Does Trump’s vic­tory spell end of West?

Kuwait Times - - ANALYSIS -

Don­ald Trump’s elec­tion has thrown key US al­liances into doubt, but could it yet de­stroy the lib­eral world or­der and the West as we know it? If you thought Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s White House sit-down with Don­ald Trump was awk­ward, wait for Obama’s menu of meet­ings with for­eign lead­ers next week. Dur­ing a three-na­tion for­eign trip, Obama will meet the lead­ers of Bri­tain, China, France, Ger­many, Greece, Italy and Peru among oth­ers. Most of them will have sim­i­lar ques­tions: “How on Earth did this hap­pen? What do we do now?”

Obama has spent a year telling in­ter­locu­tors that the Repub­li­can bil­lion­aire would never be elected and that he was a threat to Amer­i­can democ­racy and the global sys­tem. Now Obama will try to re­as­sure al­lies that Trump’s Amer­ica will not bring the global or­der crash­ing to the ground.

Just An­other Repub­li­can?

Trump has vowed to rip up trade deals, ques­tioned sup­port for al­lies whose se­cu­rity de­pends on Amer­i­can mil­i­tary largess and warmly em­braced Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin. Seen from the Obama White House or Euro­pean cap­i­tals, the best case sce­nario is that Trump’s is just an­other Repub­li­can White House. In­sid­ers point to Trump’s dis­in­ter­est in pol­icy as ev­i­dence that he plans to be a tit­u­lar or cer­e­mo­nial pres­i­dent. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, they ar­gue, will be the real pres­i­dent or at least be­have like a prime min­is­ter.

He and the con­stel­la­tion of Wash­ing­ton-based ad­vi­sors al­ready gath­ered around Trump - pos­si­ble sec­re­tary of state Newt Gin­grich, pos­si­ble sec­re­tary of de­fense Jeff Ses­sions - will crank out or­tho­dox Repub­li­can poli­cies. But for Euro­pean cap­i­tals that kind of Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion would still mean a re­turn to the deep dif­fer­ences seen dur­ing Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. Trump would be po­lit­i­cal kryp­tonite in Europe, avoided like the plague by lead­ers like Fran­cois Hol­lande or An­gela Merkel who are seek­ing re­elec­tion. But at least the sky wouldn’t fall. Yet some see that out­look as hope­lessly op­ti­mistic.

The Im­pe­rial Pres­i­dency

Once he gets his feet un­der the Res­o­lute Desk, is Trump - an al­pha male chief ex­ec­u­tive all his life - re­ally likely to shrink into the back­ground? And if not, the world’s pre­em­i­nent eco­nomic and mil­i­tary power would be run by a capri­cious leader with ques­tion­able re­spect for the rule of law. In his first week as pres­i­dent-elect, Trump changed course on his op­po­si­tion to Oba­macare and de­cried “pro­fes­sional pro­test­ers, in­cited by the me­dia” in a Tweet be­fore re­vers­ing him­self. Those ask­ing what Trump thinks about North Korea or Syria might get a dif­fer­ent an­swer de­pend­ing on what day he is tweet­ing. In­sid­ers say he knows lit­tle to noth­ing of world af­fairs, even on fun­da­men­tal is­sues such as the Iran nu­clear deal that he vowed to scrap dur­ing the cam­paign. Ja­pan, South Korea and other Asian al­lies Amer­ica has vowed to de­fend have long doubted whether a US pres­i­dent would ac­tu­ally risk a nu­clear war with China or North Korea to ful­fil that vow. Un­der a pres­i­dent Trump it would be close to strate­gic neg­li­gence to as­sume Amer­ica’s se­cu­rity um­brella was iron­clad. Shinzo Abe’s Ja­pan has al­ready been mov­ing gin­gerly to­ward mil­i­tary self-suf­fi­ciency. If that trend speeds up con­sid­er­ably, or Tokyo de­vel­ops a nu­clear weapon - as Trump has sug­gested it should - the im­pact vis-a-vis China would be pro­found.

In Europe there is a sim­i­lar sense we may be see­ing the end of Pax Amer­i­cana. Merkel - ar­guably the world’s sec­ond most pow­er­ful demo­cratic leader re­sponded to Trump’s elec­tion by mak­ing it clear she be­lieves this is not business as usual. “Ger­many and Amer­ica are con­nected by val­ues of democ­racy, free­dom and re­spect for the law and the dig­nity of man, in­de­pen­dent of ori­gin, skin color, re­li­gion, gen­der, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion or po­lit­i­cal views,” she said, re­mind­ing Trump of com­mon val­ues that nor­mally go with­out say­ing. She also made clear the re­la­tion­ship is con­di­tional: “I of­fer the next Pres­i­dent of the United States close co­op­er­a­tion on the ba­sis of these val­ues.”

Obama likes to de­scribe Amer­i­can democ­racy as a re­lay race. If he handed the ba­ton to Trump in the Oval Of­fice on Tues­day, then his meet­ing with Merkel in Ber­lin may be the pass­ing of the lib­eral demo­cratic torch. But for the first time since the Cold War or World War II, there are se­ri­ous doubts the flame will en­dure. Merkel may now be the de facto “leader of the free world”, but Europe re­mains deeply di­vided.

Ger­many has eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal power, but mil­i­tary and diplo­matic power rests in Lon­don in Paris. Last March com­men­ta­tor Anne Applebaum warned “we are two or three bad elec­tions away from the end of NATO, the end of the Euro­pean Union and maybe the end of the lib­eral world or­der as we know it”. That was be­fore Bri­tain’s vote to leave the Euro­pean Union and Trump’s elec­tion. In the next year Merkel and Hol­lande face their own far-right chal­lengers. So far on Applebaum’s score­card it’s two down,

two to go. —AFP

Pass­ing the Torch

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.