From the day one in office to his recent rhetorical election campaigns, President Tr-ump’s whimsical exploits have sent shockwaves not only in the US’ internal socio-political environment but also in the structure and dynamics of international geopolitical calculus. Although the decline of American hegemony as the sole superpower and shift from a unipolar world order to visible multipolarity had begun as early as the fin-ancial crisis of 2008, Tru-mp seems to be self-des-tructive architect who has sealed the fate for the US.
The President took up the reins of power by appealing to nationalist sentiments of American patriots with the pledge of ‘making American great again’. However, his flawed understanding of the US’ domestic problems as an offshoot of its ostentatious foreign policy and external engagements, and his instinct to see every policy in terms of commercial dividends have proved to be US’ undoing.
When he assumed the presidential office, he broke with post-cold war foreign policy of his predecessors characterized by a subtle balance between ‘realism’ and ‘liberalism’. Thus began an era of ‘Trumpism’ guided majorly by the narrow nationalist tendencies and personal vested interests. Trump began his rule by banning migrants from a few Muslim states from entering the US, which betrayed his xenophobic eccentricities.
To please his evangelical voter base, the maverick president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of the Israel, earning the wrath of Muslim world. As if that was not enough to hurt the US’ image as an unbiased arbiter in international affairs, he, through his son-in-law Jared Kushner, rolled out his controversial ‘Deal of the Century’ that blatantly trampled on the UN resolution promising a ‘two state solution’ to the Palestine issue. Moreover, he has given green signal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the latter’s plan to annex West Bank and is trying to help Zionist state normalize its relations with Arab sheikdoms and other Muslim states. Far from establishing peace in the region, these ill-advised moves have further intensified the conflict and discontent in the Middle-East.
President Trump’s policy towards China has been far from ideal too. Despite all fury and ferocity at alleged Chinese capture of US markets and its citizens’ employment opportunities, the flawed Sino-US trade deal has not been that fruitful for the US. The country, the experts say, might have convinced China to buy some more US products, but the structural flaws in the bilateral trade relations between the world’s two biggest economies remain unaddressed. Paradoxically, inflation in the US has risen, and export-oriented jobs have been lost. Trump administration’s little regard for human rights and democratic safeguards has manifested itself in its inconsistent criticism of Chinese aggressive policies in Hongkong, Taiwan, Xinjiang and South China sea. The laxity on the part of US, many political analysts believe, has emboldened the communist state to press ahead with its expansionist designs.
Similarly, Trump’s irrational impulsiveness to withdraw almost all the troops from the war-torn Afghanistan before US presidential elections might prove devastating for the regional peace. Troop withdrawal might generate fascinating economic optics and may even boost the prospects of his winning another term in the office, but all this would come at a heavy cost as the intra-Afghan talks continue to be in stalemate. Now is a watershed moment in US’ longest war; however, Trump lacks the patience to see through its logical conclusion. Trump’s penchant for disentangling US troops from what he calls unnecessary military engagements across the world is a gross miscalculation and is against US sustained national interests. Though troop extrication from regions like Afghanistan might be long overdue, yet clamoring for dismantling US military presence in South Korea, Japan and Germany overlooks the role they play in maintaining global peace. Aside from that, such wrong-headed policies would undermine US global strategic clout and would abdicate more military space in favor of China and Russia. US’ decision to suspend vital bilateral military exercises with South Korea was also a result of such narrow, economic-centric approach of the White House incumbent.
Trump has earned the rare notoriety for turning friends into foes. He has the brashness to ditch his longtime allies once the purpose of ‘alliance of convenience’ has ceased to exist or when he thinks it no longer serves US economic interests. Riding on the wave of national chauvinism, Trump feels no regret for having strained deep-rooted, historic relations with its NATO allies. Viewing everything from the economic lenses, he took alliance members to task for failing to contribute 2 pc of their GDPs to the collective security apparatus. He went on to impose specific economic sanctions to rationalize trade imbalances with its western allies. These widening fissures in Western bloc owing mainly to Trump’s eccentricities has helped Chinese geo-economic and geo-strategic interests.
In a similar vein, Trump withdrew from Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in 2017, which was the centerpiece of President Obama’s ‘pivot to Asia’ strategy and was set to become the world’s largest free trade deal, covering 40 percent of the global economy.
This could have served as an effective counterweight to growing Chinese geo-economic influence in the greater Indo-Pacific region. Unsurprisingly, Trump failed to see that. Snap withdrawal of US forces from Syria and resultant ditching of US-aligned Kurdish militia leaving them at the mercy of Turkish military assault serves as a chilling reminder as to how little regard Trump pays to his international commitments.
Under President Donald Trump, the US foreign policy has shifted from liberal multilateralism to nationalist unilateralism. Since assuming office, Trump has pulled out of many international accords and has withdrawn its support from several international organizations that once enjoyed the full backing of his predecessors. Paris Climate Accords, INF, WHO, UNESCO, UNHCR are but a few of the multilateral frameworks victimized by Trump’s self-serving policies. Additionally, Trump’s lack of foresight has severely undermined the Nuclear non-proliferation regime of the world. Despite much optimism generated by Trump-Kim Summitry, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula remains a distant dream owing mainly to Trump’s high-handedness and nationalist hubris.
Likewise, scrapping of much-celebrated JCPOA, a hard-earned nuclear deal capping Iran’s nuclear ambitions, has resulted in renewed uranium enrichment by the Islamic Republic. Instead of curbing Iran’s missile program and halting its support to proxy militias in the region, the so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign has further steeled the resolve of its leadership. Besides sparking an upsurge in violence in gulf region, Trump’s policies vis-à-vis Iran have isolated his own country in the international comity of states, as evidenced by its recent failed attempt in the Security Council at renewing arms embargo on the Shia-dominated Muslim state.
To add insult to the injury, ill-advised policies have undermined the interests of US’ regional ally India, as the letter got ‘kicked out’ of Chabahar railway project. This hardline approach has pushed Iran further in Chinese lap, prompting the two countries to sign whooping $400bn deal covering diverse areas of mutual interest.
Adding to the long list of negatives of Trumpian era are the ever-worsening domestic issues which the deviant President has dealt with equally criminal dereliction and carelessness. His poor handling of Covid-19 pandemic and the recent anti-racism protests launched against the gruesome murder of George Floyd have severely dented the chances of his reelection. All the recent polls and surveys suggest that odds are not in his favor. If against all odds, the White House incumbent manages to clinch another stint in office, he will do to US and the world what a proverbial bull does in a china shop. That would certainly be the gateway to a ‘Hobbesian World’, characterized by struggle of all against all. Therefore, future of world hinges on which way the wind blows in November. The author is a freelance contributor based in Lahore with a special interest in geopolitics.