Donald Trump is just the kind of president America needs – The Independent

7 months ago Comments Off on Donald Trump is just the kind of president America needs – The Independent

“Authoritarianism and isolationism, and that, in essence, is what Donald Trump et al are offering, are not an answer”. Such was the rather prim warning in the Financial Times about the dangers of a possible Trump presidency. In cosying up to Europe’s right wing populists, condemning the war in Iraq, and praising Russia’s role in Syria, the Republican juggernaut has made no secret of his disdain for the status quo in America’s dealings with the world. Yet, like the man himself, Trump’s heretical foreign policy is not as dumb as it seems. By upending a discredited rule book, this most undiplomatic of men might just succeed in repairing America’s leadership in the world.

America’s foreign policy is broken. For nearly two decades, it has been predicated almost exclusively on bombing the Middle East and isolating Russia. The results are clear: a string of failed states from Libya to Syria, the rise of the Islamic State in formerly secular Iraq, a refugee crisis in Europe and an irredentist Russia marching across its former domains.

Trump’s prescription is to turn the failed doctrine on its head through isolationism in the Middle East and engagement with Moscow. The first point seems obvious. Alone among the American political establishment, Trump has acknowledged the true cost of his country’s adventurism. “Iraq is a disaster … Libya is not even a country”, he told an interviewer. “What we did there – it’s a mess.”

The second prong of the Trump doctrine is even more overdue. America’s top general Joseph Dunford recently called Russia the “greatest threat to our national security”. Yet the current policy of sanctions and bluster has only strengthened President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power and ambitions in Ukraine and Syria.

Despite all that, Trump remains the only politician in America to call for engagement with the Kremlin. He publicly described Putin as a “strong leader” and praised his military intervention in Syria. Putin returned the favour, calling Trump “very talented” and welcoming his desire to improve relations. “How can we not welcome that?”, Putin told journalists in his annual Q&A with the press.

The effects of a potential détente are hard to underestimate. Russia is holding the US to ransom over Iran, Syria and Ukraine. Obtaining its cooperation would help unlock – in one fell swoop – some of America’s largest foreign policy challenges.  Historically, it has been the maverick Republicans who have done most for American diplomacy. Like Nixon in China, only a hardliner like Trump could go to Russia and come back with a deal.

Trump’s views on foreign policy have met with disbelief and ridicule in American mainstream media and political circles, where he is portrayed as an eccentric anomaly. Yet by clinging to the shibboleths of free-market capitalism and liberal interventionism, it is the US establishment that has become increasingly out of step with the rest of the world. From Greece to Poland, citizens are ejecting milquetoasts liberals in favour of the extreme left and right. Voters would rather elect true wolves than the wolves in sheep’s clothing who hide their indifference to the plight of ordinary people behind politically-correct platitudes. Who is the world coming to resemble more: Trump or his opponents?

The sociologist Zygmunt Bauman referred to the winners and losers of globalisation as travellers and vagabonds. Having thrown in its lot squarely with the former, America has lost its relevance for – and, crucially, influence over – the growing mass of the world’s discontented. Ironically it is the billionaire Trump who speaks their language. Adrift and unmoored, in his calls to build walls and close borders they hear words of shelter and compassion, not hate and division. It is these vagabonds, and the leaders they increasingly choose, whom America must get onside if it wants to have any say in the world’s future.

From Putin to Hungary’s Viktor Orban, from France’s Marine Le Pen to Egypt’s Abdel Fattah el Sisi, India’s Narendra Modi to Turkey’s Reccep Erdogan: these are the people gathered – or gathering –  around the high table. Ignoring or hectoring them is not an option. Who is best qualified not just to sit among these rogues, populists and snake oil salesmen, but preside over them like a mafia don? Only someone like Trump has the bigotry and bluster it takes to strike hard bargains with these blusterers, and haggle with them in a language they understand: the language of money, sovereignty and real-politik.

Donald Trump is just the kind of president America needs – The Independent