The US is up for uneasy times
By Asif Haroon Raja
The sole super power under George W. Bush Junior duly assisted by his team of neocons declared the 21st century as the American century and for the realization of this ambition had designed a new world order (NWO). The NWO envisaged neo-colonizing the Middle East, capturing the world resources under the garb of global war on terror, and turning the world into a global village administered by the corporates under capitalist system. Destruction of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria coupled with globalization, free market economy and international trade provided opportunities to the security, property, construction and business contractors and arms/oil merchants to amass wealth. Drug business in Afghanistan was another big source of earning. It made the 1% already rich in the US dirty rich but kept the great majority deprived.
Moneymaking trends continued during Barack Obama’s two tenures despite the global economic meltdown in 2008. The economic recession hit hard the middle and lower working classes in USA because of high inflation, price spiral, joblessness, social insecurity, lack of health care and above all unchanged salaries/wages since 1996. Less than half of the White majority is part of middle class. 80% of households lack income to save money for rainy days and cannot afford to send their children to colleges/universities. 50% of workers make only $15 per hour.
Mounting social pressures gave rise to discontentment, disgruntlement and hatred among the have-nots (white majority of working and middle class) against the haves. They nostalgically recalled the good days of yesteryears when life was much more pristine, living was comfortable and America was seen with envy as a new world which everyone vied to visit. They craved for the return of the golden period. Besides blaming the political leaders and the elites, they held the immigrants, particularly the Mexicans, the Muslims and the Blacks responsible for stealing their jobs and working on paltry wages and for intruding in their culture. The feared that the immigrants were impacting their supremacy. They were fed up with the pro-elite system imposing structural penury upon them.
Donald John Trump (DT), one of the presidential candidates, tickled the raw nerve of the angry and frustrated disempowered by terming the establishment and media anti-people and the immigrants a threat to America’s economy and culture and a major cause of their pains. He motivated them to cast their vote for him for their own self-preservation. This message sank into their minds and they firmed up to set aside all his negatives as well as pristine values and cherished principles to maintain their hegemony.
On November 9, 2016, the Republican nominee DT stole the show and left his challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democrat, as well as the world in shock and gaping in utter disbelief. He won despite being unfit for this high office and losing the popular vote. The skewed electoral laws making the 578-person ‘Electoral College’ the match-winner, swept him to power. FBI Director James Comey dropped a bombshell on Clinton by writing a letter to the Congress 10 days before the D-Day that he was re-instating an investigation into whether Clinton mishandled classified information while using email server when she was Secretary of State from 2009-12 dug the nail in her coffin. Although he subsequently cleared her but the damage was done. Clinton rightly blamed him for his defeat.
The system chose DT despite his demonstrative character failings he exhibited during the year-long presidential campaign. He has no exposure of any public office and is blank in matters related to diplomacy, national security, foreign policy and state craft. He proved by his conduct that he is temperamentally irresponsible and erratic and has serious character failings, and yet he was crowned to lead the most powerful country of the world and that too in testing times when the world is going through dangerous times.
The supporters of Clinton, particularly in Atlanta, Austin, Texas, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, San Francisco, Seattle, Oakland, New York, Nevada, Chicago, Chicago, Los Angelis and Washington where the Democrats are strong have not reconciled to it and have come on the streets to hold noisy protests. Despite the unprecedented protests, DT will take over the charge as 45th President of USA on January 20, 2017. The Americans have preferred uncouth DT over polished and seasoned Clinton in the hope of changing the US political, foreign, economic and social policies. The Americans are drenched in the pool of fear and uncertainty. Islamists say DT is a curse of God upon America on account of its barbarism against the Muslims.
It will be worthwhile to look into the possible reasons which led to the surprise victory of DT when all opinion polls and assessments had predicted the victory of Clinton and she had won all three presidential debates against her opponent. Media hugely supported Clinton and gave bad press to trump. As against 229 Dailies and 131 weeklies, only 9 Dailies and 4 weeklies favored trump. Bookies had given him 1% chance to win. Social media however was by and large on the side of DT and promoted his boorish behavior. He won despite earning notoriety because of his racism, xenophobia, misogyny, sexism, sexual harassment and his derogatory remarks against the women. An interplay of following factors led to DT’s victory:-
1. Xenophobic populism is strongest among non-university educated, White male working class. They blame the immigrants for their joblessness and the education system which denied them bachelor degree, essential to get a white-collar job. Their employment rate fell from 76% in 1990 to 68% in 2013. They feel left out from the gains of globalization.
2. DT shrewdly exploited the widespread discontentment of the working class of White majority, their fear of bleak future of their kids, terrorism, dilution of culture and loss of identity and supremacy. He lessened their fears and gingered up their hopes by promising them to fulfill all their dreams.
3. DT pandered to the white majority by demonizing all minorities.
4. He blamed Mexicans and Latino immigrants for taking all jobs and creating unemployment for the White working class.
5. He dubbed all the Muslims as terrorists and vowed that he will not allow any Muslim to enter USA.
6. He blamed Globalization and international trade deals for shrinking of manufacturing sector and creating joblessness.
7. He promised to revive the golden period of the past and to make the US great again.
8. Clinton’s progressive agenda which is pro-rich was taken as a threat by the white majority which is socially conservative. DT was regarded as a go-getter, full of drive and confidence and vigor, and pro-poor Messiah who would revive the glory of USA.
9. Clinton’s one sin and that too unproven was not forgiven and overplayed while basketful of sins of DT were overlooked and taken lightly. She said all the right things and DT said all the wrong things. Gender was the overriding factor for partisanship. They couldn’t stomach the idea of a female president.
10. Game of demographics played a major part in determining the election results.
11. Clinton got 1 million more votes. 47 % voters didn’t vote. While Clinton secured 25.6% votes, DT got 25.5%, but DT won when he received 270 votes from Electoral College.
12. No party has served for more than two terms. So it was Republicans turn.
13. Some say that Clinton was a wrong choice. In their view, Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders had a better chance to defeat DT.
Possible fallout effects after DT takes over
1. Stock markets around the world tumbled. Shares in renewable energy companies tanked, while shares in arms companies surged to a record high.
2. Liberal democracies and free market economy/trade are under stress.
3. Imports from other countries will come under heavy duty. He intends imposing 45% tariffs on Chinese products and 35% on Mexican imports. This in turn will substantially reduce exports from China.
4. American society stand sharply divided on race, class, ethnic and gender lines.
5. Immigrants, particularly the Mexicans and Muslims will be in duress. DT has once again vowed to construct a wall/fence along the southern border with Mexico and to deport 2-3 million unregistered Muslims or those suspected of terrorism. This move is aimed at creating more jobs for the Americans.
6. Investment in the US bonds will become dicey, thereby putting strain on China and Japan and impelling them to stop lending loans.
7. Europe should not hope for any bailout financial assistance or lucrative trade deal as has been the practice in the past. Deals will be strictly on basis of profit.
8. China and EU will search for alternatives. China has already initiated one-belt-one-road gigantic project to connect Asia and Europe with China. EU has inked a trade deal with Canada.
9. DT’s much hyped tax break plan will ultimately benefit the rich only.
10. Outflow of immigrants will result in labor shortage of 11 million workers and would cost the US GDP $1.6 trillion.
11. The Muslims residing in USA will be in peril. The students studying in American universities, the workers and the students planning to pursue higher studies in America would find themselves hard pressed. Life will be made so difficult for them that they will prefer to return home. Women wearing Hijab are already being harassed and groped.
12. Israeli top minister declared that the idea of ‘Palestinian state’ was over. (This statement could not have been made without a prior secret understanding with DT).
13. Canada’s immigration website crashed under the demand of American visitors.
14. Russia celebrated, China seemed satisfied since DT has expressed willingness to join Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank while Obama was reluctant. Jihadi leaders welcomed DT. Likewise, North Korea and the affected Muslim countries having greatly suffered under the rules of Bush and Obama, are not much concerned about DT’s takeover and are well attuned to bad times.
15. The US installed puppet regimes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya may be worried because DT has shown disdain for costly wars, reckless military adventures and avoidable rivalry with Russia and China and has given signals for better relationship with archrivals during his tenure.
Internal issues for incoming president in first 100 days
Rewrite liberal economic agenda and double economic growth, renegotiate regional/trans-regional trade agreements to improve economy, create jobs, revise minimum wages per hour, improve healthcare, legalize use of marijuana, restrict access to arms & ammunition, order use of condoms by pornography industry, repeal death penalty banned in 2015, permit safe sex in adult films, make Washington 51st state, construct Mexican wall, push out as many immigrants.
A. Reshape globalization and take a tougher line on terrorism rather than sorting out the messes of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen. B. Ukraine crisis. C. US-Iran nuclear deal which he pledged to tear off. D. South China Sea crisis. E. Shifting of strategic pivot to Asia-Pacific. F. Economic threat posed by China and Russia’s resurgence. G. Implications of Pakistan’s nuclear program and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. H. EU’s faltering economic health and unity.
An analytical view
Clinton and her party members are blaming Comey, voter suppression, racism, corporate media, Sanders Bernie and WikiLeaks for exposing the laundry. However, the vital aspect missed out is that neoliberalism has fallen flat before DT’s xenophobia. After all, neoliberal policies of deregulation, privatization, and corporate trade radically impacted the living standards of underprivileged. They lost jobs, pensions, safety nets and social security and foresaw a bleak future for their children. While their fortunes waned precipitately, the power and wealth of the rich class soared swiftly. They saw the Davos class patronized by neoliberals growing richer and richer. The most pained among the have-nots are the white class. DT felt the pulse of this disadvantaged lot and came forward to relieve them of the excruciating pain of insecurity and inequality, while the neoliberals had no medicine to remedy the pain since they were the architects of Davos class.
Obama had also made history by getting elected as the first black president of USA where 74% population is white and suffer from racist tendencies. They had got disenchanted with George Bush policies, particularly his Iraq misadventure, and wanted a change. Obama was re-elected mainly because of his feat of checkmating economic meltdown and successfully overcoming the recession that was handed over to him by his predecessor. Once disillusionment set in during the second tenure of Obama due to his healthcare, deal with Iran, Putin emerging as a stronger leader and China becoming an economic giant, the people once again sought a big change. DT’s slogans appealed to the senses of white Americans and they fell in his magic spell.
Unlike Clinton who spoke in favor of immigrants, DT’s pitiless interjections and anti-immigrants’ pledges echoed with the aspirations of the most of the Americans. DT and his Republican camp resorted to malicious vilification campaign. They hurled insults, abuses, condemnations, and resorted to insinuations and name-calling without a pinch of remorse. Much to the delight of have-nots, DT brazenly derided Clinton and called her ‘crooked and nasty woman’. His cavalier and shoddy tactics helped him to climb the victory stand.
The appeasement policy of Obama especially with Iran was unpalatable to hardliners from among the political and zealous circles as well as the people who perceived such decisions being made at the cost of the American national interests. They hailed DT when he said that Iran-US nuclear deal was ridiculous and he would cancel it.
The devastating emails scandal was constantly and forcefully played up against Hillary and presented as a serious abuse of official position that could not be pardoned. DT’s misdeeds such as flirting with females and indulging in wayward sex, making money by right and wrong means and avoiding paying federal taxes was treated as a private misconduct.
Impressed with his rough and tough style, his ability to get things done using high handed tactics, and his success story in business, the voters presumed that DT would apply the same expertise and tactics in creating domestic jobs and bringing back offshore jobs and stimulating opulence. They saw him as a right person to deal with hostile or unfriendly states and establish the American writ as the dominant world power. Women president in their view would not suit USA.
With Russia posing an increasingly menacing threat in Syria and Ukraine, the migration crisis in Europe, and the endless fallout from the Eurozone debt crash and Brexit, takeover by hardliner DT, who had questioned the decade old pact (NATO) to defend the European continent and had threatened to abandon it, added to the woes of EU. The EU President Donald Tusk’s effort to forge unity to protect western liberal democracy has made regrouping more complicated because of DT’s unpredictable nature, his closeness to Russia, his disdain for European countries pursuing liberal democracy and his proximity with Far Right. Le Pen in France and Far-right parties in Netherlands and Austria and mover of Brexit Nigel Farage are all thrilled over DT’s victory and hope to capture political power in respective countries.
DT’s surprise victory has reinforced the perception that the liberals are fast losing space while the ultranationalist Far-right is gaining space all over the world. Besides the US and Europe, this trend is in fashion in India where the liberal Indian Congress is on the backseat and extremist BJP is in the driving seat. While Turkey under Erdogan has abandoned Kemalist secularism and opted for Islamic system since 2002, in Pakistan, the centre-right PML-N is in power and its main challenger is again centre-right PTI, while the liberal parties PPP, MQM and ANP are in the backseat. The whole of Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh are in turmoil owing to ever rising religious extremism.
DT is not in favor of nuclearization of Japan and is also averse to US-Iran nuclear deal. Pressed by Israel, he may cancel the deal or pressurize Iran to roll back its missile power. Already not so happy with Washington, such a move may impel Tehran to recommence its frozen nuclear program and hasten to forge an alliance with Russia.
While DT has lambasted all those who have added to the miseries of the white majority, intriguingly he has made no mention of the perverted Jewish and Indian lobbies in USA and Israel that have tremendous influence over decision making power centres in Washington and are responsible for much of the woes faced by USA. Israel is a white elephant for USA which eats up $ 5 billion annually. Reason is obvious. Without the nod of Jews, he could not have possibly won the race. Both Israel and India are likely to misuse DT for the fulfilment of their ulterior designs. The other aspect is war on terror which has cost the US treasury $ 6 trillion. The Afghan unity govt and Afghan National Army have become liabilities. It is costing the US $ 8 billion annually. The US economy, its prestige and uni-polarism are under threat due to Afghan misadventure. The other huge expense is the running of hundreds of military bases spread over the entire globe, and massive amount spent on proxy wars and spy war. What gain the US is making in keeping its fingers in the infernos of Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine? Hasn’t it attained the ultimate by becoming the sole super power?
Pakistan related polemics
Whatever comments made by DT during election campaign about Pakistan were far from reassuring. The only consoling remark that he will mediate to find a solution to the age-old dispute was reassuring, but it is too early to draw comfort. India also wants to settle it but entirely on its terms. It is to be seen whether DT pursues it or abandons it as in case of Obama, and whether he keeps UN resolutions as a guide to resolve the dispute or go the Indian way. Taking into account his publicized affections for India and aversion for the Muslims, in all probability he will not take any step which will annoy India. His mention of Pakistan’s nuclear program was indeed most worrying. Like his predecessor, it is an eyesore for him as well.
Taking advantage of Republicans majority in the two houses of US Congress – the Senate and House of Representatives – which are pro-India and hostile towards Pakistan, as well as dominance in Supreme Court, DT is likely to employ strong arm tactics to force Pakistan to open nuclear sites for inspection, disable tactical nuclear capability to assuage Indian concern as well as long range missiles that are seen as a threat to Israel and Europe. His interest in this regard can be gauged by his desire to keep 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan permanently to keep a watch on Pak nukes.
It implies that the Resolute Support Group (RSG) which Obama intended to withdraw before he left his office is not likely to exit till at least 2021 if not more. It will miff Gulbadin Hikmatyar who has recently joined the unity govt in Kabul and has sent a message to DT to withdraw US troops. The RSG is likely to be assigned offensive tasks like hot pursuit operations and drone war inside Pakistan to target suspected hideouts of Haqqani Network (HN)/Afghan Taliban in Waziristan/Baluchistan thereby keeping Pak-US relations tense.
Anti-Pakistan Congressmen Senators like Dana Bayar and Bob Corker who support Baloch separatist movement in Baluchistan and had blocked F-16s sale and close support fund (CSF) to Pakistan will become more venomous during DT rule and may seek imposition of sanctions on Pakistan on charges of its alleged support to HN and some other militant groups. Obama administration, despite the heavy tilt towards India had tended to play down the aggressiveness of the Congress, but this will not be case with DT.
Pakistan’s hope of gaining free access or bigger share in the US market, or getting CSF released will fizzle out. Rather, its $ 2 billion worth textile exports and annual home remittances worth $2.5 billion will be in jeopardy because new protective duties might be slapped on textile products. DT might pressure World Bank and IMF to maximize pressure on Pakistan and force it to roll back the nuclear program.
Since his victory, DT tone has mellowed down. He has announced to forgo $ 400,000 salary. He has urged his supporters to stop harassing immigrants. Notwithstanding his commitment to change the global economic system and renegotiate international deals with a view to benefit the US and its people, the big question is whether the US is in a position to dictate terms to the world which has become inter-dependent on world economy? With regard to external defence and security matters, Pentagon and CIA will continue to dictate policies. It’s to be seen whether he will he play upon divides or make efforts to reunify the society. Above all, will he be able to make USA great or further weaken it? 22 US states are itching to breakaway from USA.
Business interests, weakness for sycophancy, links with Russia, unpredictability and his rashness are some of the weak areas of DT which the Democrats will exploit to run him down. His appointment of a racist Stephen Bannon as chief strategist/counselor in White House is being censured. Talk of impeachment of DT by his haters is in the air but his supporters are expectantly looking towards him to translate his promises into reality. He has been threatened on twitter with assassination. Predictions are that he will be lucky to complete one tenure but he will not be the only one to serve one term only. Noted US Prof Allan Lichtman has predicted that he will be impeached by Republicans and will make Mike Pence as President. The fact is that for next 4 years the nuclear code will remain in his hands. The 320 million Americans are going through mixed feelings and are up for challenging and uneasy times.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defence analyst, columnist, author of 5 books, Vice Chairman Thinkers Forum Pakistan, DG Measac Research Centre. email@example.com