Trump’s Policies Ignite Fear and Loathing

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

Guest Commentary

Donald Trump the businessman was impressive. Reality star Trump equally so, but I fear the journey he is taking us on as President of the United States and Leader of the Free World. And I am not alone, as evidenced by the many millions of protesters who banded together from Hong Kong to Houston to register their disapproval.

Our planet needs a strong and stable USA more than ever during these turbulent times, especially when the fabric of the European Union (EU) is fraying due to the spectre of upcoming elections in France, The Netherlands and Germany, where far right-wing populist candidates are poised to emulate Trump’s win. An America torn apart by divisions and hatred is not in anyone’s interest. Unfortunately, the President is no unifier.

Never before has an incumbent begun work with so much enmity ranged against him from a great swathe of the population to the mainstream media, the intelligence community, ethnic minorities and political elites, both Democratic and Republican. His executive order overturning former President Barack Obama’s halt to two pipelines due to environmental concerns has already re-ignited protests and his disdain for climate change may see the US reneging on the Paris agreement.

Never before has a US President raised the hackles of America’s closest friends and partners  (the EU, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] and the United Nations) or ignited such loathing in the capitals of his country’s neighbours and rivals (Mexico and China) at the start of his 100 days honeymoon period.

I am all for giving him a chance, but after reviewing his statements on a variety of issues, regretfully I am not optimistic. Does he imagine his selfish “America First” goals will not go unanswered?

Mexico has categorically refused to pay for his about to be constructed border wall. China has warned there will be no negotiation on the mainstay of the US-China relationship, the ‘One China’ policy. North Korea is believed to be readying a message, the launch of a sophisticated long-range missile. Iran says it has no intention of renegotiating the nuclear deal and in the event it is torn up will resume its previous nuclear programme.

Palestinian and Arab leaderships warn that relocating the US embassy to Jerusalem will signal a violent backlash and an end to the very peace talks Mr Trump has pledged to successfully broker with the aid of his son-in-law Jared Kushner, who has been sworn in as senior adviser.

EU ministers have met successive times to discuss the impact of a Trump presidency on US-EU ties. Their fears were not misplaced. The new administration has wasted no time in ordering Brussels to choose between its proposed EU Army and US funding for NATO. Nations who have relaxed under the US diplomatic and military umbrella, including several in the Middle East, could decide to go it alone and begin developing nuclear deterrents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, who looks to Trump to lift sanctions, and British Prime Minister Theresa May, eying a speedily negotiated trade deal, are arguably the only two heads of state genuinely as keen to shake his hand as he is theirs. We are told by the President’s family members that he values loyalty above all. So, we can assume that as long as his two new best friends are willing to play ball those relationships will endure but should they stray, they too will join his list of targets.

What does worry me is Trump’s wheeler-dealer nature. Where others see suffering, he sees dollar signs lit large in neon. For example, the international community is united in its belief that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a blunder of catastrophic proportions. Trump now insists he never supported it. Videos prove that is yet another example of “alternative facts”.

During his inaugural speech he said the US will not seek to impose its way of life on other countries. I believe him. He does not care what happens in the rest of the world provided it does not impinge on America’s national interests. Given the mess Obama made poking his nose in where it was not wanted, that sounds like welcome news. But is it?

I was recently shocked by a video cataloguing various interviews and speeches – including his most recent message to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – during which he made the same point over and over again:

“Iraq has $15 trillion worth of oil, second to Saudi Arabia. Their armies are wiped out. They have weak armies. It is a corrupt society anyway… So, I said, very simply, ‘we take the oil’. At a minimum they pay us back the $1.5 trillion [for their liberation].”

“When we went over there I said, ‘Hey, I assume we’re taking the oil’… Ever heard the expression ‘To the victor belongs the spoils’. If we leave, take the oil. At least pay us back. And I come out front page news Trump is a horrible human being, he wants to take the oil from a sovereign country… Give me a break!”

“I would take away their wealth. I would take away their oil. There is no Iraq. Their leaders are corrupt. There are no Iraqis… You put a ring around them [A ring-fence of US troops around oil fields].”

There is more, but you get the point. He expected Iraq to pay for its own destruction by impoverishing itself. He almost makes his predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama look like do-gooders by comparison. If that is still his aim, how does he expect to defeat terrorists? The theft of Iraq’s natural wealth would be akin to a terrorist-producing conveyor belt. His words are guaranteed to make other oil-producing states shudder.

Likewise, his seeming wish to impoverish Mexico by repatriating millions of undocumented migrants and threatening multi-national manufacturers not to create jobs in Mexico at pain of 45 per cent import tariffs could lead to a desperate human flood that no wall can keep at bay.

Trump portrays himself as a champion for the little guy, the forgotten people. Yet, his proposed protectionist trade policies could deliver price increases and inflation and spark trade wars. China must be chuckling over his tearing-up of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) that took seven years in the making, and which Beijing has now been invited to join.

Trump’s America is one devoid of all compassion as his executive orders banning refugees from war torn Middle East countries, targeting ‘sanctuary cities’ refusing to prosecute undocumented migrants and his halting of visit visas for nationals of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Such moves primarily victimising Muslims will only serve to heighten anti-American sentiments and be construed as blessing hate speech and xenophobia directed at American Muslim communities. It has started. On 15 January, a mosque in Seattle was torched.

His rush to dump Obamacare without a suitable replacement could leave millions uninsured. One of his very first executive orders was to roll back Obama’s efforts to reduce mortgage insurance premiums. He has also been accused of demonising food stamps upon which 45 millions of America’s poorest, the very people who voted for him, rely.

The United States is run on a system of checks and balances. But with a Republican majority on the Supreme Court in the offing and a Republican-dominated Congress, we can but trust that partisanship will not keep those brakes from being well oiled.

My advice to President Donald J. Trump is this: You can catch more flies with honey. Reach out to all those you have threatened or offended. Ask them to work with you to make our world better, not just for Americans, but for us all. You cannot manage the superpower like a family business.

At stake are America’s cherished values and its stature as a beacon of hope for the poor and oppressed. If and when the US loses the world’s respect, its leadership role will be rendered defunct for decades to come.

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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