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.

Malta Independent - - DEBATE & ANALYSIS -

ngrima@in­de­pen­dent.com.mt

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

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