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Opinion

August 29, 2017

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A laggard leader

US President Trump may have many things in mind to accomplish through his recent tough warnings and erratic leadership style. He wants the world to continue to live with the American exceptionalism in all international relations at a time when both the US and the world have undergone a radical transformation.

His desire to make ‘America great again’ does not seem possible with values that the US has long lost in its quest for global hegemony. Instead of open and veiled threats, the US needs to rediscover its role in the changing global landscape if it truly wishes to rejuvenate and lead.

The US was never a great country because of its hard power – full spectrum military might – but because of its cherished ideals – equality, liberty, and justice. Its founding leaders fought against colonialism and established a polity based on fundamental human rights. They would have never thought of denying the same rights to others across the globe once it replaced Britain. As is evident from its constitution, America had to be a land of hope for the hopeless and the oppressed anywhere in the world. It offered itself as a land of opportunity, freedom and happiness for all regardless of their colour, creed and ethnic background.

It is no longer the case now. Internally, the country is paralysed by extreme social polarisation thanks to the politics of fear and hatred, the dysfunctional economic system that favours the rich and the powerful lobbying groups that promote the interests of selected segments of society at the cost of pluralism.

Externally, the country seeks to police the world and capture the resources of other by all means, regardless of whether they are fair or foul. It props up dictators where they can best serves its economic and strategic interests and uses force on the basis of false evidence whenever diplomacy proves impotent to guarantee an uninterrupted flow of oil and other valuable resources.

The unexpected ascendance of Trump to the most powerful position in the world was predicated on two decisive pillars of the election campaign. On the domestic front, he kept magnifying the small side-effects of a pluralist society by blaming all social evils on immigrants. Equally appealing to the electorate was his advocacy for winding down wars and restraining the US from imposing its way of life on others. He now seems to have succumbed to the CIA and the Pentagon in defining an even dangerous role for the US.

Iran happened to be the first to fit in the old doctrine of ‘evil starts at thy door and must be hit there’ followed by Syria, which had to receive an array of cruise missiles for its continued resilience to break into pieces. North Korea also got its share of rage from the incarnated Hitler. But its stern response in the form of testing more missiles has apparently put the genie back in the bottle.

The latest blatant display of belligerency is the so-called Afghan policy, which outlines America’s strategic objectives in the region with a pointed threat to Pakistan for its ‘insubordination’ in fighting the war against terror on US and Indian terms.

What Trump has done so far amply demonstrates that he is a laggard leader. He does not know the dynamics of international relations and global politics. The world is not in a state of inertia. Instead, it changes in many directions and in unpredictable ways, with winners and losers taking turns. The US is no longer in sync with new ground realities. It has already experienced serious setbacks in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Russia has reasserted itself on the global map and China has been an irresistible challenger to US hegemony.

To be truly free from the shackles of the CIA and the Pentagon, Trump needs to learn from the Chinese leadership and its soft power in winning the world. The effect of using hard power is short-lived and counter-productive. Instead of blaming Pakistan for all troubles and problems in Afghanistan, the US should recognise Pakistan’s unmatched sacrifices in the war against terror and help it fight the trickiest war.

Owing to its geographical proximity and porous border, Pakistan in particular cannot remain indifferent to developments in Afghanistan. The US needs to address Pakistan’s critical concerns to bring peace in Afghanistan rather than complicating the situation by bringing in India to play dirty games under the guise of a philanthropist.

The writer teaches at the Sarhad University.

Email:[email protected]

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