Wednesday, May 31, 2017
President Trump's rally call, as a candidate, was the building of a wall with Mexico. A call that resonated with the America's blue collar workers who felt they had been disfranchised and lost jobs to illegal immigrants. Appealing to base emotions rather than facts Donald Trump accused the trade agreements for the loss of US jobs; strangely enough workers in German car factories in USA also nodding their approval for the xenophobic rhetoric that swept Trump to the White House.
While one may argue that the Trump camp lacks a cogent and cohesive foreign policy the reality is that within President Trumps mind there is a policy statement garnished with the slogan of Make America Great Again. In those four words a filter has been created and for Trump anything that does not meet his definition of greatness or erodes the edifice in his mind, it needs to be purged and replaced.
President Trump is an isolationist with a twist; isolationist to anyone who would question his view, isolationist to any process where he feels he is accountable, engaging only with those who will embrace his view of the world. Having manufactured consent on the back of building walls during the elections, he now is building walls, both visible (still to get budget funding) to invisible walls. Having drawn a line in the desert between Mexico and the US, he moved to impose tariffs on Canadian lumber, setting off a trade war of attrition.
For those of us who paused and said well he has got that out of his system and will now step into the role that behoves a world leader waited with abated breath for his first visit abroad. The Middle East leg went well from trumps perspective, away from the 'nasty fake' reporters in Washington, only to land in to Europe where the depth and resolve of a Trump doctrine on foreign policy, especially leadership of NATO was expected to unfold.
A dumbfounded world audience just watched Trump push aside a Nato member premier, have an uncomfortable handshake with President Marcon, and then alienated himself from NATO partners by going off in a golf cart on his own while they walked to a summit conference hall. The more hard nosed amongst us brushed these bizarre incidents as part of the idiosyncrasies that frame the personality of Donald Trump and felt the meat on the bone would be covered in due course.
From there on President Trump in each statement, each utterance, brick by brick started to build an invisible wall with the closest and staunchest allies of the United States. First he did not reaffirm America's commitment to Article 5 of the NATO alliance, a tradition that every US President has done since NATO was formed. Then as the discussion veered towards the Paris Accord on Climate Change, President Trump shocked the world by not endorsing it.
President Trump in those two fateful steps moved away from the leadership of the moral compass of the free world and put a wall between him and Europe. His discomfort in the company of the very allies he was dumping was obvious, perhaps lacking the intellectual depth to hold his own with them he took the one course he knows best, step as far away as possible.
It seems to be clear that his vision of making America Great Again is clearly not got its mind around the fact that America is great in its leadership of the world. For a country with 5% of the world population and 25% of the world economy and 20% of the worlds carbon pollution, it cannot just stand on the sidelines in isolation to march of 190 nations who are concerned about the world we will leave for the next generations. You cannot make America great by ignoring that NATO, with all its issues, is still the only bulwark to prevent Russia repeating the Crimea take over elsewhere in Europe. America's greatness comes from its world leadership and from a strong domestic economy.
In the vacuum that is thus created in Europe the role of Germany and France, with perhaps a resurgent UK, will be pivotal to the shape of world politics. It will soon be clear that if President Trump continues to build these walls he will have a great America, sitting on its on, having eroded all the effort of 60 odd years of world leadership.