President-elect Trump will assume office on the strength of his promise to fundamentally reconfigure US foreign policy and in so doing quickly resolve America’s growing list of foreign political and economic challenges. That he was able to successfully market this message, and himself as the individual most capable of achieving these objectives, makes the world a substantially more dangerous place.
It is crucial to understand that Trump would not be where he is today without a campaign centred on not only resentment of the elites of which he is a card-carrying member, but on vulgar demagoguery and nativism that whipped up growing waves of hatred against difference whether at home or abroad. A good portion of this odium was directed at the Middle East and Americans citizens of Arab or Muslim provenance, which he has committed to bomb to smithereens and/or torture to death.
Trump has essentially promised the United States that he would disentangle it from a web of increasingly costly foreign alliances and trade agreements that have purportedly robbed Americans of their livelihoods, and replace these with ultimata to do as he says or else. Thus the mercantilist isolationism he proposes to implement would nevertheless guarantee perpetual American global supremacy.
Yet what precisely we are to make of Trump’s foreign policy is virtually impossible to fathom because, the above slogans notwithstanding, the man is an empty vessel who has been on contradictory sides of most issues during the presidential campaign. The only consistent thread running through his positions is that the presidency can make Trump great again, and that he alone is properly equipped to deal with challenges he appears not to understand.
Take, for example, the Iranian nuclear agreement. Trump has denounced it, but at the same time refused to renounce it. Rather, he has claimed he will renegotiate it and produce a “better” one. The proposition that Tehran, and Moscow, and Beijing, and Brussels, and London, Paris and Berlin will readily or otherwise consent to re-open this hard-won text simply because Trump is a self-proclaimed master dealmaker and doesn’t like the existing, ratified accord is nothing less than insane.
To be sure, Trump is an extremely dangerous phenomenon that left to its own devices can inflict enormous damage on the planet, not least the Middle East. The key issue is whether the American foreign policy and military establishment will prove as pliant to his whim as has the Republican Party, and how close American allies such as Europe respond. Should they fail to stop him, we have most likely seen the last of the American Empire. But under his supervision it may well drag the world down with it.
[This article was first published on Al Jazeera English.]