Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
MANY commentators club Ivanka Trump Kushner together with her husband Jared. Some believe that she plays a secondary role in the partnership, and that her husband’s word is law. Such a view underestimates Ivanka, who is known by other habitues of Palm Beach to have a very independent mind, very like her mother Ivana, who separated and later divorced Donald Trump. Unlike First Lady Melania Trump, who appears to have a sunny and accommodating nature, Ivana was known for a sometimes fiery temper that clearly was not kept a secret from her billionaire husband.
After the union between Donald and Ivana went sour, it must have been painful for the youthful Ivanka to negotiate her way between two very strong-minded parents in such a manner that she retained the trust and affection of both, especially her father. However, she succeeded in this delicate task, and along the way emerged as a strong-willed personality herself, albeit concealed within a velvet cloak of perfect manners. Even without being officially designated a counsellor to the US President, Ivanka would have been among the most consequential figures in Washington. However, being given the formal responsibility of advising President Trump has enables Ivanka to be present at important meetings without raising eyebrows, and to get access to top secret information that otherwise would be a crime to share with her.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy appointed his brother as the Attorney General of the US, partly in order to ensure that hyper-sensitive secrets remained within the family. His father, Joseph Kennedy, had a similarly secretive group of confidantes and problem solvers close at hand, that served him well in several tasks that may not entirely have met with the approval of church elders, much less the police. The secrecy and loyalty that the personality of John F Kennedy ensured in almost the whole of his inner group of advisers resulted in hardly any negative stories emerging about the President whose life was cut short in Dallas with a year to go before he completed his first term in office. Only much later did reports surface of some of the less attractive attributes and actions of Kennedy, but none of these could dim the roseate glow that covered his administration. Not that such a hue was entirely deserved. Barring a few symbolic acts, Kennedy did very little to advance the cause of justice for the African-American community, leaving that task to his successor, Lyndon Baines Johnson. And as for Vietnam, it was not during the eight Eisenhower years but the three Kennedy years that the US military presence in that tortured country went up exponentially.
His admirers say that a second Kennedy term would have seen a drawdown and withdrawal from Vietnam, but such a proposition, together with many others posthumously favourable to the 35th President of the US, remain mere hypotheses. It was not a mistake for Donald Trump to recruit Ivanka into his official familys, nor was it wrong for her to have accepted the job. However, what should have been avoided was the simultaneous entry of son-in-law Jared into the official family from the personal. And thereafter, entrusting him with tasks as indescribably difficult as securing peace in the Middle East between Israel and its traducers was clearly the triumph of affection over ratiocination. Both the Trump as well as the Kushner families need to pray that their net worth will be lower when Trump steps down from his current job (hopefully after serving two terms, as his three immediate predecessors did) than it was on January 20,2017.
Should their businesses do well (or worse, do spectacularly well), hundreds of lawyers, accountants and muckrakers will be active searching for grounds to allege a link between such success and the Presidency. By agreeing to be appointed to a senior White House post, Jared Kushner has ensured that any business transaction which favours the enterprises his family controls will be looked at askance and challenged, not simply in the media but in the courts. Companies that deal with a Kushner enterprise will find themselves in the spotlight, in a beam of transparency that has been heavily tilted against Trump and his family members from the start of his term in the world’s most prestigious office. Accepting his current job has given the traducers of his father-in-law a tempting target in the person of Jared Kushner, and already reports are swirling about the losses that some of his real estate ventures are making, and about how Saudi Arabian and Chinese interests have been in touch on the matter.
Given that neither country is the flavour of the season in Washington, interests linked to them are certain to generate a torrent of criticism that may result in driving them away. Jared Kushner would spare his own and his wife’s family much future grief, were he to quietly resign his White House job and return to private (and business) life. Those in India who know Donald Trump affirm that he is no “white supremacist” but an outgoing, liberal personality. Whoever advised him to equivocate between the neo-Nazis and KKK bigots who gathered to protest the taking down of a statue to a Confederate general has harmed President Trump severely. The President of the United States has a global constituency, and if those with yellow, brown or black complexions regard him as a racist and a foe, the US under Trump will shrivel in global importance. Indeed, overwhelming majority of those who are white would similarly detest any hint of racial superiority of the kind popularised in Germany by Hitler.
The World War-I corporal attracted tens of millions of losers to his banner by giving them a chance to lash out at winners. Ultimately, Germany under Hitler became the worst loser of all. Those who abhor folks of a different hue or faith are in need of medical attention, which hopefully they will get before their actions threaten human societies. What they do not need is the oxygen for a putrid cause that will come about if the US President declines to call them out. President Trump needs to walk back from any liaison with the crazies, if he is to survive in office. For if he fails to do so, the enemies of the US will seize upon this to box the world’s most powerful country into the global isolation ward. An untouchable President means an untouchable country. It is time for President Trump to listen to his gentle and wise counsellor Ivanka and not to the misdirected who confuse merit with skin pigmentation.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.
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Geopolitical Notes From India