The second horseman of the Apocalypse
We have no idea how much the world has changed in the past six months and how much it will change in the next six months.
First we had Brexit, now we have Trump. The first was a decision of incalculable consequences while the second may well change the world as we know it.
We must stop analysing how Trump’s victory was obtained and instead look to the future. This is a time when the rhetoric of the campaign gives way to the practical consequences. All governments, more or less, water down the commitments made in the heat of the campaign and become pragmatic but there are campaigns, and then there are campaigns.
Trump signifies a clean and blunt break from the world as we know it. America is now in the hands of the nationalists. All trade pacts – with Canada, with Europe – are torn down; in their stead protectionism will rule, a rabid protectionism that seeks America’s interests first and foremost.
The new Administration has not been announced yet, apart from a few names, but what we do know are the policies that will rule American policy.
In foreign policy, America will be inflexibly protectionist. If we go by the sentiments expressed during the campaign, America will stop bankrolling the defence of Europe, as it has done since the end of World War II. What will happen to countries such as the Baltic States, Poland and even Germany, once Russia feels emboldened enough to repeat the annexation of Crimea?
Trump has been adamant in his anti-Islam rhetoric but was that related to internal US security or will it spill over to increased war against IS? Will he commit to more US soldiers on the ground in Syria, Afghanistan et al?
Trump has spoken of a renewed relationship with Russia while he has hinted he will reverse the soft approach of US policy versus China. The first part of this statement has alarmed the Europeans, also in conjunction with the sanctions against Russia (which some EU states now question), while the second part of the statement has deeply alarmed the Chinese.
Nearer home, Trump’s rhetoric has angered the Mexicans – who he described as racists and gangsters – and promised to build a wall between the two countries.
He has been quite open as regards support of Israel (including moving the US embassy to Jerusalem) and against the deal with Iran which he now intends to tear up.
As regards Europe, he has supported Brexit in the UK and expressed a commonality of views with Nigel Farage. He sees the EU as being on the verge of a breakdown. The spirit of solidarity with Europe that underscored the US–EU relationship for 70 years has now run out. Like the Brexiteers, Trump sees the EU as an outmoded institution whose time is now over.
More to the point, as Angela Merkel was quick to point out, there is now some doubt as to whether Trump subscribes to the principles of freedom, etc., as understood by the Europeans.
The Trump of external relations has nothing to do with the Trump of internal US politics and it is in this respect that Trump’s America will be a radical change from Obama’s.
He intends to cut taxes by a huge margin, thus hoping that the economy takes off. He intends to unleash a huge programme of infrastructure works (welcomed after so many years when austerity kept so many programmes in mothballs). This will explode America’s indebtedness but this does not seem to faze Trump.
His protectionism is intended to kick-start a revival of manufacturing and hopefully bring back the jobs that have been lost to globalisation. It was, after all, the workers in their unemployed millions who put him in the White House.
His economic programme is roughly the same as the one expressed by the Republican Party in previous years when it was held at bay by Barack Obama. Now they are free to implement it – starting with Obamacare, long a bête noire the Republican Tea Party.
On another issue, Trump is decidedly anti-abortion and will review the legislation in this regard.
Will his programme work? He is giving the economy a huge boost at a time when there is almost full employment, and when his policies intend to root out and deport all the illegal migrants in the US, thus reducing the worker base.
He also wants to boost spending on defence and the armed forces.
Other presidents before him tried to square the circle and discovered that this was impossible. This was when they were forced to undertake new ventures. The way we see it from here and right now, Trump’s programme cannot work. There was the same kind of despair when Ronald Reagan was elected but then his presidency worked out well.
His economic programme will increase inflation, so maybe interest rates will be pushed up after years of being nearly zero. America is – and remains – a great country, so maybe it will do even better than its president.
Certainly, as seen from Europe, it is as if the Second Horseman of the Apocalypse has been let loose. of