R. HERVIAN, ME
Back at the beginning of the 90’s, in an intimate conversation, then President George H.W. Bush has discussed with Boris Yeltsin about a certain aspect in the American political speeches conducted while involved in the Presidential election campaign. He told his Russian counterpart that not everything he was about to say in public at this particular time should be interpreted literally; and that the serious discussions between them should re-convene after his re-election.
George H.W. Bush was not re-elected; Bill Clinton was. But what he told Yeltsin in 1992 still holds true today as it applies to candidates of all times and colors.
It is not the usual exaggeration in electoral promises – nothing could prevent the demagogue in any candidate from any political party, anywhere on the globe and in any political system, to promise the voters whatever their wishes might be at the time or whatever they consider paramount at the time.
And then it is often not unusual unfortunately, that some of the promises made during the election campaigns are quickly forgotten as soon as the candidate is successful, has been seated and his or hers term begins.
Short memory is human, politics are part of humanity and therefore the lack of fulfillment by various candidates once in office is partially forgiven, sometimes even forgotten, at least until the next election cycle when the story has the tendency to repeat itself.
Lying, consequently, is also human. It is said: Show me someone who claims to never lie, and I’ll show you someone who is lying.
But it is one thing, once elected, to discover that promises you’ve made during the campaign are harder than expected to fulfill. It is also one thing to even change your mind about some of the proposals you’ve engaged in at the time. But it is entirely something else to promise from the get go things that you either consciously know are not going to be on your agenda at all or worse, to be totally ignorant about them when you propose them. The later will qualify as a harsher, ill intended, completely dishonest and almost treasonous behavior. It is also an irresponsible act, especially when committed by a candidate to the Presidency of the United States, a person destined to lead the only superpower able and sometimes willing to change the fate of the entire world. And it as such, it is also without precedent in more than 240 years of American history.
Enters Donald J.Trump, the 2016 Republican candidate for President of the United States. He is the unprecedented case built on unprecedented and countless levels, one level more important than the other.
In his case, politicians on both the left and the right have achieved what no political enemies have ever achieved: an agreement on the fact the Donald Trump is enormously and without a doubt unqualified for the job of the President and Commander in Chief of the American military. The majority in the Intelligence community stated that he represents a clear and present danger if ever confronted with the decision to use the buttons of the American nuclear arsenal.
There is a perfectly understandable comprehension regarding the 2016 elections among the political and military echelons in the United States as well as an almost stupefaction inside the members of the European and other international cabinets. It is very unlikely that megalomania and xenophobia had ever reached such high level in a prospective candidate for the presidency, let alone the amateurish and irresponsible proposals on various programs Donald Trump has presented to the world during his more than one year campaign.
We will not go into details as per how such candidate found his way on this stage, a stage that could possible propel him to an even higher one, from which he must perform for at least 4 years in behalf not only of the Americans but also on behalf of the people around the entire world. But, while it is a surprise to most that ”The Donald” has succeeded in reaching this point, it is perhaps less surprising the way he drove to this point.
This however is a problem for the political historians.
Most important is the translucent possibility of him succeeding based on lies of such grandiose proportions that the rest of the world is so flabbergasted that it cannot believe him, never mind taking him seriously. Warning: it has worked before! Just refer to ”Le grand Mensonge” as the French called Hitler’s dissertation in ”Mein Kampf”, about the impact of big enough lies upon the general public.
”Entropy” is the world that comes to mind, meaning: A measure of the disorder or randomness in a closed system / A measure of the loss of information in a transmitted message.(Farlex Dictionary)
Here we shall try to explore but a handful of the consequences a Trump presidency may cause upon the US and Europe, the rest of the world, as well as upon the existing international order, be that the transatlantic relations, the pacific trade pacts or others existing world aspects as we now know them.
THE TRANSATLANTIC RELATIONS. EU AND NATO
An outstanding defender of BREXIT, Donald Trump has predicted and encouraged the dismembering of the EU. The breakup must occur, according to him, because people are disaffected with the Union and its leaders. He also predicted that without a full stop of the migration process occurring now from the Middle East, Europe will be unrecognizable within a decade.
He also mentioned that the forces who determined the BREXIT are the same with those sustaining his campaign in the USA.
As the Americans demand to ”take their country back”, so do the ”fed up” people of Europe. ”Taking the country back” and ”making America great again” are of course slogans based on the said 120 words thesaurus Trump has been able to master in his 70 years of life.
They spell the de facto Isolationism his campaign is propagating with enormous success. It is true, his audience is mostly composed of the ”less educated”, but the strength of his supporters is undeniable.
Never mind that the new Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, recently declared before the G20 meeting in Beijing that ”Britain’s exit from the European Union may create some difficult times ahead”. Trump with his proverbial lack of international experience seems to know better.
As referred earlier, a certain world order taken for granted until now may be about to change. Up on the list of changes are the assumptions that the trade agreements between the US and Europe are about to scramble as a first victim. There were never doubts about the transatlantic alliance, not since the end of World War II. If Donald Trump becomes President on one side of the Atlantic, the other side’s cooperation could be very much in doubt. A possible gridlock in the trade negotiations taking place between EU and US right now is on the horizon. Can Brexit as lauded by Donald Trump be a harbinger for what is to follow in the already difficult free trade negotiations?
NATO is another item on Donald Trump revision list. According to him member countries have long benefited from US contributions but failed to compensate for American services rendered to them. Consequently, Trump proposes, member countries which do not pay for service will no longer benefit from US engagement in the organization or for its protection.
In other words Trump wants to do away with the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty which refers to the foundation principle of it, stipulating the obligation of the member countries to participate in collective defense of any member that has been attacked – also known as the ”principle of collective defense”. It is the most important article in the Treaty since it creates the necessary solidarity among allies facing particular or unexpected strategic dangers.
If elected, Trump will first look at the contribution our allies make to the organization and then decide if they deserve or should be helped in case of an outside attack.
The emblem of NATO
Confronted by the press regarding the dangerous activities of Russia on or around the Baltic States, Trump recently replied: ”If they fulfill their obligations to us, the answer is yes” – an explainable answer from a business man, Trump after all being a successful one, but less explainable from a man who plans to become President of the United States, the preeminent leader of the NATO treaty. But give Trump some credit: this statement is at least consistent with his earlier remarks, threatening to withdraw American protection from countries in Europe and Asia, which do not pay their ”contributions”. He stated also his preference to stand by the present international agreements on the condition that ”our allies stop taking advantage of us”.
Trump’s outrage against the ”non paying” members who take advantage of us is also part of his ignorance in political and international affairs. In fact, if his idea of contributions is to be applied, there will be but the US, Greece, the U.K., Estonia, and Poland left in the alliance. All the others will be disqualified. Trump fails to understand that member countries pay a certain percentage of their GDP and not what Trump finds to be acceptable. This is what was originally agreed upon and it is still the ruling the financial bylaws of the Alliance.
Another factor, a psychological one perhaps, might be considered. Many of the new NATO members are former members of the Warsaw Treaty. These countries, after the fall of the Soviet Union, were looking for strategic allies able to protect them from the sad experience of dictatorships and economic stagnation during the communist era. NATO association was their answer and hope. In the times when Russia is again trying to assert its imperial powers, when President Putin is trying to regain the influence of the former Soviet Union and establish a new superpower status with the goal of engaging and challenging the US, the messages from Trump must be very scary for the new member states. And a disenchanted member of NATO or a scared one is not a reliable ally within the alliance.
In conclusion, Trump is about to conjure decades long agreements, strategic alliances long since established and basically re-define partnerships in the world according to his personal concoctions.
Asked by the press if NATO should be obsolete and disbanded altogether, Trump responded that the idea merits consideration and once elected he will determine its fate.
It should be laughable if these daft altercations would not result in plenty of applause at Trump’s rallies, where people called recently by his opponent, Hillary Clinton, as ”baskets of deplorable”, are delighted in their leader’s slogans. Because they represent the real danger: an electorate perhaps able to push him over the threshold on November the 8th and further into the White House on January 20th 2017.
One cannot be prevented to observe that the aforementioned Trump declarations about NATO, and especially about the Baltic states, plus other declarations about Putin or Ukraine are actually received with pleasure and hope in Moscow.
A strange and quite unprecedented situation has been created when it comes to the Republican candidate and Russia. It is at least a threefold consideration problem.
First, the abundance of secretive and mysterious relations surfaced in the media, between Russia and Trump personally as well as Trump Organization.
There has been a tradition in the presidential campaigns since Richard Nixon, by which every candidate to the presidency, Democrat or Republican, would release his or hers tax returns for the electorate to contemplate not only the financial disclosures but the mere honesty of the future president. Donald Trump so far, less than two month to the election date, has chosen not to go by this tradition – again a mysterious and unprecedented behavior. The fact has many implications but for the sake of this argument, the American voter will have no idea what percentage of Trump’s investments are in Russia or what percentage of Trump’s debts are held by Russia or what percentage of involvement in Trump’s campaign and contributions are counted in Rubles.
Not knowing, people have no choice but imagining and often imagination creates monsters and nightmares. What if the President of the United States, as individual, owes money and favors to Russia and Putin? What kind of allegiances and loyalties can thus be created?
There has been and there still is a suspect multitude of people with close relations in the oligarch’s world of Russia, advising, contributing and working for the Trump campaign. Until very recent, Trump’s campaign manager was a man named Paul Manafort. He had to resign under pressure because it turned out not long ago he also had a job in management at an investment fund in Ukraine, for a magnate enjoying close ties with Putin. Worse, Manafort was instrumental in the political activities of the former Ukrainian president, a man ousted in 2014, an action which was the main cause for the Russian intervention in Ukraine the same year. A Russian aggression condemned by the US Government, regardless of political party, the same Government Trump is trying to lead starting 2017.
The second aspect pertains to the possible involvement of Russia in the ongoing American election. Although not yet proven, it seems cyber attacks have been repeatedly pointed to the Democratic National Committee in an effort to influence the outcome of the American election in favor of the Republican candidate. Considered weak by the Russian intelligentsia, apparently Donald Trump is the Russian choice for president of the USA. Trump’s reaction when confronted by the press on the subject? ”I’m not going to tell Putin what to do. Why should I tell Putin what to do?”
The third aspect refers to the multiple declarations Trump has made when referring to Vladimir Putin. Indeed, never before a US candidate to the Presidency of the US has had so many strange praises about a Russian President. In Trump’s view Putin is a strong and true leader; certainly stronger than President Obama for example.
Trump is a narcissist in addition to a megalomaniac. When Putin played him saying he is ”colorful and talented”, Trump enjoyed and replied he was honored by the Russian’s praise.
The situation is trending out of control. Conspiracy theories are advanced in the media that reminds us of the Middle Ages not the 21st century. Washington Post, a serious and one of the most appreciated newspapers in the US, has found space for a theory in which Putin and Trump have conspired to poison the former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, democratic candidate. We’re falling into the media abyss during this strange and crazy election cycle. After all, during an interview a year ago, Trump didn’t seem to greatly appreciate Putin’s responsibility in killing journalists who criticized him – ”at least he’s a leader, unlike what we have in this country”! And he continued: ”Putin is doing a great job” of ”rebuilding the image of Russia”.
It is hard not to see Putin as a role model for ”the Donald”. And I am not sure Trump doesn’t sincerely believe that to be true.
As with all his promised policies, Donald Trump’s military and strategic proposals are steeped into the nebulous unknown. While the most recent military crowd has expressed their deep distrust in Trump’s strategies, his support comes from a handful of former generals and some former admirals none of which has participate in America’s most recent wars and other military operations.
Confronted with questions from the media Trump has first expressed his conviction that, for instance, in regard to ISIS, he personally knows more than the generals.
Also addressing the misconception that ISIS has not been dealt with properly, Trump blames the military, who under President Obama has been ”totally depleted” while the generals ”have been shamefully reduced to rubble”. Two concepts perfectly fitting the Trump campaign model of lies, grand lies and fact free truth as only he can spell.
Another aspect of the dangerous route Trump is traveling on is his recent encounters with the CIA who has the obligation to begin briefing the credible candidates, approximately two month prior to the elections on the secret world affairs. After the briefings, Trump declared that while they were very informative, he left with the impression, based on the body language of the CIA agents, that they are personally displeased with Obama’s strategic policies and eager for a change.
This was in the best case scenario a faux pas by a serious candidate, but it became pure ridicule when the CIA countered his remarks by publically denying them as simply Trump inventions. How will a President Trump deal with this subject when he becomes the boss of the CIA?
Donald J. Trump is, to use one of his favorite words, ”a disaster” waiting to happen. From asking to stop the entry visas in the US for all Muslims around the world, expelling the ones already in the US to naming the Mexicans criminals and thieves, to insulting decorated dead soldiers, women, foreign countries, to denying the fact that President Obama is an American, to insulting the handicapped, the list can go on forever.
The sad fact is Donald Trump is an enormous danger the US is facing for at least the next few weeks.
Anything but a major crush of Donald Trump at the voting booth in the upcoming election will permit the residues of his sick and smelly influence to linger and make it so much more difficult to forget.
New York, September 2016
ME, Middle East Forum Adviser – Philadelphia, USA, Professor at Plainfield, N.J. School of Social Studies,
Drake University, Middle East Forum