Donald Trump’s election success is becoming more of a reality by the day, and he gets inaugurated this weekend. The internet is full of rightful speculation on what his term or terms will bring. There’s lots of fear and loathing. I also fear and loathe the man. His lifestyle, flashy trappings, arrogance and extreme wealth have long reflected all that’s crass about big business and its excesses, particularly in America. But is Trump such a radical, rogue, and dangerous new President as many of us worry, or is the new President just like every other President, with a wild card style, but in fact, just a modified, status quo?
Trump’s abrasive style and irreverence for established policies and protocols looks to be destabilising at global level. He has us thinking that he’ll be a real threat to the existing fragile international peace between nuclear capable superpowers. He’ll make a gaff, or a wrong statement, commit some diplomatic faux pas, and China or Russia will push the red button. There’s a madman (mad men, plural) in control of the planet’s future. Trump’s climate change views, taken to the extreme offer the same existentialist threat.
But as opposed to the antagonism between Russia and America under Barak Obama, Trump and Putin are comrades! Indeed, there are many similarities between them. Trump has a better existing relationship with Putin than the previous President, and that can only be ‘so far, so good’ for international affairs. Under Obama, tensions in the Crimea and Ukraine have resulted in massive militarisation, with Russian, and unprecedented ‘battle ready’ American and NATO troops concentrated in the region. If through their own brand of diplomatic relations, Putin and Trump manage to take that conflict off the boil, then all the better.
Meanwhile, the risk of increasing antagonism between America and China is a clear one, with or without Trump at the helm. Again, under Obama’s watch, there’s been growing hostile inflammatory behaviour from both countries protecting their perceived righteous self-interests in the South China Sea. America are down there buzzing the place with their military hardware, enforcing a self-appointed jurisdiction far from home. American geopolitical supremacy is at stake, but who doesn’t see the changing of that guard already? And America has to protect its, and our, trade routes after all.
Trump has quickly and flippantly but maybe even deliberately rejected / ignored / or been ignorant of established conventions by accepting a congratulatory call from Taiwan’s Premier upon his election. “Donald, didn’t you know about the ‘One China’ policy?” “For diplomatic purposes, Taiwan does not exist”. Who’s briefing this guy already? Is he even briefable? And who can blame him if he resists the inertia and agenda of the establishment anyway, in foreign affairs, diplomacy and the CIA? As Donald himself pointed out, America can sell $2billion military weapons to Taiwan but the new President can’t accept a phone call? So at very least he deserves credit for showing up the hypocrisies in the strange dark world of politics, diplomacy and arms sales.
In reality, neither Trump, nor Obama, or any President or single elected official really ‘runs’ the country. The industrial-military machine is bigger than any of them. And capitalism is too big to fail. There’s always an argument against unbridled power in the hands of one leader, especially when they’re seemingly arbitrary actors in charge of nuclear armed states. But we were at such risk of mutually assured destruction under Reagan (despite détente) as under Clinton, and Obama.
After all the farewell speeches and oratory, it’s like there’s a mood to nominate Barak Obama for Sainthood. Remembering of course that he won a Nobel peace prize, almost just for being elected. The world is less secure, and tens of millions of people have been effected by wars in the Middle East perpetrated by America after the last eight years of Obama’s reign. According to John Pilger, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. He says under Obama’s rule, the US has extended secret “special forces” operations to 138 countries, covering 70 per cent of the world’s population.
As a result of Obama’s own style of war-mongering, civilians in both the Eastern and western world feel less safe than ever before. There’s nothing like a drone strike that takes out your family to radicalise citizens. So now acts of ‘terror’ on domestic soil bring wars closer to home for the general public. Conflicts won’t just be contained to some ‘foreign field’, or dusty bazaar any more. ‘Terrorist’ dissidents wage their own form of warfare on new western battlefields that are public places too – nightclubs, concerts, train stations, streets, partly provoked by the destruction of their own homes and communities, houses and plazas by American and allied weaponry.
Politics is the ‘art of the possible’ but Obama’s agenda was also partly set for him, constrained and defined by established military interventions, foreign policy and investment. These commitments were bigger than any Presidential prerogative and overrode any more noble ambitions. But in turn, Obama has committed future Presidents such as Trump, to trillions more military expenses in the future.
Obama has been as culpable and corrupt as the Bushes (after all, as a friend of mine says, Obama was just a black Bush), and so on, as with Clinton, Reagan, …Nixon, Kennedy…. The engine of that good ship America is a corporate capitalist, military-industrial one, and all any President can do is try to steer it, but he won’t and can’t, sink the ship.
I’m sure history will come to judge Trump as a wild card, who made the world less safe, fair and sustainable than before. We have reason to be afraid. But that’s just a modified status quo, not a departure from the American norm.