Has Trump Triggered The End Of The American Century?
“The hopes of all mankind rest upon us—not simply upon those of us in this chamber, but upon the peasant in Laos, the fisherman in Nigeria, the exile from Cuba, the spirit that moves every man and Nation who shares our hopes for freedom and the future. And in the final analysis, they rest most of all upon the pride and perseverance of our fellow citizens of the great Republic.”
- President John F. Kennedy (30th January, 1961)
When President John F. Kennedy stood before the American Congress to deliver his State of the Union Address on the 30th of January 1961, the spectre of communist hegemony expanding deep into the western hemisphere hung menacingly over his nation. The Soviet Union already had all of Eastern Europe and parts of Latin America and Africa under its thumb. The protracted turf was that ensured between the two dominant superpowers essentially defined the Cold War that ensued.
Kennedy’s tenure as President was extremely short. We also know from the botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, and his dealings with the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, prior to the Cuban missile crisis, that his record in foreign affairs was mixed. Even so, he did enough within the limited period of his presidency for scholars to discern a clear pattern and the strategy with which he intended to confront communism.
The State of the Union address to Congress in 1961 provided sufficient glimpses of his approach, and preferred strategy, in confronting communism. There was the grudging recognition of the threat communism posed to America, but there was hardly any attempt at the rabid exploitation of the same fears. JFK did not attempt to foist a culture of unbridled nationalism for political capital using barefaced falsehood deliberately passed off as ‘alternative facts’.
At the height of the Cold War, America did not also cower from the threat communism posed to its own imperialistic designs under JFK. It sought to engage, and not to retreat from the world. There were no blanket bans for the nationals of East Europe, Cuba, Nicaragua and the other parts of Latin America and Africa whose governments allied with the Soviet Union. JFK, like President Eisenhower before him, loathed communism quite alright, but they both refrained from fear-mongering and its crude exploitation.
The signing of executive order by American presidents to expedite action on key policy goals that did not require congregational approval did not commence with Donal Trump. In the spring of 1961, without the sort of razzmatazz the world experienced over the weekend. On March 1, 1961 the president issued an executive order creating the Peace Corps to send trained volunteers overseas to assist developing nations with their economic and social problems. JFKs second executive order created the Food-for-peace office and was structured to combat world hunger. The great American historian Arthur Schlesinger called the Program “the great unseen weapon of Kennedy's third world policy."
JFK also took various measures to bolster Latin American economic development, education, inter-American cooperation, and democracy, including a request to Congress for half a billion dollars to awaken “our American revolution," which he concluded should be a beacon for the free world, "until it guides the struggles of people everywhere --not with an imperialism of force or fear--but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man."
JFK believed the alliance composed of nations of like minds, could successfully counter the Communist onslaught in the western hemisphere. By projecting the American virtues of freedom and compassion rooted in its founding principles as a beacon JFK hoped to attract the respect and support of the free world in its own fight against communism.
The strategy was a departure from the “Euro-centrism” which defined America’s foreign policy after World War II, in favour of collaborative engagement with the under-developed world. But JFK was not immortal like the rest of us. If he were to be alive today, he would have shuddered at the realization that one of his predecessors Donald Trump, had to be lectured by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the essence of the Geneva Convention!
With only one week into the presidency of President Trump, the world is left under no illusion on how he intends to fight the scourge of “radical Islam”, which he insists is America’s greatest contemporary threat, to a standstill.
If the intention of Trump was to polarise the world along religious lines, he has already succeeded beyond the wildest expectation of the Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) - which has been under severe siege on all fronts - despite the best efforts of educated Americans, and several European governments like those of France and Germany to educate him. He has, in the process, turned even America’s valuable allies in Middle East into reluctant foes with his ill-advised xenophobic policies. But that is not surprising.
His promise to ‘Make America Great Again’ like I previously noted on this platform was suspect all along. It was hinged on racism and extreme Islamophobia. It is not possible to make America great by demolishing the essential pillars of its greatness.
The freedom of religion and speech are sacred in the American constitution but both are already under direct assault by Trump’s executive orders. Any further directive from Trump to constrict the rights of American Muslims will be in direct conflict with the First Amendment of the constitution.
There is clearly no doubt today that under Trump, America is already in full retreat from its lofty position of leadership of the free world. Who would have imagined that in this day, and age, China would emerge as the global champion of free trade and multilateralism, at the same time that America is shutting its borders in the face of globalization. It has left a dangerous vacuum which the other emerging powers will be all too eager to fill. And why not?
What made America great was its global appeal as the champion of freedom and democracy, not its redefinition of nationalism championed by white supremacists like the President’s Senior Adviser Steve Bannon, and other right-wing extremists he has surrounded himself with in the Oval Office. His frequent rants about the final tally of the popular vote has exposed his nation to international ridicule.
The rejection of compassion in its redefined foreign policy, particularly the treatment of refugees, and the likely re-introduction of torture in the interrogation of prisoners of war, have also exposed America as the new global bully. Such attributes were previously reserved for the Soviet Union alone and a few other despotic regimes.
Only Trump can explain why he has chosen to take his nation in the direction of the same famished road, or why there seems to be a mutual admiration between himself and the Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Only thus far, all that It shall also be taken to be a measure of how their decisions have further advanced or diminished the time-honoured American values of freedom and democracy the world has come to take for granted. Only Americans can also tell why, and how, they contrived to inflict this gapping injury on themselves and the rest of the world when they elected Trump. They must now brace themselves to cope with the consequences of his election, and learn how to thrive in the new era of alternative realities not necessarily determined by facts.
Thus far, all the warnings I gave prior to the election of Trump have come to pass. The rash executive orders he signed last week certified his xenophobic inclinations. His emergence has also energized like-minded right-wing forces in Europe, and elsewhere, itching for the opportunity to unleash their own brand of populist politics on the hapless citizens of their nations.
Against all expectations, America, under Donald Trump, is now primed to unravel the United Nation’s system that curbed global conflagrations since the end of World War II! The accident waiting to happen to America now resembles a shipwreck of Titanic proportions.
It is set to drown the American dream as we knew it. The only silver lining is that it is now up to the time-tested American democratic institutions to do the needful to halt the gradual decline of their nation and its forfeiture of its leadership position in the world.
The judiciary has already played its part in the temporary judgements against the irresponsible harassment of immigrants and refugees, now Congress must also step up to the plate to say a resounding “Nay” to the dark hegemony Trump wants to foist on his nation. And time is not on their side too.
If the massive crowds Americans that trooped out to demonstrate against the executive orders are anything to go by, an ambush awaits many Republican Congressmen in the 2018 mid-term elections if they do not beginning to distance themselves from Trump. The world is watching.