By Khalid Hussain
Ronald Reagan lovingly and very fondly considered the President of the United States (POTUS) as the person who has the Bully Pulpit in the American federal state system. So, by this definition, Trump is the 45th bully elected by the people.
Digital age notwithstanding, mainstream media has the loudest trumpet in the official concert of national interest. We can all hear as it continues blowing away leading social symphonies composed by the various stakeholders in the American state.
The cacophony is unbearable. The conflict is untenable. Yet it continues.
The rest of the world can hardly hear the individual notes in this shrill reality show. Even at the best of times when the POTUS and the status quo were in agreement –essentially always barring the Kennedy and Nixon presidencies–it was never easy to discern what the state in America wanted.
The shrill cacophony being choreographed by Trump leading from the Bully Pulpit might be named ‘Out of Tune”. The orchestra members, however, are not tuned into each other. There are separate moral compasses that stakeholders are following to tune their individual sound and instruments. They are all adding to the noise by playing it on from the judiciary to the parliament to the White House. Pentagon and its allied complex of businesses are broadly divided into for and against Trump.
In so doing, they are following Ayn Rand. The rest of the world will survive them for there is no “morality of altruism” that nation states have to reject. Charity has never been considered a virtue in international affair. No nation has ever considered it a moral duty.
Trump and generally speaking all Rand inspired Republicans cannot see anything wrong in helping other states, “if and when they are worthy of the help and you can afford to help them”. Charity is hardly an issue. This creates a problem for Pakistan where the state is addicted to charity as a primary virtue considering it America’s –and all its other benefactors’–moral duty.”
But the actual method of judging when or whether America should help Pakistan must be by reference to Pakistan’s own rational self-interest. And this must follow some articulated national hierarchy of values and goals. What the state gives or the risks it takes should be proportionate to the value in relation to Pakistan’s own happiness.”
This means that we must thump “Pakistan first” to engage with the new “America first” of President Trump. This will also come in handy with “Britain first,” in the wake of Brexit. “France first,” is also around the corner with Marine Le Pen and her National Front poised to trump the EU with a french kiss goodbye. “Russia first,” has already seen Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin wooing Pakistan for help in Afghanistan. But contrary to common perceptions such a set of foreign affair policy defined by so much emphasis on national sovereignty, globalization is surely not doomed. Technology, alone would not allow that. But the present seems to negate that and we say this exception on proves the rule!
France is poised to enter the era of bilateralism after a Le Pen victory. The US and Canada will soon have to find ways to avoid feuding over NAFTA. The UK is already squabbling with France and Germany over Brexit. Japan see all hope to survive the demise of the TPP in keeping its own special relationship with America. Naturally, all of these powerful states will turn their backs on global commitments. This, in my opinion, will give rise to a revival of the international order with a new vigour helping globalization become institutionally permanent.
Till that happens, the global arena can only become a hybrid of internationalism and bilateralism. Free trade is poised to take a bit hit. Mass migrations are threatenning around the world. The pursuit of national grandeur may lead to ruinous economic rivalry and mass violence. Finanial crashes remain a potent threat as all hope to buy time for there is consensus the system cannot continue otherwise This will be a stiff shot that might appear to kick the legs out from under a struggling international order. The international system will, however, survive but only eventually. Meanwhile, world trade will soon be seen collapsing from its present level.
Racism is already on display as states are poised for another round of predation. Powerful countries will once again impose uneven treaties and trade pacts on neighbors and partners. Some would see this happening in the case of China in the context of CPEC. We have already seen how the Americans and the rest of the west has simply overran Africa and the middle East. Japan is solidly allied with the United States to counter survival threats from China. The Soviets have already started overtures to look at Afghanistan as one of its borderlands that can contrubute to the glory of Russia in the same spirit. The Americans and the British are poised to force treaties on weaker nations and are trying to consolidate the geographies and regions it has practically seized from Iraq to Afghanistan and many in between. This is the booty they refuse to share with others in the West. Hence also the downfall of the EU that appears logical.
The Trump era is just settling in. The world has become messy. It is risky, stultifying, and threatening. A regression in human rights for sure. Rising inequality both within and between countries demand systemic changes everywhere. Blurred global divides are only deepening regional and domestic cleavages. Bilateralism is the new norm. Russian President Vladimir Putin is going for a muscular sovereignty which will surely test the limites of multilateral niceties. Trump is well on his way to consolidate its seizure of the Iraqi oil. He withdrawn the US from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and is committed, to re-negotiate the NAFTA. Currency manipulation charges against China and threats of protectionist measures have intensified. The UK has already decided to go it alone.
Gemrany drove European integration and kept it at the center of the post-war multilateral system. But the EU is now at stake. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the final pillar of a crumbling world order. The old divides are still obtaining in a Europe as Germany is busy defending itself from the offensive by the UK, Russia and the USA. Imagine the plight of the sputtering Franco-German engine if France also falls in the hands of nativists.
[The writer is Managing Editor Mirror Asia.]
By Khalid Hussain