Murari Sharma: Messengers of death on bikes

Messengers of death ride motorbikes in Kathmandu, a Nepali capital-based friend told me recently.  This is the reflection of a lawless country where breaking the rules is the norm.

A motorbike driven by a young man hit Padma Raj Subedi, 79, one of the finest men of Nepal and a former secretary to government, and killed him in Kathmandu. Subedi joined the statistics of victims of such accidents, which run in to thousands every year in the valley.

He was an exemplary father, a great mentor and a noted philanthropist. As a father, he trained and guided his children to the road of success. My close relative, he mentored me and thousands like me. His friends came to for support and advice. By supporting many charitable causes, he reached out to the wider community.

In addition, he was also a highly regarded former secretary to the Nepal government. He worked in various districts for many years, winning the hearts and minds of the local people, and rose to become a secretary. A mild, careful, and amiable person, Subedi was a clean and successful administrator, second to none.

At work or in society, he never did injustice to anyone. Yet, he suffered reckless injustice at the end of his career and his life.

The Girija Prasad Koirala government did Subedi gross injustice by firing him in 1991 when he was Secretary, together with other civil servants. Though he had dealt softly with the pro-democracy activists during the Panchayat days, some of Koirala’s cronies had linked him to the recently toppled system. The decision to fire him and many others was blatantly unjust, and the court reinstated most of them.

But Subedi’s appeal dragged on endlessly until his age for retirement arrived. Though Koirala apologized, publicly, for his ill-advised decision, the irreparable damage was already done.

Another injustice, from a young biker, took his life. Reportedly, a reckless young biker sped up and hit Subedi from the front when he was crossing the road through the zebra crossing near his home, sending the victim flying down to the black-topped road. He was rushed to Annapurna Hospital where he breathed last shortly.

Although pedestrians are supposed to have the right of the way at zebra crossings, two-wheelers, three-wheelers, and four-wheelers in Kathmandu invariably claim this right over the people on foot.

In the capital city of Nepal, the bikers are the main culprits in traffic accidents and related deaths. They create traffic jams by filling every inch of road and preventing other vehicles from moving. They do not observe the one-way rule or the lane rule where they apply.

Worse, by usurping the footpaths to drive and park their bikes and by driving through one-way streets and the pedestrian-only bridges, they routinely endanger the life of road user. And they speed up when they see people using the zebra-crossing to traverse the road.

The bikers cause the majority of accidents, including those that kill. The number of traffic accidents, according to the Traffic Police, has increased by 280 percent over the last 10 years (from 1989 to 5568 accidents). Forty percent of the victims are pedestrians.

Why are the bikers and drivers so reckless in Nepal? This is what happens in a lawless country run by criminals.

Understandably, bikes are inexpensive to buy and operate and quicker to get from point A to B. Therefore, the rise in their number in Kathmandu over the last couple of years has been phenomenal. According to one figure, 70,000 bikes were added to Kathmandu, which has a population of slightly above one million, in the last six months or so alone. The sheer increase in the volume of traffic is bound to shoot up accidents.

But that does not give the bikers the license to be reckless. Neither has the government, on its part, done much to make the roads of Kathmandu safe.

It has not put traffic lights, not built footpaths in many places, and not maintained the roads well. Over the last three years, it has demolished the houses and walls to widen the city roads where they are narrow, but not an inch of them has been rebuilt. To make the worse, it has allowed water and sewage, and telecommunication companies to dig the road and leave it unbuilt.

So, Kathmandu has turned into the hell of mud in the wet season and the bowl of dust in the dry season, seriously affecting the health of millions its denizens.

What is more, traffic police let the rule breakers literally get away with murder while making a fast buck whenever possible. Appallingly, all deaths on the road are treated as accidents, letting the deliberate perpetrators of the crime also off the hook. No wonder, if a biker or driver hits and wounds a pedestrian, he would come back and kill the victim, so he can get away with the minuscule mandatory fine and avoid the expenses of the victim’s treatment.

Therefore, a sizeable number of traffic accidents are not accidents but revenge killings.

Unfortunately, Subedi has become one of the 41 percent pedestrians that lose their lives in traffic accidents. He was the innocent victim of the reckless driving and lax enforcement of weak government rules in Kathmandu. If his death injects a sense of responsibility in the bikers and drivers as well as the government, his murder, though unjust and callous as it was, would do some service to the people of Kathmandu.

But I doubt that it would happen. If Nepalis learned from experience, we would not have been where we are today.  So the bikers will remain the messengers of death on the streets of Kathmandu for many years to come, and the Nepal government will continue muddling through, while politicians and bureaucrats line their pockets from the miseries of common people.

So messengers of death will continue riding motorbikes in Kathmandu and the lawless country will continue sinking into deeper chaos. In other words, the sad death of Padma Raj Subedi, a great loss for his family and Nepal, may not change anything other than padding up the traffic death statistics.


Murari Sharma: Whiter Syria

US President Donald Trump ordered the US military to lob 59 Tomahawk missiles into the President Assad-controlled Syria after it was alleged that the Assad regime used chemical weapons to kill nearly 80 of his enemies and innocent Syrians. It has put Washington and Moscow on the collusion course once again and made Syria’s future a lot more uncertain and more precarious than ever before.

If you thought the Cold War is over, think again. It has resurfaced in several countries, including in Ukraine and Syria. In Syria, President Baser al-Assad is trying to hold onto power with the support of Russia and Iran, while the West is trying to remove him with the help of Syria’s Sunni neighbors. In an effort to scare off the rebels, the Assad regime allegedly used chemical weapons in the rebel-held territory, inviting Trump’s missile strikes.

But the facts are not straightforward, though. In politics, they seldom are. International politics lacks factual basis further under the thick cloud of nationalism and national interests. While Western powers have implicated the Assad regime, the other side has blamed the rebels for using the chemical weapons. Independent verification is difficult to achieve more often than not. The Western narrative has covered the global media.

The reaction to President Trump’s order to strike Syrian military facilities has been mixed. The majority of Americans (51 percent) have welcomed the attack. The minority have doubts about the attack that does not have any strategy or goal behind it other than one-time punishment for the Assad regime. Similarly, world opinion is divided as well, especially because the strikes took place without UN authorization.

Former US President Barack Obama had desisted from engaging in military action against the Syrian regime for the lack of a good option. The American people are not eager to put the boots to the grounds abroad. Airstrikes alone would not push President Assad out, the American goal from the beginning. It appears President Trump has waded into Syria without any strategy, unless one is on the anvil as we speak.

Even if there was a strategy, it would be difficult to implement if Trump is indebted to Moscow for his election. Trump would be unwilling to move aggressively if Russia, which is supporting the Assad regime, had indeed helped him get elected to the White House. Congress is investigating the Russian interference in the US presidential elections.

Russia has fully supported the Assad regime with airpower and logistics. If  Russians helped Trump into the White House, Trump would think twice before he does anything to rub Russian President Putin the wrong way. An angry Putin will certainly spill the bins, leading to the ouster of Trump through impeachment. Trump would be stupid to stir such a firestorm.

And the pointers are not good for Trump. Trump himself publicly had called on Russians to hack into his opponent Hillary Clinton’s emails during the presidential campaign. He has made conflicting claims about his meeting with Russian President Putin in the past: He has met with Putin and not met with Putin.

Trump’s advisers have been in cahoots with Russians. His first National Security Adviser Flynn resigned due to his Russian connections. Paul Manaford, Trump’s former campaign manager with deep connections with Russia, is planning to register as a foreign agent, according to the Guardian.

Even a reckless maverick like Trump would not want to shoot himself in his foot.

That makes Syria’s and Assad’s future all the more uncertain. Assad will be difficult to remove because of the support he is receiving from Russia and Iran. The West, which is supporting the rebels, would not rest until Assad is gone. Unfortunately, the American airstrikes have emboldened the rebels without intimidating Damascus, Moscow and Tehran.

This means further escalation in the conflict, more bloodshed and more misery for the Syrian people, and more devastation of the country. Using force to change the regime of another country is wrong no matter who does it. If a situation warrants a humanitarian intervention under international law, then it must be swift and effective, so people do not have to endure unnecessarily prolonged misery.

The American airstrikes are wrong on the first count and do not meet the test of the second requirement. Yet the present occupant of the White House launched the one-time attack. This twitter master has often been whimsical and irrational so far. Until proven otherwise, there is no evidence that he is going to be consisten this time around. So the Trump’s airstrikes will make the Syrian conflict worse, with no end in sight.

That is indeed sad for the Syrian people, the rest of the world, and humanity as a whole.

Murari Sharma: Dahal’s visit — a damp squid in Beijing

Although bilateral visits at the top are always significant at some level, not all high-level visits justify the time and resources invested in them. Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s long-awaited visit to Beijing in March 2017 was one of such visits.

Dahal took a detour to Beijing from his address to the Boao conference in Hainan. His Hainan visit is a separate issue in its own merit for another time. So I will focus only on his Beijing visit here.

High-level visits are meant mainly to introduce leaders to each other, to help resolve the existing problems between countries, to announce or ink major breakthroughs, or a combination of all three. Dahal’s China trip turned out to be a damp squid because it achieved none of those objectives.

The introductory visits often happen when a new leader takes office. In that sense, Dahal’s trip was not exactly introductory. First, the visit took place eight months into his office. Second, though he met with President Xi Jinping, Dahal did not meet his counterpart, Prime Minister Li Keqiang. Third, this was not the first time Dahal visited Beijing to meet Xi.

Dahal did not resolve any outstanding issue with China. China’s proposal to replace the 1956 treaty is hanging fire in Singh Durbar for years. So is China’s One belt, One road (OROB) initiative with which Beijing wants to enhance its connectivity with other countries in the region and beyond. Nepali mandarins are sleeping over these proposals, fearing that signing on to them could rub India the wrong way.

On the Nepali side, there are commercial and grazing issues, none of which has been resolved during Dahal’s visit.  Dumping of Chinese good has been a problem across world markets. Nepal is not immune to it. Movement of goods and people between the two countries through their shared land border remains a perennial issue. At many places, Nepali farmers face obstruction and bullying by their counterparts and local Tibetan officials when they take their herds for grazing to the other side under the agreement between the two nations.

No new breakthrough was inked or announced during Dahal’s Beijing visit, either. No major new MOU on OROB could be signed despite Beijing’s repeated efforts for the last couple of years; no high-level visit from China was assured; no new aid, trade or investment pact was signed worth the ink or agreed to other than 1 million dollar Chinese assistance for the local elections in Nepal, a pittance.

All this proves that Dahal’s China visit was a damp squib for the country. But Dahal projected the visits as a great success, which it was personally for him. He used his visit partly to wash off the public image that he was New Delhi’s stooge.

However, for the keen observers of Sino-Nepal relations, the Nepali prime minister’s visit this time only reinforced his irreparable leaning towards New Delhi. Take Xi’s advice to Dahal that he and Nepal should enrich their relations with India further, for instance.

This was the advice Xi’s predecessor had given to Nepali leaders during the 1989-90 economic blockade of Nepal by India. It was right in the context of the day. But not today. It only reflects Beijing’s growing frustration with Kathmandu. It should be noted that Xi cancelled his Nepal visit in 2016 for the same reason.

Faced with America’s China containment policy, now China is seeking to expand its role in the world and in the region as well. The OROB initiative, Asian Infrastructure Bank, and increasing security cooperation, above and beyond aid and trade in the past, are some of the examples of this desire. But the Nepali leaders have refused to take big strides in these areas, causing deep frustration in Beijing.

What is more, Nepal has taken steps back from the time when Prime Minister KP Oli had reached out to China to mitigate India’s chokehold on Nepal’s politics and economics, in the wake of the five-month long blockade after Nepal promulgated its new constitution in 2015 ignoring India’s efforts to delay it. Oli had signed several agreements and understandings, including the trade and transit treaty, which would have given some wiggle room for Nepal without substituting Indian supplies. Beijing has taken Nepal’s such bait-and-switch as opportunistic and against Chinese interest.

While Nepal should not back any scheme designed against its neighbors, friends and allies, seeking new sources of supplies for itself serves our vital national interest. All our neighbors and friends want peace and progress in Nepal in their own terms. Therefore, Nepal must do what is best for itself.

But it seems that Nepali leaders put their outside backers first, and above Nepal. Otherwise, they would have pursued a balanced foreign policy, in which Nepal’s interest would come front and center, while respecting its neighbors’ interest whenever possible.

In this context, Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s Beijing visit has nothing to write home about as far as the country’s vital economic and political interests are concerned.


Murari Sharma: Marriage breaks your back

Traditionally, marriages were meant to bring two persons in a communion for life and two families together in a social bond at great cost in Hindu society. But now, their purpose is being unmoored, their longevity has become uncertain, and their expenditure have become extremely taxing for the people with limited means. So Hindu marriage needs urgent reform.

Increasingly, marriage has been losing its traditional purpose and meaning. Now procreation as the ultimate purpose of marriage is fast losing ground. Heterosexual marriages without the intent of producing children have become common. Besides, homosexual marriages that disallow procreation have been gaining legal recognition in advanced societies and elsewhere.

Marriages now last much shorter than before. In some advanced societies, more than 50 percent marriages end in divorce within the first five years. This has been possible because of the increasing financial independence of women and acceptance of multiple marriages and multiple sexual alliances in our time.

However, while the marriages are losing ground and tenacity, marriage costs have sky-rocketed. Based on my personal experience, a typical middle class Hindu marriage in Nepal ends up with a bill of 1.5 million rupees for the groom’s side and 2.0 million rupees for the bride’s side. In India, these costs are much higher because of the deeply entrenched dowry system. Every year, many young and newly married women lose their life in dowry-related suicides and murders.

Hence the need for reform in Hindu marriage.

Not that no effort has been made to reform Hindu marriage in Nepal. Nepal has a long history of reforming such marriage. For instance, Prime Minister Jang Bahadur Rana removed the provision of chopping off the head of the man with whom one’s wife eloped and made several other reforms in the Muluki Ain, or civil code. Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana abolished the sati system, or the self-immolation by a widow in the funeral pyre of her dead husband.

King Mahendra introduced the minimum marriageable age for boys and girls and provided some protection of girls and widows by revising the Muluki Ain. King Birendra enacted through the National Panchayat the Social Practices (Reform) Act in 1976. The Act prescribed several measures to cut the cost of marriage on the bride side as well as groom side, imposing restrictions on the number of invitees, the amount of gifts and dowry, and flashy displays during weddings, and made breaching these provisions punishable criminal acts.

While the execution of the Act was already sporadic under the Panchayat System, the Act fell by the wayside when multiparty democracy arrived in Nepal for the second time in 1990. Except when the administration has nothing else to do, it tends to pay attention to the implementation of this Act. So, the law is observed more in breach than in abidance. Meanwhile, the increasing cost of weddings and post-wedding gift obligations continue to crush the poor and the middle class.

There is no magic bullet to tackle the matter other than educating people and enforcing the Social Practices (Reform) Act with greater rigor by making the adjustments necessitated by the change in time and social circumstances. We live in more exhibitionist times and more permissive social context now. It evidently means the education will have to be broader and more vigorous and punishment for the infringement of the legal provisions more severe to thwart, and eventually reverse, these developments.

Is it going to happen? I doubt that the present crop of Nepali political leadership, which is largely corrupt and broadly unaccountable, will do much about it other than making the right statements to win public support. So Nepal’s lower and middle class may have to continue bearing the unsustainable cost of Hindu weddings in a situation when the purpose and longevity of marriage are increasingly in doubt. That indeed is a pity.


Murari Sharma: The devilish practice that refuses to go away

Kantipur, the Nepali vernacular, reported the incidence child marriage has picked up in the southern part of Lalitpur district. Even kids studying in grade five have been running away from home and getting married. According to the report, social media, peer imitation, and poverty of the family are mainly responsible for it.

This devilish phenomenon is not new in the country. Child marriage was common in urban as well as rural areas of Nepal. Even after the introduction of the legal minimum marriageable age, it continued unabated. Over time, the spread of education and social awareness reduced child marriage swiftly in urban areas, though the reduction was slow in rural areas.

However, the Maoist insurgency (1996-2005) halted or reversed the progress in the rural areas. The Maoists abducted or lured young children in general and unmarried girls in particular to join their guerilla force. Those parents who could send their children to safer urban areas did so, while others married their girl children off young.

After the insurgency was over, the well-off parents went back to their normal parenting routine. But the poor ones continue to have their children marry either for extra farm hands or for the reduction of economic pressure on the family.

Then arrived Westernization and social media affecting all, but mainly urban areas. The media — films, soap operas, explicit literature, arts and news — exposed and lured children to liberal, even promiscuous, way of life of their Western contemporaries. The impressionable children imitated their Western peers blindly.

Social media exposed children in Nepal to Western culture, which is now deemed as the gold standard, connected immature children to each other from a safe distance without their parents’ knowledge or intervention, and created peer pressure. Hence the new surge in child marriage and child pregnancy in parts of Lalitpur district.

Swami Vivekanand (1863-1902) says, “I have a strong hatred for child marriage.” After a hundred years, the problem remains entrenched despite legal restrictions, education and awareness building efforts. Nepal has made such provisions as well, but the result has been far from satisfactory.

The reason is simple. The enforcement of legal provision has been weak and patchy. There is no reporting on the cases of child marriage. When they are reported, the police do not take prompt and effective action. Politicians protect the culprits if their known supporters are drawn into the matter. Even courts are lax about the enforcement when the cases are brought to them.

Formal education has been less effective than expected to reduce child marriage for three reasons. First, textbooks have no content specifically directed against child marriage.

Second, neither government nor non-governmental organizations have made concerted and sustained efforts against child marriage. The government’s reach is limited, especially in rural areas where most child marriages take place. Non-governmental organizations are Kathmandu-centric and do not operate widely in the rural areas where the epidemic of child marriage is widespread.

Third, social pressure is often more powerful than the influence of education and awareness campaigns. For instance, the very social workers who campaign against the chhaupadi (seclusion of women during menstruation) are forced into seclusion in unhealthy conditions during their period.

So the child marriage continues. Resolving the problem requires concerted and multi-faceted efforts. For instance, the government must bring to justice those who promote or encourage child marriage. It can also make a difference by including the appropriate material in school textbooks on social evils that need to be eradicated.

Besides, the state should launch anti-child marriage campaign. It ought to be done in association with the non-governmental organizations working in the sector and involve teachers, religious leaders, and village elders, who wield influence in the area, to drive the message home.

The non-governmental organizations need to get out of the comfort of Kathmandu and a few large urban centers and reach out to rural areas.

Children are our future. Stifling them from rising to their full potentials through early marriage and other social evils is a crime that must be eliminated. The incidence reported in Kantipur is just a tip of a large iceberg. Child marriage must be tackled with the emphasis it deserves if we want a better future for our children, society and nation.

Murari Sharma: Rise of Ultranationalism

Ultranationalism has made a roaring comeback across the world after a relative obscurity following the end of World War II.

Nationalism is essential to build unity in the midst of diversity. But ultranationalism, which feeds on chauvinism and mercantilism, leads to chaos, wars, bigotry, racism, intolerance, violence, tribalism and the disintegration of states.

BR Ambedkar, who drafted the Indian constitution, said, “I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.” It was crucial for the integrity of India.

Ultranationalism has produced Hitler and Mussolini. It has fomented civil wars from Sudan to Ukraine and from Indonesia to Moldova.

In recent times, the tide of ultra-nationalism started to turn with India. Though the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party formed government in India in 1998, the moderate Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee blunted its edge. Therefore, the real move to the right arrived in only 2014 with the BJP leader Narendra Modi winning the election and become the prime minister of that country.

The Conservative Party, threatened by the ultraright UK Independence Party, has become UKIP-lite in the UK. Then-Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron held the referendum on the EU on 23 June. The British voters bought into the ultranationalist slogans — Take back control from Brussels, British jobs for British people, independence from Brussels —  and cast their vote to leave the regional economic bloc.

The vote has irrigated the plant that could bear the fruit of Britain’s disintegration. Scotland, which held an unsuccessful referendum for independence in 2013, as well as Northern Ireland and Wales are uncomfortable about leaving the EU. They do not want to forgo the free access to the EU single market. The Scottish Independence Party has threatened to hold another referendum, should Britain leave the single market.

The Judaic chauvinist Benjamin Netanyahu has been reelected as prime minister of Israel for the third time in 2015, at the head of the Likud Party. He publicly supports two-state solution for peace in Palestine, but consistently expands Jewish settlements in Palestinian areas to kill the idea of two-state solution and peace.

In Austria, the far-right candidate Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party almost captured the presidency, though he failed in the final round. His agenda, among other things, was ‘Austria First’ and anti-immigrants.

The United States found in 2017 the mercurial  chauvinist and mercantilist Donald J. Trump as president on the Republican ticket. Trump’s racist, misogynist, anti-Islam, and anti-free trade posture is already riling the world. His protectionist policy is threatening to destabilize the global economy. The Republican Party that swept both houses of Congress and the majority of state governorship and state legislatures seems to tag along with Trump.

The mercurial Rodrigo Duterte, who praises the US President Trump and who used curse words against former US President Barack Obama when he was still in office, has been running the Philippines.

Even President Xi Jinping has been playing the nationalist card more than many of his predecessors in China.

Ultranationalist parties are posing threat to several other European countries as well. In France, Marine Le Pen of the National Front is seriously challenging her rivals in the French presidential elections this year. Seven other Western European countries have witnessed a surge in the popularity of conservatives or far rightist parties.

In Nepal, ultranationalism in at its climax. On one hand, minority groups have rooted for its most restrictive form — the tribal nationalism. On the other the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), the main opposition party now, has taken a nationalist posture after India interfered in the constitution writing and imposed the third, unannounced economic embargo on Nepal after the statute was promulgated in 2015 over its objection.

This catalog is enough to suggest that the world, after being largely liberal for the last four decades or so, has suddenly begun to embrace some form of the far right ideology.

How much damage it will do would depend on whether the surge of ultranationalism is a passing fad or a new trend. It is not yet clear whether the new swing to the right is a fad or the beginning of a trend. At this stage, it could be either.

It could be a temporary fad, a one-time expression of public anger towards elitist political leaders. Some view it as a fad. For instance, Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant US  attorney for the Southern District of New York,  writing in National Review, has said the Trump victory and its interpretation are just a fad.

Or it could be the beginning of a new rightward trend and the beginning of the end of liberalism and globalization. People like the US Senator Mike Lee, tend to believe that the Trump victory is the start of the trend of principled populism.

But the sustainability of the movement will depend on what happens in the coming elections in some major countries and how the ultraright parties perform in power.

The significant elections to watch would be in Germany and France and in the USA over the next two years. If the ultraright forces win the elections in Germany and France this year, and if the Tea Party Republicans make an impressive gain in the US in 2018, the pendulum might swing decisively towards narrow nationalism. Otherwise, the rightward swing could prove temporary.

More importantly, much will depend on how the ultraright leaders and governments perform in power.  If Brexit becomes a success, without major economic woes, narrow nationalism will triumph in Britain and it will have ripple effects beyond its borders.

Similarly, if the Trump administration performs in office well, it will hugely contribute to make the ultraright politics sustainable for a while. The United States, the foremost global military and economic power, still has big sway in world politics.

Otherwise, the euphoria created by the ultranationalists will crash on the hard concrete of reality, triggering a backlash against them. However, for now it appears that ultranationalism espoused by fundamentalist forces is winning the day.


Murari Sharma: An uncharted territory

At his inauguration as 45th president of the United States on 20 January 2017, Donald J. Trump said, “From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first — America first. . . Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. . . We will follow two simple rules — buy American and hire American.”

Though it sounds enticing to many Americans, it is a chilling stuff. From now on, America will be self-centered, protectionist, and less generous to the rest of the world. Clearly, the United States and the world have entered an uncharted territory.

Nobody knows whether Trump is going to follow through his priorities or to grow into his job and become a mainstream president. But so far, he has essentially refused to behave like the president of a multicultural country and the most powerful country on earth. This should worry the American people more than the rest of the world.

Here is why. Trump’s racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Mexican, and misogynist language that has given wings to the white supremacists and alt-rights will further widen the fissure that already exist in American society. The spike in hate crimes, as reported by The New Yorker, will make American minorities and American street less safe for all Americans. The reversal of women’s rights under Trump will affect American women more directly and deeply than women elsewhere.

America’s protectionist policy will harm America more than other countries in the long run. Other countries will retaliate with countermeasures, triggering trade wars in which America will be fighting against the rest of the world. Though trade contributes to only 11 percent of American GDP, millions of Americans will lose their jobs that depend on the trade. Trade wars will increase tariffs on American imports and raise the cost of living for American consumers, and will put at risk the American investment in other countries, as capital controls are imposed, making most Americans worse off.

If the USA undermines and weakens NATO, as Trump has threatened, European countries will find a new modus vivendi with the resurgent Russia. China will try to fill the vacuum left by the withdrawal of America from the Tranpacific Trade Partnership in Asia and the Pacific, and the countries in the region will warm up to Beijing.

In fact, Beijing has already made such an overture with the Investment Bank, Silk Road, and free trade initiatives. The Philippines has already been looking to Beijing as the replacement for Washington.

Germany, China, and India will take the lead to contain climate change and keep the Paris Agreement alive. If Mexico is offended too much by Trump’s wall on the border and his harsh conditions for the NAFTA to survive, it will look to other countries for economic alliance and allow its citizens to cross into the US illegally.

Trump’s America First policy will reduce foreign aid and trade concessions the US gives to the developing countries and temporarily cripple those nations, until they find new sources of support or they develop their own capacity. It will also have several serious consequences for the United States.

For instance, the US will lose its global influence when other countries fill the void left by America. It will not be able to protect its military, civilian and commercial assets spread around the world and to prevent the flow of refugees headed to its shores from the conflict-ridden countries if it does not help resolve their political and economic woes at the source.

In other words, the impact of Trump’s policies will be relatively short-term for the rest of the world. But America will sustain long-term damages. It will be a mistake for the US to forget that, though the end of the British Empire unsettled the world for some time, it harmed Britain permanently and helped the United States and other countries. The end of the American Empire will not be any different in its impact.

The rest of the world is  worried about the transient impact of Trump’s posture, not permanent damage. The Guardian editorial dubbed the Trump’s inaugural speech as “a declaration of political war.” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel predicted a “rough ride.” Concerns have been expressed in China, Mexico and several other countries.

Only two countries seem pleased with Trump: Russia and Taiwan. If the US pulls back from the world, Russia will have more room to project its power in the world. Taiwan expects Trump to water down America’s “One China” policy. But that is too few countries to sustain the American Empire.

But who knows. Trump might not do what he has said or will say and do the right things as president. Or his cabinet colleague might convince him to take the middle road. If that happens, the uncharted territory Trump is pulling the US and the world into could prove to be a good one. I wish Donald J. Trump moderation and success.