The US: The rise of Donald Trump
Experts have long been warning that the world has stumbled into a new era of uncertainty, insecurity and unreliability caused by unrelenting acts of terrorism across the globe, the rise of extremist right wing parties in Europe and growing disillusionment with globalization. Nothing better illustrates the confused state of the world today than Donald Trump, the billionaire turned politician, becoming the 45th president of the United States. His path to the White House was chaotic and tortuous, with his outrageous pre-election statements causing resentment and anger both in the United States and beyond. It was hoped that during the two-month transition period, the president-elect would mellow down. But it was a hope built on sand. In his inaugural address in which he revisited many of the themes of the campaign speeches, Donald Trump sounded rancorous and aggressive and adopted a confrontationist stance on most crucial issues of the day.
He presented a bleak vision of America which he said was ravaged by rusted-out factories, crime, gangs and drugs and indirectly blamed his predecessors in the White House for policies that helped Washington at the expense of struggling families. In this context, he pledged an end to the“American carnage” of social and economic woes and make America great again.
In a truculent tone, he placed the battle against “radical Islamic terrorism” at the heart of his foreign policy, vowing to work with allies to destroy the militant threat: “We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones and unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth.” While pledging to forge warmer ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump has hinted to cut funding for NATO which will deprive European nations of the traditional US security umbrella they have enjoyed since World War II. In the Middle East, Trump would move the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in total disregard of Arab and international concerns.
In all probability, Trump’s America will become a hard place for its Muslim population. Trump has proposed the possibility of a ban on Muslims entering the United States, as well as increased vetting of Muslim Americans that would include “ideology tests”. Another issue of concern for Muslim Americans is the possibility of a database or registry that would track Muslims.
It is relevant to add here that Trump’s campaign contributed to a sharp rise in hate crimes against Muslim Americans. According to the FBI, hate crimes had risen about 6% over 2015, with the greatest surge being against Muslim America. The New York Times recently reported: “There were 257 reports of assaults, attacks on mosques and other hate crimes against Muslims last year, a jump of about 67 percent over 2014. It was the highest total since 2001, when more than 480 attacks occurred in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks.” In the days following the election, there was a further rise in hate crimes. There is no guarantee that the human rights of Muslim Americans and members of other minority group will be adequately protected in Donald Trump’s America. While it remains to be seen what policies Trump will actually implement during his presidency, it is evident that immigrants of all hues face an uncertain future. The apprehensions in this regard are strengthened by the identity of the people he has nominated for Cabinet positions. Almost all of them are ultra conservatives, racist and anti-immigrant.
The rise of Donald Trump also raises a host of questions for the internal and external policies of the United States. Trump campaigned on a pledge to take the country on a more isolationist, protectionist path and has vowed to impose a 35% tariff on goods on imports from US companies that went abroad. For the last 70 years, the US has been a global leader based on its inclusive policies and rights-based, liberal democratic values. That may change now that an ethno-nationalism takes hold in the US and the slogan of “America first” comes into full play. Trump’s presidency is fraught with unforeseen consequences for the global structure of peace raised so labouriously in the post-war world. On many occasions, Trump has talked loosely about nuclear proliferation and starting a trade war with China. With Europe, too, America is likely to pitch for a difficult equation. Most serious of all, if the war on terror becomes the defining feature of America’s foreign policy, the world should get ready for a new round of endless localized wars across different continents.
Russia is fast becoming a regional power, expanding its influence both in Eastern and Western Europe. Europe is weighed down by its never-ending economic woes. On the other side, China is a rising power. In this scenario, America withdrawing into its shell under Trump’s new- fangled nationalist vision threatens to throw the world into a new vortex of conflict and confusion.