I ONCE had high hopes for US President Donald Trump. I appreciated his big personality, positive outlook and business acumen. He enticed the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt early in his presidency with promises to be the Great Defender against Iranian aggression and a vow to cleanse the region from terrorism. I had high hopes for President Trump and sad to say they have all been dashed.
He has single-handedly destabilized our planet pitting allies against allies, turning adversaries into outright enemies and threatening to defund post-WW2 institutions, the UN and NATO – tried and true alliances designed to protect us from the sins of the past costing many millions of lives. Thanks to his dysfunctional foreign policies the Doomsday Clock ticks ever closer to midnight.
Trump is a maestro of making threats and promises that change on a dime. The world is not fooled any more. His policy U-turns, inability to discern fact from fiction and his withdrawal from US commitments on a range of issues have been wake-up calls. Is there any sane person who sincerely believes Trump is a person to be trusted?
He initially billed himself as an anti-war leader pledging to bring home US troops in Middle East conflict zones. The troops remain. US bases have increased. And since he grew comfortable in his Oval Office chair, he has been deliberately provoking leaders, some with access to a nuclear button, in the mistaken belief they will capitulate to his demands. How is that working for him?
In the trade war, China’s President Xi Jinping shows no signs of rolling over. On the contrary, he is matching US tariffs blow-for-blow.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is clearly unimpressed with Trump’s honeyed approach; he demands action in the form of sanctions relief before engaging in further face-to-face talks.
Venezuela’s President Nicolàs Maduro has hung on to his chair despite the Trump administration’s far-reaching attempts to replace him.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has refused to return to the table or meet with his American counterpart to renegotiate the nuclear deal as long as anti-Iranian sanctions persist. Trump has threatened Iran with obliteration. Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif now threatens all-out war if struck in response to his country’s alleged role in airstrikes on two Saudi oil facilities.
How can we put our trust in such an inconsistent, self-serving character? At any second he could hurtle Gulf States into a war and make us pay for our own destruction just as he once displayed regret that Iraq had not been forced to place its oil under US control. He could force countries into the position where they will be forced to take sides and then stand on the sidelines watching or, in the worst-case scenario, decide to help our enemies.
The Great Defender has become the Great Dictator treating friendly heads of state with disrespect as though they are underlings who exist only to do his bidding and those he has targeted with insulting tweets are seen during press conferences grovelling before him.
We see the leaders of the world’s richest nations at G7 meets surrounding him like bees to honey, clamouring for photo-ops, seemingly oblivious to his dismissive facial expressions and arrogant body language that scream ‘I am the Kingpin’. In times gone by in the courts of sultans and kings they would be prostrating themselves before him offering chests overflowing with gold, silks and spices.
Little has changed. Trump’s message to all knocking at his door is ‘pay up or else’. Money talks loudest in the Trump White House. Even the most disreputable can win his favour with an offer of billions of dollars’ worth of investments or weapons purchases. They vie with each other as to who can come up with the biggest enticements. He never misses an opportunity to demand money; he has given deeper meaning to the saying ‘There is no such thing as a free lunch’.
Imagine he snubbed the mild-mannered Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederriksen merely for calling his bid to buy Greenland ‘absurd’. He accused her of being ‘nasty’ and cancelled an upcoming state visit to Copenhagen!
He has labelled Canada’s President Justin Trudeau as being ‘very dishonest and weak’, and in response to the French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a united European military Trump hit back with a tweet underscoring President Macron’s low approval rating and France’s high rate of unemployment.
He has termed former British prime minister Theresa May as ‘foolish’ and slammed UK’s former ambassador to the US as being ‘a pompous fool’. Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has also borne the brunt of his tongue lashings.
Frankly, he behaves more like a debt collector or an old-time protectionist wise guy than the President of what is arguably the world’s greatest democracy founded on unshakeable values enshrined in the US Constitution and the Rule of Law.
There are exceptions. This ‘America First’ President reserves his charm offensives for the likes of his friend Kim Jong-un who while testing ballistic missiles sends him ‘beautiful letters’ or Russian President Vladimir Putin who US intelligence agencies accuse of meddling in the 2016 election. He fawns all over Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, whom he once charged with funding terrorism because in his book who cares as long as the billions and billions keep on rolling.
And not forgetting Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the recipient of the US President’s most spectacular gifts – Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. And if Netanyahu had been re-elected, he would have received Trump’s blessing to annex the Jordan Valley, part of the Dead Sea and all Jewish colonies on the West Bank. However, Trump is allergic to losers. If his buddy facing three corruption cases falls on his face, the US President will not be picking him up.
Foreign visitors do not have the monopoly on Mr Trump’s offensive behaviours; they also extend to his own advisors and staff. On his watch, the world is witnessing an unprecedented high turnover in the administration. Either he lacks the insight to choose suitable team members or his temper flares out of control or anyone who dares to voice disagreement is given their marching orders.
The House has launched a probe into Trump’s activities with a view to impeachment which has little chance of succeeding due to the Republican-dominated Senate. And so, we must rely on the good American people to vote this “successor” of Presidents Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy and Carter out before the White House for all its brilliance is seen as a murky grey.
By Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor