Flanked by the new first lady, Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th US president on January 20, 2017. At the inauguration ceremony, he underlined the significance of ‘buying and hiring American’ and making America great again. He also emphasised the need to root out ‘Islamic’ terrorism’.
Immediately after the inauguration, protests erupted across the US and UK against the new president. His public discourse gained traction but also attracted opprobrium from a large segment of the electorate. History has its own story to tell us. Historia est Magistra Vitae is a Latin expression, which means “history is life’s teacher”. History elucidates that global cooperation signifies the apogee of humans, while those civilisations which corralled themselves to their own peripheries vanished over the course of time.
For example, Hernan Cortes, a Spanish conquistador, duped the citizens of the Aztec empire by seeking an interview with the Emperor Montezuma. During his audience with the emperor, he and his men held the emperor hostage. Hernan Cortes vanquished the entire empire that comprised millions of people in Mexico with a handful of 550 Spaniards. Just ten years later, Francisco Pizarro Gonzalez – another Spanish conquistador learned from the knowledge and experience of Hernan Cortes in Mexico and invaded the Inca empire of modern-day Peru with only 168 men. The fate of the Aztec and Inca empires reiterates the significance of knowledge which stems from global cooperation.
America, which is named after an Italian sailor Amerigo Vespucci, knows no foreigners as it is a land inhabited by foreigners with no known natives. If history is anything to go by, the American Aborigines are the only natives of the land. Trump’s rhetoric of a ban on immigration ban goes against American values. The US has been one of the major beneficiaries of an open arms policy and many of its greatest achievements have been owed to immigrants.
Albert Einstein, a German-born American citizen who immigrated to the US in 1933, contributed indirectly to the development of first nuclear bomb, which changed the entire landscape of World War II. He would not have stood a chance in the US had Trump been president in the 1930s. Similarly, the first lady, who was born in Yugoslavia, secured her US citizenship in 2006. She could not have become the first lady had Donald Trump’s purported anti-immigration policy been in place.
The cornerstone of any country’s foreign policy is reciprocity. In all likelihood, Donald Trump’s rebuke of Nato countries will attract reciprocity, eventually diminishing the influence of ‘Great America’.
Would ‘Buy American, Hire American’ make America great? Or, would global cooperation make America great? Human beings have learnt from their experience that economic clout engenders political clout. With economic leverage comes political leverage. Mutual economic ties, leading in part to mutual economic dependence, are the bedrock of economic leverage. ‘Buy American, Hire American’ echoes the spectre of global isolation and political clout is not an offshoot of isolation.
The comments of the US president about enriching the foreign industry at the expense of the American industry blemish the country’s historical perspective. The US has long-cherished its free market economy built upon the canons of capitalism. If Apple finds competitive suppliers from China – or elsewhere in Asia – and Brazil for its products, then it is economic axis is driven by the free market. This axis is least influenced by the policies of US administrations. Manufacturing an iPhone with the same competitive spirit in the US without affecting American wages sounds like a far cry. A hostile rearrangement might also affect the global sales of American products.
Chided by Donald Trump, Ford Motors shelved its $1.6billion plant planned to be built in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Car manufacturers have their assembly plants in various countries. The US car manufacturers are no exception. A large number of European car manufacturers have their assembly units in China and elsewhere. Similarly, Japanese car manufacturers have their assembly units in various countries, including Pakistan. Japanese car manufacturers have their assembly units in Pakistan because it is economically viable. Production costs, shipping costs, wages, skill levels and local demographics influence decisions regarding international investments. Such decisions are purely driven by economics rather than administrative policies.
Many American corporate giants have a global presence. A major segment of their revenues, as reflected in their balance sheets, is owed to the global sales. Reciprocity will certainly have their numbers struck out or at least plummet under the head of global sales. Such reductions will do no service to corporate America. On his first day in office, the US president suspended the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This treaty also included Japan – a long-term ally of the US. Such decisions may widen the gulf between the US and other countries. Global isolation will by no means cultivate peace and harmony with the world.
In an interview with Howard Stern in September 2002, Donald Trump supported the looming invasion of Iraq. He later denied having done so. The current unrest in the Middle East is owed mainly to the Iraq invasion and the subsequent toppling of regimes in Libya and elsewhere. Terrorism is a term which, over the course of time, has become subjective in nature. Terrorism, irrespective of whether it is being perpetrated by Islamic or non-Islamic elements, is equally deplorable. Why is there a resolve to curb ‘Islamic’ terrorism only?
History tells us that human beings have a fundamental characteristic called mutability, which led to their evolution as the dominant species on the face of the earth. Trump’s ability to fathom and channelise American sentiments led him to be voted into public office. His ability to perceive deeper intricacies of any emerging situation cannot be downplayed. Only our posterity will be able to tell in hindsight whether Trump’s cognitive mutability will transcend him to the ranks of a global leader or whether he will be fended off, as cautioned by George Washington in his famous quote: Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism.
The writer is a freelance contributor.