Donald Trump, daily Tweets.(Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)[/caption] He rose from almost nowhere to take on one of the most sophisticated political establishments and win hands down. He keeps on outwitting it by creating new fields and new rules of the game that not only are the established competitors unable to keep up with but are so disgusted by it that they are unwilling to participate. The ‘establishment’ keeps on hoping that either the Russia enquiry or something else will crush Trump and lead to impeachment. Other are willing to sit it out by the next election and hope Americans will be sensible enough to kick him out. Chances are that his ability to distract may make that unlikely. Trump however has unleashed deep divisions within America. Race is a big issue now. The black population is not only fast moving away from the administration but is feeling the heat of rising racism from what is called the Trump Base. Racism is now tolerated with impunity. It is isolating the most affected minorities in USA. More than race, there is now growing fissures between liberal America and the white extreme right wing America. Both are essentially ‘white’. Their division is becoming irreconcilable and pathological. An America which shaped and led the liberal western world, feels under threat by nineteenth century minded Americans who hated blacks, Latinos, Chinese and anyone who didn’t fit their sense of own superiority. It is this which could start to divide the once very powerful USA irrevocably. With the west coast, California largely liberal and East Coast largely cosmopolitan, it is mid America and the Southern States that are shaping the new United States. The Bannon – Trump splat is likely to push the ‘Base’ even more to the right. No doubt Bannon is going to try and influence this new empowered America with more extreme rhetoric and blaming Trump to have let them down. Meanwhile Trump is likely to compete with Bannon with equally crazy policies to keep the Base happy. Bannon is an intellectual and an ideologue, however unsavoury his ideology is. He appears to be a man happier to see his ideas take power and form than actually take over the reigns of power. In that he will be satisfied if Trump walks into his trap and in anger ends up introducing the policies that Bannon actually wants to see in public. The public spat will ironically take away attention from the Russia investigation and Trump’s other destructive ripples to a battle for the Base. The spat is likely to go on and become daily entertainment while the ideas that Bannon wants will insidiously become the administration’s policies without much public scrutiny. It is likely that differences over policies between Trump administration and Democrats might end up taking second stage to the public spats between Trump faction and Bannon faction in the Base. If Trump lasts another year and this ingenious distraction continues, chances are that this shifting wave to the right will exasperate liberal America so much that it may take extreme steps. Unable to unseat Trump and take back control of the centre of power, it cannot be ruled out that the fissures will become so geographically deep that they may lay the foundations of a break up of the United States in future. [caption id="attachment_23903" align="alignnone" width="959"] (171214) — MOSCOW, Dec. 14, 2017 (Xinhua) — Russian President Vladimir Putin in control[/caption] An eventual break up of USA is not so fanciful an idea given the unbelievable series of events that have rocked the world in the last three years. No one expected the Brits to go for Brexit, not even the Brexiters. No one thought that Assad will eventually become stronger. No one dreamt that Mugabe will actually fall. The world has been undergoing a bit of an overhaul, a bit of change from its status quo of ideas. A possible division of America is not such a wild prediction given the depth to which that the fissures have become entrenched within one year of Trump presidency. Nothing will please Putin more, but it is quite possible that even more than Bannon, it is Putin who is the puppet master. // ]]>
Glowing mention in an official document personally announced by the president of the world’s most powerful nation can be tempting to engage in self-importance. Sections of Indian analysts and media appear to have gone overboard on US President Donald Trump’s references to India in the National Security Strategy (NSS). But there is need for caution for many reasons. Skepticism about NSS does arise the way Trump conducts his foreign policy. This is essentially American viewpoint which is being contested by some in America itself. Many think Trump has ignored essential issues, climate change for one, in this vision statement. Many in the West, not to talk of those criticized in the document, think it is best ignored for a variety of reasons but mainly, because their worldview does not resonate with Trump’s. America’s past record in comprehending issues and acting upon them has not been too reassuring. It keeps changing its friends and foes – it’s risky being either completely. And finally, producing the document is a legal requirement in the US since 1986. Abiding by it is not. The NSS underscores the ‘America First’ principle means in terms of Washington’s foreign policy and delineates friends, foes and ‘frenemies’. It refuses to acknowledge America’s declining power in the international arena. The way Trump all but caved in to China when he met Xi Jinping and has, amidst loud humming and hawing accepted the latter’s inability/unwillingness to restrain North Korea does not match with the strong words the NSS has used. Undoubtedly, the document has several positives for New Delhi. Given the current ‘nationalist’ mood generated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government (that has come in for a special, positive mention), the Indians are thrilled on two counts: that India has been recognised as an emerging global power, and that the role of India’s two adversaries, China and Pakistan, has been criticized in explicit terms. Trump administration states that it will ‘deepen’ its strategic partnership and ‘support’ India’s leadership role in maintaining security in the Indo-Pacific. It sees India as “a balancing power” in the region. New Delhi has responded with ‘appreciation’ but remains cautious, which is good. India is a priority area for the US which deserves support for “its leadership role in Indian Ocean security and throughout the broader region.” The US views India as a very reliable partner in Afghanistan. The unstated part is that it sees India doing the ‘soft’ job of helping Kabul’s economic development, while the US does the ‘hard’ job of fighting. Only, some of the ‘hard’ part should not be expected of India. Good words that throw a clutch of opportunities at India but with many ‘ifs’. They also demand whether India has the stomach to play global politics and bear the resultant losses in men and material, if, when and where required. Besides ability and intent, the equally big demand from India is on its willingness to join what is clearly a new phase of the Cold War – did it really end with the last century? In the intervening two decades, India has moved cautiously, from what was a bi-polar world to a multi-polar one, from non-alignment to multi-alignment and nurturing relations with powers big and small, as it took economic strides. All along, it has been working to preserve its strategic autonomy, mindful of the pitfalls that invite it if it joins any particular alliance. This is a well-nigh difficult demand. But strategy and diplomacy cannot remain static. India cannot be unmindful of its geographic proximity and geopolitical adversity to China and the emerging China-Pakistan alliance. China, the fast-emerging superpower has spread its money-muscled tentacles all around in Asia and India is particularly surrounded by China whose quest to reach the Indian Ocean has now been fulfilled thanks to Pakistan. China has spread its economic embrace across Indian Ocean region that is bound to get tighter with its Border and Roads Initiative (BRI). India has chosen not to join it, but all around it, smaller neighbours are walking into the Chinese-laid debt trap. Nepal, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are borrowing more than they can repay in decades to come. Even the little Maldives feels comfortable in signing a trade pact with China, even stoking anti-India sentiments. What has been the “Indian orbit” is seriously intruded by China. The NSS needs to be viewed in this context, but not with Trump’s America as the savior. India cannot be like Pakistan that has gone into the Chinese embrace with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for one, to get even with India and secondly, to push away a recalcitrant America that is making constant demands to “do more” against terrorism, something Islamabad is unwilling to do to guard its own perceived national interests. This is Asia’s biggest switch-over that India can scarcely ignore. The US’ limitations in coercing a nation into doing its bid are starkly visible in the way Pakistan’s inability/unwillingness to take on the outfits that target the Americans in Afghanistan. This is despite American threats and reminders of Pakistan’s latter’s ‘obligations’. The short point is that if America cannot effectively coerce Pakistan, a nation that is in political turmoil and whose economy requires a bail-out to survive, then how can it be of any help in India’s fight against terrorism? Among the foes of the Trump administration are Russia and Iran. India has good relations with them. With Russia it remains ‘special’ when it comes to defence hardware. With Iran, the ancient ties survived years of Western sanctions and besides oil, the new factor is Chabahar port, the India-Iran-Afghanistan project. It can help the US, but only if it were to shed its blind hostility to Iran, partly compelled by its anxiety to balance the Saudis and Israelis. India has just exercised its strategic choice by voting at the United Nations against the US on recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. This is despite its burgeoning ties with the US and Israel, now a major military ware supplier. It’s a plus point in Modi-led diplomacy. Just like its ties with Russia and Iran, India cannot and should not permanently jeopardize its ties with China and Pakistan despite serious problems and hostility. India, no doubt, had the 73-day Doklam standoff with China accompanied by extraordinary Chinese belligerence. The NSS observes that China built its power through compromise of sovereignty of other nations. But do these ‘other’ nations feel that way? The US cannot be the arbiter of other nations’ sovereignty, nor decide on their being “less free” and “less democratic.” This is return of the Cold War at doorsteps. The bottom line for India, now and later, is to cautiously and deftly navigate its boat of diplomacy through turbulent waters, keeping its own interests in mind – and without getting swept off by words of praise. The “global power” status has to be earned, not conferred by any country, grouping or alliance. // ]]>
The Druz are predominantly in As-Suweida governate as well as in the areas bordering Iraq in the east. Since the northern offensive from Turkey did not make any headway towards Damascus which was 500 Kms away, the coalition forces launched the southern offensive from Jordan in late 2013 because Damascus was much closer. In the southern offensive the opposition forces made steady progress and cleared all areas astride Israel. The mission area of United Nations Disengagement Observation Force also forms part of this region. Therefore, we as peacekeepers bore the brunt of collateral damage of this offensive. Syrian Arab Armed Forces (SAAF) were pushed north and eastward towards Damascus. The idea to have a buffer zone in these border districts was mooted a long time back and my interlocutors in Israel and Jordan had repeatedly mentioned this to me. I had always advised Israelis not to cross the 1974 ceasefire line and move east towards Damascus In a bid to desist them from doing that, I used to emphasise that they would be ill advised to leave the heights along the Alpha line ( ceasefire line between Israel and Syria) and come east to low lying areas and expose themselves from all sides to the fire of opposition groups and SAAF. Both SAAF and opposition groups would have contested this action of Israel resulting in escalation of violence. The present ceasefire has come about after prolonged efforts of Russia and talks between Russian and US leaders. It is the beginning of the forming of the de-escalation zones which Mr Staffan De Mistura, the special Envoy of Secretary General of United Nations to Syria, has been trying ever since his appointment in 2014. In fact I had met Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy, the deputy special envoy in Beirut and emphasised that Qunneitra governate; which includes the Golan Heights, where our peacekeeping mission is located, as the best region to start their de-escalation experiment from. They have done exactly that after three years of sustained efforts! [caption id="attachment_17123" align="alignleft" width="300"] (DAMASCUS, July 8, 2017 (Xinhua) — Deputy UN Special Envoy for Syria Ramzy Ezzeldin Ramzy (C) speaks during a press briefing in Damascus, capital of Syria,[/caption] Qunneitra Governate lies in South West of Syria and shares the ceasefire line with Israel on the west. Daraa region is south of Qunneitra and is the bordering district with Jordan in the south. As-Suweida is further east of Daraa and also is the border district with Jordan. Together the three governates form an L shape region upto a depth of thirty kilometres from Israel and Jordan. Daraa forms the pivot of the region. Roads and approaches to Damascus lead from all three sides of this region. A ceasefire in the three governates will mean Israel and Syria would be isolated and immune from the internal strife in Syria as they will have moderate opposition groups suitably inclined towards them controlling these areas. Since the pre-requisite of the ceasefire is that the region should be void of all radical groups like ISIS, Hizbullah and Al Nusra; if that happens, the ceasefire is likely to hold. The Assad government has scanty presence in these areas and therefore, will honour the ceasefire. The United Nations is also working out no flying zones in concert with Russia, US and Turkey and they would be advised to include Iran for any lasting peace in the country. A big spin off from the ceasefire would be that over a million Syrian refugees who have been in Jordan, Iraq and Egypt for years would be able to come back to their country although some of them will still remain internally displaced persons (IDPs). It may be recalled that 5.5 million Syrian are refugees in neighbouring countries of Turkey (3,050,000), Lebanon (1,001,000), Jordan (661,000), Iraq (243,000) and Egypt (123,000). Another 6.5 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in their own country and some of them have been displaced more than two times. Two thirds of the population of 23 million Syrians need humanitarian aid. In the six year old civil war this ceasefire is a ray of hope for similar ceasefires to be applied in other regions where the ground situation is more complicated. The seventh round of peace talks have commenced in Geneva paving the way for declaring other de- escalation zones in the rest of the country. * ( The author Lt Gen Singha was the Head of the Mission and Force Commander of United Nations peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights from 2012 to 2015 ) // ]]>
th now. China has reduced its poverty to single figures. India’s real poverty is above 40% India has done well but not so well. It is a power, but still struggling to assert regional dominance. It has a tremendous diplomatic reach but it still lacks the awe and respect that China holds within world whether the democratic world or the non democratic one. While India can and may reach economic parity, and it may be the ‘fastest’ growth region of the world, it lacks intellectual capital. India is not the crucible of ideas or political philosophies. It does not command respect in standing aloof with its own cultural image as China does or even countries like Iran do. It prides on having western form of democracy, western form of legal system, western instituted administration and western concept of ‘nationalism’. With these mission statements, the most India can do in the field of ideas and intellectual genius is to reach the stages of a western power and say, ‘what you can do, we can do better’. While Modi’s strategy of bear hugging and remaining silent on key issues may have been an Indian approach to a challenging situation, at the dinner table, Modi or India does not have much to offer in addressing regional tensions, international issues, world economy and so on. Why would a United States president look up to an Indian PM. The Chinese president draws respect not just because of the power that China has become, but their unique approach to many international issues, their inner calm that they exude and their indifference to dismiss criticism as irrelevant to their civilisation. Now wouldn’t it be great if it was Trump trying to please Modi, than the other way around. India needs a debate on this. Will it ever attract world attention and respect as US, China and Europe does? // ]]>
Impeachment of the president is gaining currency in United States media and political circles, so much that even President Trump is lining up his lawyers in preparation. There is deep seated belief in the establishment that it can restore order and recover the institutions of America when pushed too far. The United States prides in its constitution and system of checks and balances that prevent despotism at the White House. This time, however, gaining back American democracy may not be that simple. It is the very democratic mob that prides in American democracy that is likely to sink the United States as we know it.
President Donald Trump’s position is being compared to Nixon. There are huge differences. Nixon was establishment. He believed in the system although he tried to bend it and rise above it. He may have privately found the institutions of United States stifling but he was adept at managing them and getting away with it. Eventually he lost because he got caught out under ‘obstruction of justice’. Nixon could never publicly denounce the system that has been held sacrosanct by every child and adult in the USA. When impeachment came, he could not say, ‘I don’t respect the constitution, the House of representatives or Judicial system of the United States’. He bowed to the power of the system and left, negotiating his way out.
Donald Trump is different. He didn’t come through the system. He has no political pedigree to speak of. He has no respect for political parties or the political order. He bought his way into a party and rode the road to power through the ‘people of America’. He does not owe any thing to the political establishment except a lot of ire. He has used them and abused them in the past and probably feels he can do that with impunity.
As the Representatives gather courage to call for impeachment, he is likely to appeal above their heads directly to the people. That is how he won the election. He made putty of the system, breaking all traditions during his campaign. He got away by treating women as sex objects, he did not care for Mexican sensitivities when calling them rapists and he did not bother about the famous American cultural salad when communalising politics with his anti Muslim tirades. And yet Mexicans and women voted for him in great numbers, so did some Muslims. As a businessman he has learnt people bow to power and money.
Trump is the master of nonsense. What’s more, he recruits the most serious politicians to stand beside him and repeat his fanciful claims as a chorus. He has just done that in his meteoric Middle East tour. The allegedly hard line Saudi Arabia bit its lips and developed amnesia about all the bad mouthing about it and Islam by Trump, and smiled in acknowledgement as he said he will bring peace where none has been emerging for more than a thousand years. The Messiah cometh.
Then he met Netanyahu and his cabinet on the airport runway repeating the same. Netanyahu looked elated. Israel even forgave Trump compromising it as the intelligence source for the laptop bomb information. And there was no public rebuke in this trip from Israel for his press secretary who had recently said that Islamic State atrocities were worse than Hitler’s holocaust . Trump is so beyond parody so there is no point spoiling his theatre. Best to nod and clap as he says what he is going to do is ‘just beautiful’.
In USA, in impeachment land, Trump has already publicly run down every sacred American institution. He called a judge who stopped his diktat on immigration a ‘so called judge’, the banter of bar talk after losing a case. And then said the entire Circuit 9 should be abolished. Faith in justice is dependent on a belief in the independence and professionalism of the judges. The fiction of the rule of law is maintained by all institutions of the State respecting judges and judgements. When the President of the country accuses judges of being political, what reverence will ordinary people now hold for the Judicial system of America?
Donald Trump has even cast suspicion on the security apparatus, another institution that survives on the fiction of integrity and ‘honesty’. He now says that he is the victim of a witch hunt. He has dismissed the FBI director Mr James Comey and called him a nut! He allegedly asked him whether he was loyal to him (Trump), not the United States! Civil servants, particularly in security services, are not meant to express loyalty to the politician but to the constitution and the country. This was an extraordinary challenge to the independence and integrity of the system.
So much has happened in this brief period of Trump presidency that no one is sure what America stands for now. Among his contempt for office are, openly flouting ground rules against nepotism and failing to properly distance his business Empire from exploitation of office, putting cronies in position with disregard to accepted norms and making mockery of office by tweeting his policies and barks rather than announcing them with the dignity and seriousness required of his office.
America now makes no sense. The president is neither accountable nor does he wish to be accountable. He calls the system rotten. He has even dismissed the constitution as ‘problematic’.
In America, representatives and officials take oath of the constitution and defend it. they don’t make oath to the President. But having taken office, now the President attacks the constitution. He blames the constitution and the checks and balances built in United States system of Governance saying, “It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country”. Thus what every child and what every new aspiring citizen of United States has to believe in is being called ‘bad thing for the country’ by the President of the country!
That is where he has crossed the Rubicon and few people have noticed it. What is it that the ‘Representatives’ of the two Houses will try and restore if they move towards impeachment. Is it the respect and responsibilities of the office of the head of the State? Will they be trying to prove that the country is bigger than the man. Will they succeed? the red lines of America have all been made mockery of by him.
What if Trump goes beyond their heads and tweets and talks directly to his supporters. He has prepared the ground. Like him, the mob now probably believes the Judges are political. Like him they probably believe that the security services are ‘the establishment’ engaged in a witch hunt of Trump. And most dangerously, some if not many of them believe that the constitution is outdated, the system is archaic and everything needs to be overhauled so that a wall can be built and Muslims can be banned from coming in without pesky courts intervening or representatives trying to get their two penny worth of brake to his fantasies.
In the imagination of his die hard populist supporters, he has destroyed the credibility of every great institution that is the United States. There is nothing left sacred of America that was built through history. The preservation of none of these institutions warrants his impeachment as far as the mob is concerned.
They will call their Congressmen and Senators to back off. They will hold rallies. They will turn against the ‘rotten establishment’ whatever that is. What will happen then. Will Republican Congressmen hold country, constitution and ethics above votes? Or will they conveniently find FBI and Judges to be at fault. Will he find enough politicians to bow to him, breaking the system for ever.
President Trump came to power stoking and riding populism and he still leads the hanging mob. If he decides that he is above the country and the constitution, he will unleash the mob. That is his army. He has crossed the Rubicon as Caesar did in breaking the republic when it frustrated his political ambition. Trump will mobilise the army of people to bring down ‘Rome, the Republic’. If he succeeds he will embark on dismantling the cobwebs of checks and balances and rebuild it as he wants.
The United States is at a cross roads. His closest adviser believes that history changes every few centuries through bloodshed. Await for Emperor Trump. Or Citizen Trump. Impeachment promises to be another drama unless he decides he has had enough and wants to go back to building ‘Trump Towers’ where he can boss everyone and fire anyone. Can the republic survive Trump?
Jasdev Singh Rai
Washington, (IANS) US President Barack Obama is set to veto a bill that would allow survivors and families of victims of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, the White House said on Monday. “That’s still the plan,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said when asked if the President planned to veto the bill. The White House had previously suggested Obama would not sign the bill when it first passed the Senate in May saying it would complicate diplomatic relations, CNN reported. On Friday, the House of Representatives passed the bill by voice vote. Earnest defended the administration’s stance against the bill saying it was not “an effective, forceful way for us to respond to terrorism”. Lawmakers were expected to attempt to override the veto, and if successful, would mark the first time in Obama’s presidency, CNN noted. Earnest said the bill has not yet been presented to Obama who has 10 days to veto the bill before it becomes law automatically. // ]]>
Memorial for 9/11[/caption] The United States has lost moral and physical edge. It may be equally wishful to think that had the US regime taken a step back, dealt with the damage in New York and then decided on a response with a cool head, matters may have been different. Had its decision benefitted from the vast analytic knowledge available to it from its Ivy League universities of similar ‘big shocks’ in history, it may have concentrated on just scaring the Taliban into some form of submission. The US should have restricted its aim to bringing Bin laden and associated to justice and politically destroy Al Qaeda. The Taliban, as even the USA admitted in the end, had no intention or knowledge of attacks planned on the west. Its obsession was to make Afghanistan a medieval Islamic State. There are a few of these in the Middle East who are even partners of US. Taliban was host to Al Qaeda and obliged to it. But a siege and some fire power would have convinced the Taliban to push Al Qaeda out. Instead the US response made their bond even stronger. The attack on Iraq gave a wider Islamic angst against America among some groups a lease of violence that is still continuing. Perhaps the Islamic world would inevitably have come to the stage it is in now irrespective of American response. But a restrained response to 9/11 may at least have kept the candle of liberal hope alight and the freedoms that were taken for granted once, still in place today in USA and other western countries. // ]]>