GHASSAN KADI* contemplates scenarios that may have repercussions on strategic alliances of the United States.
As the world sits and watches the horrors of the American elections, many non-Americans are relieved that they don’t have to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton; and for obvious reasons.
Clinton comes from the old school of American politics; for bad or for worse. Her “reign”, if she makes it, will be a virtual continuation of the Obama administration. Even if she implements changes, and even if she decides to put boots on the ground, big time, somewhere on the globe, it is highly unlikely that she will surprise anyone in whatever she does and does not do.
After all, Obama was once the candidate who was different in many ways. Not only he had an African American origin and a non-Anglo/Christian name, but he spoke differently, he displayed intelligence, eloquence, and made big promises like closing down Guantanamo Bay prison. And who can forget his “Yes we Can” slogan? Who can forget his amazing speech in Cairo? Yet, soon after his inauguration, he proved that “no he cannot”, and yet instead of quitting honourably, he decided to hang on and seek another term.
Whilst the die-hard Democrats and other defenders of Obama give him credit for trying, and excuse him for many of his failures and blame them on the George W. Bush legacy of high debt and two unfinished wars, fact remains that he was unable, and perhaps unwilling, to keep his election promises.
There is no reason whatsoever that can persuade anyone to believe that the much less intelligent Hillary, with all her history standing as a testimony against her, will be able to create the kind of changes that Obama was unable to implement.
Therefore, and to be realistic, the best we can expect out of Hillary is no action at all. Otherwise, how will she deal with Obama’s mess in Ukraine and in the South China Sea other than by intensifying American involvement? Will she be more remembered as the American President who led us to WWIII more than she will be remembered for being the first American female president? We shall hope not.
Enter Donald Trump.
If we concede that Western politicians will step on their mothers’ graves to get elected and re-elected, if we already know that they will lie and make election promises that they will break, then is it not rational enough to predict that if Donald Trump gets elected, he will too break his election promises?
Because of who he is, his body language, his demeanour, and all that is associated with him, it is only “natural” to see Trump trying to rally up the redneck vote. What else can he lure them with other than with guns and white-supremacist ideologies? After all, who else would vote for him?
Whether or not he is going to keep those election promises is another story. But why should he be in this regard any different from any other Western politicians who lie to their people in order to get elected?
If Hillary Clinton is a mega-warmonger as many understandably argue, then what about Donald Trump? Will either would-be president actually drag America into a huge war?
Contrary to what many analysts argue, I do not believe that America is seeking war with either Russia over Ukraine or China over the South China Sea islands. American foreign policy makers may be short-sighted to put it mildly, but when it comes to huge military gambles, they will have to heed the advice of the military, and the military knows well that America should not engage in an all-out war with either Russia or China; let alone both at the same time. Invading Iraq and Afghanistan was different. Russia and China are major, if not super, nuclear powers.
America seems to be putting the pressure on President Putin personally rather than attempting to engage in a war with Russia. America is trying to portray Putin as a dangerous man, in the hope to raise anger and dissent within Russia against him. After all, the sanctions are only intended to hurt Russian civilians, and the one to blame, America hopes, will be seen as President Putin. This is in fact backfiring and the popularity of Putin seems to be forever on the increase.
Ironically, America cannot play the sanction game with China due to its extreme reliance on Chinese imports; all the way from T-shirts to, ironically, iPhones . America has no option with China other than playing a cat-and-mouse military game, as it does this with Russia as well, in order to keep the tensions high and attempt to make Russian and Chinese citizens unhappy with their leaders; which will not work. More importantly perhaps, and for the purpose of domestic consumption, American leadership needs to continue to flex muscle and present to its citizens that their government has its eyes on the ball, it is in charge of national security and continues to be the world leader and the strongest nation on earth.
Off to Western Europe. At the end of the day, NATO does not serve Western Europe and does not bring it security. On the contrary, it is putting Western Europe in harm’s way.
An election win of Donald Trump can take Western Europe in many directions; two are the most probable.
By the time the next French presidential general elections are held in May 2017, and soon after that, the next general election in Germany in October 2017, the new American President will have had a few months in the Oval Office to assert his/her position regarding many issues that are vital to Western Europe.
With growing dissent in Western Europe to pro-immigration policies and the ensuing rise of the ultra-nationalist-right, left alone and without any American influence, Western Europe is likely to make some shift to that version of right, the extent of which cannot be predicted.
If by then Trump is the man and the Whitehouse boss, and whether or not he fulfills his “promises” about immigration, segregation, gun laws, deportations and the like, it is highly likely that he will challenge his NATO allies regarding funding. With the Brits contemplating the BREXIT option soon, and with some voices beginning to rise in Germany and France calling for quitting NATO already even many months before the upcoming French and German elections, any push by Trump to put more financial pressure on NATO funding by Western Europe will push the latter more to the nationalist right and distancing itself from existing alliances that will be blamed for the problems associated with the status quo.
To make it potentially even more difficult and more embarrassing for NATO, if the current trend of events continues, by May 2017 or so, NATO would have had huffed and puffed in Western Europe for more than three years, its sanctions against Russia would have proven ineffective and more damaging for Europe than for Russia, and with Ukraine already swaying, if by then it has not but totally collapsed, NATO would not be very far from imploding. All it will need is an inner conflict and the funding issue Trump is about to bring in, could just be the proverbial straw that can break the camel’s back.
To recap, a Trump win may push Western Europe towards the nationalist right and away from the USA and NATO. The other possible direction for Western Europe is more of the same and waiting for an inevitable disaster of many potential kinds and magnitudes. But this scenario is more likely following a Clinton win.
Love him or loath him, if elected, Trump is likely to become a game changer, again for bad or for worse. Even if he does not approach the NATO funding issue at all, it is almost certain that he will upset many people, including many allies; especially the Europeans. Furthermore, as many world leaders and politicians have already made anti-Trump statements, if elected, and if he doesn’t light up the fire with them, they will. Any whichever way, a Trump presidency is likely to weaken America’s global diplomatic position and strategic alliances, and this cannot pass without having a negative impact on the solidarity of NATO.
Is it possible that the Trump card will be the one that will create a domino effect that will inadvertently bring the NATO house of cards down? No one can be certain, but no one can categorically deny that it is a possibility.
*Ghassan Kadi, a native of Beirut, is a political analyst of Middle East affairs. He is the author of the just-published An Epic of Integrity: The Chronicles of the War On Syria. Visit Intibah and Ghassan Kadi’s website.