbour with a population of almost 130 million and with close economic and political ties to the U.S. just think how he regards America’s role in the larger world.

Trump’s minions proudly proclaim his immigrant policy a ‘great success’. The only success of this mindless policy is to give groups like ISIS unparalleled free recruitment advertising. ‘See, I told you they hate you. Join up now and fight back!’ The problems American forces face in the Middle East have just been multiplied several times. So much for countries like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the Gulf states, or even Egypt. Very tough for them to show much support for America under these conditions.

They just got a powerful new recruiting tool -- for free
Even in today’s multi-polar world the leadership role of the United States as the strongest economic and military power is undeniable. I remember a conversation with a senior Jordanian official not long ago when someone at the dinner table made a mild joke about America. The official scowled, turned to me and said “America is not something we joke about. It’s too important.”

            Trump’s arrogant disdain for international affairs and America’s role in the world may play well in certain parts of the country. But it could backfire badly with Republicans in Congress who are becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the antics of the Republican president. Even the arch-conservative Charles Krauthammer is apalled at what he calls 'Trump's foreign policy revolution.' A friend of mine put it very well when he said that Trump is a like a spoiled 7-year-old brat who has been given an Abrams tank for Christmas and is proceeding to destroy the neighbourhood. Trump, who mocks the traditional Republican party, may try to circumvent Congress as much as he can and substitute his famous Tweets for policy. His ego is such that he could even break with the traditional Republican party and form a separate entity in his own image.

            Those cheering Trump’s latest moves against immigrants should remember a poem by German Pastor Martin Niemöller about the Nazi horrors of World War II.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out— 
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

1 comment:

amalia melis said...

i only now got to read your blog. i just got back from New York where i was born and raised and felt the tension on every level of conversation regarding the new administration. the country is changing right before our eyes. Most of us still seem to be in shock. I found this article an eye opener, it might interest you too. here is the link: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/feb/26/robert-mercer-breitbart-war-on-media-steve-bannon-donald-trump-nigel-farage?CMP=share_btn_fb

Trump is not as haphazard as he seems. There is a great "machinery" behind him. His national audience however is not aware of how much is in the making-they are in a trance, the rest of us are in a nightmare. A. M.