Trump’s inauguration speech could not have been written better by the Kremlin. It was farewell to the world, the United States winding down Pax Americana, no longer interested in stretching itself for others. ‘America First’ was Trump’s slogan in the election and it is the slogan given at the inaugural speech.
Whether President Trump carries out his promise of bringing back jobs back to America and the USA under him turns its back on globalisation is yet too soon to say. He has made some remarkable statements that have sent the world in a state of shock. The world hasn’t seen a leader like him in the developed world, although there have been plenty of mavericks in developing regions who ran Government on single stroke of pen orders. Trump has outdone all by making decisions on twitter.
But while much of the western world is in a state of confusion, feeling both insecure, angry and betrayed, others’ like Russia and China are probably relieved in the belief that the United States may come to terms with a multipolar world. For the last two decades, the US has tried to shoulder on with Pax Americana, carrying the burdens of global leadership.
It hasn’t been easy for the USA. Its resources are overstretched, the battles it has got into have dragged on and on, piercing its sense of invincibility and while it has tried to rebuild other economies such as Afghanistan and Iraq, it has lost its own inner cities to drugs, crime and unemployment. Even China has built its massive fortune at the expense of United States according to Trumpist view.
Europe has been reliant on United States power, pursuing its idealism of universal liberal democracy. Taking American power for granted, it has felt strong enough to speak boisterously to others such as Russia. It is American fire power around the word which gives Europe the liberty to make moral judgements on other countries and regimes.
America’s dilemma has been that it has been caught in cold war rhetoric in international affairs. The Syrian war is a disaster of cold war dynamics undermining the fight against the real enemy, Islamic State. The US led western alliance was initially more obsessed with denying Russia a foothold in the Middle East and marginalising Iran than the dangerously growing threat from Islamic State. France and UK were the main architects of this approach removed from reality Eventually US saw the bigger looming danger and let Russia dominate the course of events in Syria. A far better approach would have been to drop US antagonism against Assad and combine forces with Russia to take on growing Islamic terrorism.
In its role to preserve Pax Americana, the United States has interfered with events around the world almost on autocue. There has been a compulsion to ensure that the status quo is protected and new powers restricted from throwing their weight around. It is an open secret that the US financed the coup in Ukraine to bring about the fall of pro Russian regime there. The result is that Ukraine is heading for division. Having started the coup, America did not have the will to send forces in, a story similar to Syria where the ‘moderates’ were eventually left to fight for themselves. America is too stretched.
Whether right or wrong as a historic decision, Trump has signalled an end to the burden United States has borne for the western world and more or less told Europe to finance and enforce its own indulgence. America is withdrawing and will concentrate in its own problems. At least that is what Trump seems to be saying while building a wall to keep the world out.
The problems that Trump has stated in his speech cannot be dismissed. America has more deaths on its streets from gun and related violence that ‘terrorism’ in many parts of the world put together. Americans are afraid of each other. The State in US cannot guarantee a life without violence.
There is more poverty in some of the inner cities than in some of the countries America has helped to come out of poverty. Much of Europe, such as Germany, rebuilt after the Second World War enjoy better standards of living than the average American does.
While sounding triumphant and strong, Trump in fact has effectively thrown in the white flag and signalled the end of Pax America and what has been traditionally called the western world. No wonder Russians have been celebrating his inauguration. Russia can go about its business with greater freedom and gain some international influence according to some Russians who have accused America of interfering everywhere in the world.
Meanwhile China has signalled its willingness to step into taking leadership of the global economy. President Xi Jinping speaking at Davos said that the global economy is here to stay and his country will fully support it. China may already have made necessary contingencies for any American insistence that it make its currency compete in the world markets without artificially devaluing it.
There is no doubt that a new world order is about to spring from the Trump victory if he lasts in office. The next four years will be a lot of internal struggle within US, thus detracting from international responsibilities. The problems have already started with the Visa restrictions, attracting not only condemnation from around the world but protests within USA.
Just as the Iraq war gave an opportunity for China to quietly strengthen its role internationally, the internecine American conflicts will give opportunity to Russia and China to become greater players if not equal players in international politics. By the end of Trump’s four years, the fate of Pax Americana will most likely be sealed. Trump may wage a war or two on a small weak country to show Americans that USA can still push its weight, but the real competitors may grow too big for USA to scare them.
Many are hoping that reality will change him and those around him will make him see sense However he is a man who is used to saying ‘you are fired’ than listening to advice which goes contrary to his own instincts.
So the near future is not as unpredictable as many of the ‘experts’ are prophesising. It is simply following a trajectory hastened by the events of 9/11 when the United States over reacted to those tragic attacks by thrashing out wildly and creating a pathology of fear within itself instead of sensible security measures. The end of Pax Americana was inevitable after the Iraq war and security hypochondriasis. The country lost its self-confidence. Trump is just bellowing it in big banners as Fort America draws its bridges and builds ever higher walls against enemies in the shadows. A scared country cannot run the world.