IT is interesting to observe a business tycoon transforming into a statesman, he is learning the pitfalls of descent from a realm of absolute power of an entrepreneur to an ever shrinking-expanding domain of political power. He will soon learn, may be the hard way, that he does not enjoy absolute power, like that of an employer over his team members and dealing with other two branches of the government through the barrel of check and balance is like dealing with business regulators. Nevertheless, gap between Donald Trump’s standing during presidential campaign and his conduct of administration has begun to narrow down as Trump is preferring to carry forward some of previous regimes’ policies, on some of important issues, rather than supplanting those with his fanciful campaign days’ rhetoric. This effect is more pronounced in the foreign policy domain.
While the willy President may still be obsessed in watering down Obama-care—to the chagrin of a common American; he and his boys are embracing a number of anchor points of Obama regime. Tough line with Russia on Crimea, finding faults with Iran on one count or the other, at least paying lip-service against addition of settlements by Israel and deployment of Terminal High Altitude Air Defence System (THAAD) are some of the points where the pendulum may have quietly moved back to pre-Trump era. So far nothing is heard on Afghanistan, Kashmir, Fissile Material Treaty and expansion of Nuclear Suppliers Group. These issues may see no further traction during Trump era. Though there is emphasis on Middle East, implementation of an under consideration of ban on Muslim Brotherhood would create more problems than such a preposition could resolve. Trump has asked Russia to adopt a hands off policy towards Ukraine and has indicated that sanctions would stay in place as long as Russia does not de-occupy Crimea. US Ambassador to UNSC has recently stated: “We do want to better our relations with Russia…“However, dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.” Even though Russia may be important to Trump, he is likely to pursue realpolitik. Trump is eyeing a “give and take” style deal with Russia on Syrian conflict.
Trump administration has started upsetting Iran on the pretext of recent missile tests. Trump used micro blog to communicate:” Iran has been formally put on notice for firing a ballistic missile. [Iran]Should have been thankful for the terrible deal the US made with them!” And, “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the US came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150 billion.” The US has surprisingly started conveying Israel, albeit politely, to desist from proliferation of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. White House has asked Israel to stop the expenditure on Jewish settlement as settlements aren’t helpful for peace.
New York Time commented in its February 04 editorial captioned “Mr Trumps’ Random Insult Diplomacy”: “His administration has not departed radically from some core positions it inherited from the Obama administration… Yet Mr Trump’s pugnacious approach to foreign relations and his first executive orders have already undermined America’s standing… When the time comes, as it assuredly will, for Mr Trump to pick up the phone to make tough requests of traditional allies in moments of crisis, he shouldn’t be surprised if it is the person at the other end of the line who ends the call abruptly.”
President Trump has hurriedly barged into a confrontation with Judiciary which may lead to years of losing legal battles. A three judge panel of the 9thUS Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the US government had failed to offer any evidence that national security justified immediate restoration of travel ban imposed on seven Muslim counties. Since September 11, 2001, no American has been killed in a terrorist attack on American mainland by anyone who immigrated from any of these seven countries. Instead of reconciling, Trump angrily tweeted: “See you in the court, the security of our nation is at stake!”
Assertion of broad discretions by Trump in areas of national security resembles the trends of Bush years, when after 9/11 that administration had claimed sweeping power in the name of fighting terrorism. Some of those orders went too far and Bush was forced to roll them back. Even during those testing times Bush’s legal directives were not as sloppy as Trump’s. Ruling by the Federal District Court in Trump’s order resembled an earlier decision by a Texas district court desisting President Obama from his immigration order. Trump’s attack on the courts would affect the battle over the nomination of Judge Neil M Gorsuch to the Supreme Court as well as president’s relationship with Congress. Trump is not the first President to entangle with judiciary; many of his predecessors had also clashed with the judiciary. Supreme Court had invalidated parts of Roosevelt’s New Deal; it compelled Nixon to turn over Watergate tapes; rejected Bill Clinton’s bid to delay a harassment lawsuit. Judiciary had also ruled that George W Bush “overstepped” his bounds in denying due process to terrorism suspects; and that Barack Obama “assumed power he did not have” to allow unauthorized immigrants to stay in the US. But tenor and texture of Trumps anti-judiciary utterances is different from his predecessors.
Within just, 10 days into his presidency, talk of his impeachment began to pop up with unprecedented ferocity backed by an opinion that American nations will not allow Trump to continue as a proverbial “Bull in China shop”— destroying the existing domestic and international governance systems without creating viable alternatives. While at the same time, Trump’s supporters are mocking those dreaming to topple the president. They think that Trump will surely make America “great again,” and that his foreign policy realism will build a new world order and unprecedented alliances, that would in turn lead to “American and global prosperity”. With such a polarized societal fabric, serious troubles may just be round the corner.
—The writer is a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.