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January 02, 2019 Wednesday 02:32:47 PM IST

Trump NOT Overrides spur apprehensions

Expert Counsel

Two years have passed since Donald Trump took office as President of United States of America after registering a surprise victory over Hillary Clinton, the highly fancied candidate of Democratic Party. Trump was the archetypal outsider to US politics; he was a billionaire businessman with interest in real estate who had never held any political office in the past. He was better known to the public as the host in a television reality show that he himself produced.

 He led a colourful life, courted controversy with glee and made headlines for his opinions and statements, which were completely off the beaten track. Despite his position on many topics being contrary to the stand of Republican Party, he won the nomination by defeating 16 candidates in the primaries. Though he lagged behind Hillary in the run up to the polls, a strong rally in the crucial states saw him win the mandate in style to become the 45th Chief Executive of the most powerful nation in the world.

 Trump had come to power promising a revamp of domestic and foreign policies hitherto followed by USA. The hallmark of his outlook on various issues was ‘America first’, which prompted observers to christen him as ‘Nationalist’, ‘Protectionist’, ‘Populist’, etc. He was aggressive in his demand that immigration laws needed to be tightened and enforced strictly to put an end to the issue of illegal immigrants, particularly from Mexico, who he felt were stealing the jobs of ordinary Americans. He blamed the big corporates for taking away jobs that rightly belonged to the workers in USA, through outsourcing the process of manufacturing to cheap sources of labour in China and other parts of the world.

 Axe on alliances


 He believed that the post-World War II military alliances that USA had entered into were of little benefit and caused a huge drain on the national exchequer. He was thoroughly convinced about the impotence of the trade policy followed by Washington, which he felt was responsible for the huge trade deficit faced by the US economy. Trump’s opinions touched a chord with the ordinary white American voter, who felt that the government was following policies which were focused more towards meeting the aspirations of the immigrants and minorities, rather than the natives.

 Those who had hoped that Trump would mellow down after taking over the responsibilities of office soon realised that they were mistaken. Immediately after assuming office, he signed a controversial proclamation banning admission into USA of refugees for 120 days and citizens from certain countries for 90 days. Though implementation of this order was blocked by decisions given by various Federal Courts, Trump finally won the protracted legal battle when Supreme Court upheld the travel ban. He also announced a policy of zero tolerance towards illegal immigrants which involved taking adults into custody for purpose of criminal prosecution and separating children from their parents and keeping them in special shelters. The universal unpopularity of these actions and their all-round criticism, including from his own Republican Party, have not deterred Trump from continuing with them.

 Recall of treaties

The greatest impact of Trump has been in the area of international relations. Trump had shown scant regard for the agreements entered into by his predecessors by withdrawing USA from three important ones and threatening to move out of many more. The most important amongst the treaties that USA moved out after Trump became President is the Paris accord on Climate change. This pact was approved after protracted negotiations and signed by 195 countries promising to cut down greenhouse emissions. Similarly, Trump withdrew USA from Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, which effectively led to this pact becoming redundant.  He also took USA out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that had been signed by USA, Iran, five other nations and European nations for limiting Iran's nuclear capabilities.


 USA has been involving actively in the affairs of the world since the 1940’s, besides performing the role of policing the troubled spots in the globe after the end of World War II.  They had focused their energies on combating regimes that they felt were inimical to their interests, for which purpose they formed a series of military alliances with like-minded nations. USA had also extended substantial financial aid and other benefits relating to trade for members of these alliances. One example that readily comes to mind is the support extended to Pakistan in terms of monetary aid and supply of military hardware on account of being a member of alliances formed to fight forces of Communism initially and Islamic fundamentalism subsequently.

 Right from the beginning of his Presidency, Trump had voiced his skepticism about the military alliances which he felt brought on huge financial burden on USA without yielding any benefit in return. He accused other members of these alliances of paying less than what he felt was their fair share for maintenance of the alliance. Though exchanges in this regard with other Heads of States, especially Angela Merkel of Germany, created embarrassing situations. Trump refused to back off or change the tone and tenor of his language.

 Exit of officials

 The past two years of the Trump administration has seen the exit of several officials from the White House as well as senior members of his Cabinet. Amongst the more prominent persons who left the team during this period on account of differences with Trump are Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobile who was brought in as Secretary of State, Jeff Sessions who resigned as Attorney General and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, besides many other close aides who worked with him during the campaign for Presidency.


 The tendency of the President to send tweets on policy matters, which are often contradictory to the stand taken by the concerned departments, has been a matter of concern for the administration. An ongoing investigation by a Special Counsel who is probing into the links between Russian government and Trump presidency campaign is a constant source of worry for the President.

 Fears to the fore

The working of Trump administration has been the subject of much curiosity to the outer world. Bob Woodward, the legendary journalist, who broke the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon, has penned a superb book titled Fear: Trump in the White House, wherein he lays bare the style of functioning of the President. The revelations in this book that the most powerful person in the world has a poor memory, short attention span, hardly reads anything more than one page long and spends long hours watching political discussions and debates on television, during which time he indulges in his favourite pastime of sending tweets, would worry any serious observer of international politics.

 


The book begins with a prologue wherein White House staff barely manage to remove the official communication addressed to President of South Korea that was placed on Trump’s desk, giving notice for cancelling the US- Korea Free Trade Agreement, popularly known as KORUS.  Trump believed earnestly that this pact was loaded heavily against USA and created a huge trade deficit, besides resulting in posting large number of troops in South Korea to guarantee the security of that nation against their aggressive neighbour in the north.

 Washington bureaucracy and Pentagon were of the opinion that KORUS had substantial security implications for USA as the intelligence capabilities installed by USA in South Korea provide the former with the ability to detect a missile launched from North Korea within seven seconds off its take off. Since the missile would take 38 minutes to cover the distance from North Korea to USA, this early detection would give US forces ample time to shoot it down before it reaches the territory of USA. The book details various instances where Trump threatened to cancel the pact but ultimately better sense appeared to have prevailed as USA and South Korea renegotiated the pact and signed a fresh one with minimal changes from the old in September 2018.

 Management gurus wax eloquent about the benefits that disruptive policies can bring to an organisation by shaking it off the beaten path and aligning it to fresh objectives. Trump presidency may succeed in finding out the answer to the question as to how much disruption the institution of government can handle without collapse of the system of governance.



Dr. K N Raghavan

The writer is the CEO of NORKA ROOTS, India
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