The flagship publication of the US Council on Foreign Relations, the Foreign Affairs magazine, ran the words “Present at the Destruction” on its cover. The issue itself covered many aspects of Trump’s leadership ever since he assumed office in January. His campaign trail will likely become the benchmark of how the “shock and awe” approach may prove beneficial for candidates looking to exploit the deep underlying insecurities and infallibilities of their voters – a textbook case of how catering to these mass fears and hopes can lead those willing to take that route down the annals of power.
Donald J. Trump is the g. It is now a commonplace belief and reality that Donald Trump, despite the surplus of economic resources at his disposal, is an anomaly with regards to his November triumph. This is true especially when we take into account the fact that his victory came against a political mammoth like Hillary Clinton. Clinton had been groomed for the past decade for presidency by the Democratic Party, and even the then US President Obama confessed that she was “more qualified for the Presidency than me or Bill or any other US President before me”. As far as the usual political tête-à-tête and the subsequent sauntering goes, the most qualified person, perhaps ever, to run for the office of the US President lost to a person who in the proverbial sense, picked up politics as a hobby.
This approach has been a common practice post-Cold War and entails an abrasive attitude towards Putin and Russia while also playing the rival in print and ally in practice act with the EU and China.
Hillary Clinton was expected by all to act as a continual agent for the established world order that was laid down by Frank D. Roosevelt. That world order being one which has remained dormant in its mutated, neoliberal form since Ronald Reagan and consists of the usual internationalist approach. This approach has been a common practice post-Cold War and entails an abrasive attitude towards Putin and Russia while also playing the rival in print and ally in practice act with the EU and China.
Donald Trump is the character who has completely flipped over that board of international realpolitik. In the very beginning of his presidency, he has not only distanced himself from NATO commitments but also made other NATO allies the subject of scathing criticism for supposedly not holding up their end of the bargain. Merkel of Germany who has traditionally been a staple ally of the US was not only denied a public handshake but was in that same meeting criticized for her supposedly negligent policies towards the Syrian immigrants and the escalation of terrorism in Europe because of her open-door policy. By comparison, his other most noticeable action which was withdrawing from the Paris Accords may have garnered lesser wonderment, but nevertheless marks a greater shock to the world order. The reason being that it was a major rallying cry in his campaign trail. It was a promise he had assured his voters he was going to keep, something he reiterated when meeting with the US Coalminers’ Association.
The authoritarian governments of Saudi Arabia, China, and Poland have traditionally been allies of the US but have never enjoyed relations warmer than offered to the EU. This is where the Trump presidency promises to distinguish itself the most, it does not want the old templates to be repeated.
In short, Donald Trump has displayed a complete disregard to what has become the “norm” in politics. No longer will the traditional bonds enjoy the same favourability, and no longer will the traditional course of actions be followed. No longer are the foes of yesterday, the foes of today. All of this was not a mouthpiece he delivered to the media. This has been on display in his diplomatic encounters with leaders from Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, and Poland. The authoritarian governments of Saudi Arabia, China, and Poland have traditionally been allies of the US but have never enjoyed relations warmer than offered to the EU. This is where the Trump presidency promises to distinguish itself the most, it does not want the old templates to be repeated. Trump has already indicated that the US no longer feels that it needs to act as the world’s policeman, nor does it feel that the financial responsibility is fair to the US taxpayer. It was the rhetoric of policies that would bring back jobs to the Americans that swayed the public vote in his favour. That and his commitment to mending bridges with Russia, which he believes has for some unknown reason been vilified.
With this being apparent that the present US leadership no longer views it necessary to be at the forefront of the world order, the position waits to be filled. Who might fulfil it became ostensible at the latest G20 Summit where Putin and Merkel were seen frequently in intense discussion. This was not an isolated incident. The EU is not as strong as it was a decade ago; economic fragility, rise in terrorism, and discord within since the Brexit has led to Merkel pursuing softer ties with Russia. This pursuance is driven more by need than by goodwill. It is traditional realpolitik at work where countries are considering mutually beneficial deals for themselves and by extension for the region. China has adopted a similar approach with President Xi Jinping assuring global leaders at the World Economic Forum that someone must always be at the forefront and should the need arise, China would not back down.
The EU is not as strong as it was a decade ago; economic fragility, rise in terrorism, and discord within since the Brexit has led to Merkel pursuing softer ties with Russia.
Russia, China, Germany, and the rest of the EU seem busy in laying the groundworks for a future where the extent of US domination is considerably if not completely diminished. They are preparing for a time when a multipolar world would emerge with regional players exerting influence within their own spheres. Even at the recent G20 Summit, Trump was visibly the outsider, occasionally socializing with leaders but as his departure on the second day indicated, the US no longer views itself as the irreplaceable spearhead of the free world. While a new alliance is being built globally, the US seems content in focusing on its domestic issues and investing in its own self rather than consolidating its power overseas. To expand on the Foreign Affairs magazine’s headline, “Present at the Destruction” could easily have continued “…of the US hegemony on the world”.