Donald Trump will start shattering the existing world order in less than two weeks, if he governs as he promised during his election campaign. Such disruption may benefit the US in the short run, but it will harm America in the long run. The rest of the world, including Nepal, will suffer from Trump’s policies.
Of course, leaders campaign in poetry and govern in prose. That might eventually turn out to be the case with the US president-elect Trump. But his toxic post-election Twitter messages and statements and his selection of ministers does not presage such transformation.
If Trump does not change himself, he will change the United States and the rest of the world strategically, politically, economically, environmentally and socially in the next four years. I am assuming that Trump will not be impeached during that period.
Incidentally, Professor Allan Lichtman, who forecast his victory, has predicted his impeachment as well. But that is a separate issue for the future.
In the strategic domain, Trump has threatened to pull the US out of the NATO, questioned the ‘One China policy’ adopted since 1971, supported the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya and Basher Assad of Syria. He has appointed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.
A weakened NATO will embolden aspiring super powers and destabilize the world. China may take an aggressive stance towards Taiwan if Trump deviates from one China policy, destabilizing North and South East Asia.
Trump’s praise and his appointment of Tillerson, whose heels are dug deeply in Russian oil, have given heart to Putin to press on in Ukraine and Syria. His praise for dictators has strengthened the hand of existing and aspiring dictators.
Trump has undermined the two-state solution for the Middle East, a mantra of the successive American administrations. He has supported the Netanyahu government’s policy of setting up and expanding Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. He has also appointed a pro-settlement man as his ambassador to Israel.
In the political realm, Trump has failed to win the confidence of leaders at the helm of US allies across the world. He continues to root for his campaign’s “big and beautiful wall”at the US-Mexico border, which the former Mexican President Vincent Fox has called a racist monument.
In addition, Trump has promised to stop regime change and nation building outside the United States. This has encouraged the existing and aspiring tin-pot dictators, who were exercising restraints in the face of American emphasis on democracy and human rights in the past.
In the economic sphere, Trump is likely to trigger a trade war. He has vowed to crush the Trans-Pacific Trade deal, poked China in the eye by criticizing Chinese trade and threatening to impose tariff on Chinese imports and by appointing an anti-Chinese hawk as commerce secretary, and undermined the NAFTA. If America adopts protectionist policies, other countries will retaliate.
Trump might gut the environmental protection gains. He has vowed to pull the US out of the Paris agreement on climate change and appointed a climate change denier as head of the Environment Protection Agency. These measures will lead to decline in US aid to sustainable development in the developing world.
Under President Trump, US aid for developing countries may suffer a major decline in other ways as well. Trump will reduce the nation building aid, which is a significant part of the aid package. His protectionist measures will derail the capacity building efforts of developing countries, which require access to rich markets for their goods and services.
Trump may reorder social values and institutions in the US and across the globe. He has already given a new lease of life to racists and misogynists in the United States and the rest of the world. He himself has mainstreamed anti-minority tirades and misogynistic behavior. He has anointed the white supremacist outfits like the KKK and Brietbert News as mainstream organizations. The racists and misogynists in other countries will follow the American example, without the fear of sanctions.
One of the biggest contributions of Trump presidency could be the elevation of corruption into a legitimate goal of public office. America has been at the forefront of the campaign for transparency and clean government in the past. But Trump is already changing it by refusing to disengage him and his family from his global business, by using his position to make a profit for his businesses, and by appointing many ministers with similar conflicts of interest. As a leader, you lead by example in the corruption field.
All these factors will have direct and significant impact on Nepal. The renewed tension and trade will undermine Nepal’s security and affect its exports and imports. The reduction in US assistance will affect Nepal’s development and environmental protection activities. The US lack of interest in democracy, human rights, gender and racial equality, and in clean and corruption-free government will encourage Nepali leaders to disregard these fundamental values and institutions as well.
But several caveats are in order here. First, the Russian cyber war and the FBI director James Comey’s intervention to get him elected have undermined Trump’s legitimacy and position even before he has moved to the White House.
Second, Trump will be able to do only as much in many of these areas as the Republican controlled Congress will concur. While he may not have much problem with the House of Representative, where decisions are made by a simple majority, he might face major hurdles in the Senate due to its personal and institutional complexity.
Personally, every Senator sees in himself a future president. So Senators often do what is in their own best interest, rather than blindly supporting the president. They, elected for six years, afford to defy the president without the fear of public outrage. For instance, the hearing on Russian influence on the US presidential elections went forward despite Trump’s serious objections.
Institutionally, the filibuster could prove a major hurdle to Trump’s agenda. The Republicans need 8 votes from the Democrats and Independents for the filibuster-proof majority to pass major legislations or ratify major appointments. Further, the situation may worsen in two years when all members of the House and one-third members of the Senate would be due for election.
Therefore, while Trump agenda is definitely scary, how much of it is actually implemented will depend on how much he grows up in the office and how much Congress will support. Let us hope he would abandon the poetry and govern with prose as soon as he moves to the White House on 20 January.