Whatever their past, or allegiances or entanglements, we can assume that both Clinton and Trump would, each in their own way, like to be remembered as having in some fundamental sense significantly improved the United State’s standing, and global security with it.
Trump’s cowboy imperialism is not that far from the attitudes that his favourite president, Ronald Reagan, brought to office. And yet Reagan produced several of the boldest foreign policy tacks of the post-War era, including calling on Soviet President Gorbachev to “tear down this wall” as well as completely abolish nuclear weapons.
Neither Trump nor Clinton has Reagan’s rhetorical and ideological genius. But both Clinton and Trump could call for a major change in the architecture of world politics and diplomacy that would have an equally profound effect on global peace and security: namely, an end to the veto power of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
It is hard to overstate the harm the P5 veto has done to the cause of world peace. Rather than shore up stability and a balance of power between the emerging two global blocs, the Security Council veto ensured a shared a balance of terror and the ability of the great powers and their most favourite allies and clients to get away with literally anything, no matter how gravely their actions violate international law and norms.
While it is true that an end to the veto - or at least increasing the number of permanent members necessary to wield it - would prevent the US and its friends from violating international law at will, as a fundamental rule of the international game it would in fact impact all the major powers more or less equally.
It would also hamstring Russia, China and their allies from pursuing policies such as supporting Assad, that are destabilising the global system.
Indeed, calling for an end to the veto would offer two major advantages to the next president.
First, if enacted it would clear the diplomatic slate for the new administration and draw a line under the failed policies of Obama and his predecessors, offering unprecedented freedom of action to reshape US priorities in line with either Trump’s or Clinton’s core foreign policy goals.
Second, because changing the UN Charter in this manner would, according to Article 109, requires approval of all five current permanent Security Council members (as well as two thirds of the General Assembly), a US call to abolish the veto would put the new president squarely on the right side of history without constituting an act of immediate and unilateral strategic disarmament.
Either Russia and China would agree to raise the bar for international law to a much higher level for all international actors, and in so doing profoundly improve the global security climate, or they would look like obstructionists to a much more just and humane order, while the United States under President Clinton or Trump would assume the mantle of leadership for envisioning that order.
Needless to say, such a position would greatly improve America’s standing in the very regions where decades of hypocrisy and callousness have caused such harm - both to citizens there and ultimately in the United States.
Given the desperate state of American and global politics today, it would be nice to imagine, if only for a moment, an American president with the vision and courage to make such a call.
This article has been excerpted from: ‘Clinton, Trump, and the ends of great power hypocrisy’. Courtesy: Aljazeera.com