Presidents of the US have been the centre of decision-making, disruption-enabling and solution-designing for long, at least since 1945. A series of presidents in the United States have had constructive approaches to the world. America, undoubtedly, has been a true leader of the ‘free’ world, and this bipartisan consensus of the Democrats and Republicans over global leadership made the world and the US safer. The consensus — however, was lost after 1991, and to be accurate, after the last Bush Jr Administration. The 8 years of Barack Obama’s reign (2009–2017) have been the most disruptive years, which led to the misreading of the complex adaptive system known as the US in the 2016 Presidential Elections. Donald J Trump, unlike some populist leaders, who rose out of poverty, is and has been a self-made entrepreneur and leader, which if is deliberately ignored, then merits a label of academic and policy hindsight, at best.
Leadership’s dynamics are deeply connected with the territories of interests that make the system work. The arguments made by the orientalists, cultural Marxists and democratic socialists that America is not a fixed and messed-up democracy, are as unreasonable as their desire to encourage Bernie Sanders in the 2019–20 Democratic Primaries. Often we saw that under the Obama years, the cocoon of NATO-EU-Pax Americana bloc had already seen disruption to some extent. Joe Biden was already being condemned for NAFTA and China’s inclusion in the WTO. In fact, the China-centric US foreign policy focus is not the progeny of Donald Trump, but of the Obama Administration. The problem that emerged with the Chinese was how the US allowed the CCP to dump, nefariously invest and infect the multilateral framework. We also need to see how the US behaved with its allies that time too.
The European ‘Fear’
The great furore of fear and dismay reflected often by Angela Merkel, Donald Tusks, Charles Michel and Joseph Borell on the ‘America-first’ policy, is not the failure of the US, but of the Europeans. Eurocentrism gained its coverage first, using Semitic cultures and religious conflicts. Then, colonialism engaged the physical-strategic ambivalence of this vision. The third stage came sooner after the 2nd World War when Europe was considered at the heart of conflict and peace. Every political chess move made by the bipolar leaders of the USSR and the US was narrowly focused on the grounds of Europe, and we see therefore the Churchill demand of two frameworks for Europe — i.e., a common market, which the EU fulfils, and a Council of Europe, which he famously named as the ‘United States of Europe’. Great Britain also enjoyed this relationship until Thatcher and Boris Johnson in their years decoupled the UK from Europe. Another important angle that the European Union sympathizers forget is the cold war mentality. There is no doubt that Europe and the US have fought the Soviet-led information warfare across together. However, the poles of learning that both Europe and the US had in terms of the growth of modern civilization, have been within themselves at most. It means that the cold war mentality — which has been the major reason why NATO has been relevant, (and so CSTO for the Russians or Warsaw Pact for the USSR) had already found its realpolitik limits, which the US and Europe did not realize it sooner. The group of Thatcher, Reagan, Cameroon, Blair and Merkel is credited with the rise of neoliberalism in a free America and Europe, and the Atlantic framework reached its tipping point under Bush Jr already.
The common fear that EU and the US had regarding Russia (or precisely, Vladimir Putin) was not completely unfounded, and condemning Russian Federation on not affirming itself to a rules-based international order was a reasonable step. However, what Clinton or Obama deliberately ignored (and even Merkel and Hollande did) that they literally forced Putin to ally with the People’s Republic of China on various matters, such as economic cooperation, military equipment, confidence-building and diplomacy. Why do we ignore those years when in the UN Security Council, China and Russia started voting together to veto any UNSC decisions on Syria? Remember that this alignment to vote in the Security Council has not been long among Russia and the PRC. China during the cold war era had avoided voting many times, where it did not find its interests reasonably. Enabling Turkey and China has been a terrible mistake for Europe, which is partly blamed on Erdogan and Xi, and partly on the lack of an identitarian European strategy for the Mediterranean and the Indo-Pacific. The view of looking at the world peacefully is not thought of nativity. Despite colonialism and ethnocentrism, Europe has proved all (even the US) that it does excel in the avenues of rule of law, constitutionalism, environment protection and economic development.
So, let us assess the current EU diplomatic aesthetics to see how realist or reasonable the current leadership is. Heads of the European Council and the European Commission do reflect a delicate, beautiful, polite and light-serious position on the world. Their approach towards India is too limited (despite amazing eager shown by its members such as France, the UK (former), Germany, Spain and Denmark) and do not have a clear plan to embrace the Indo-Pacific QUAD framework. Germany’s pro-China and pro-Turkey stance has been a quagmire for Europe because they could not rejuvenate and realize that revisionism or the urge to change would be important. European leadership has also been very immature on human rights advocacy, frankly. Most of them have attacked India over Kashmir, the CAA, 2019, and even petty issues, which are of the Indian Government’s concern, and of the European Parliament. They cannot interpret and visualize the principles of IHRL for their selfish or technocratic gains, which if they do, would cause doom to them only. The US also suffered from this problem, which Trump has started to decouple. The nuanced positions on human rights governance emerged from Israel, the US, the UK and France have been impressive, stronger and clearer than the European Union, which never sanctions Turkey for its actions in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Russia-phobia also is not going to take EU anywhere — because the Biden-Clinton-EU whims have been central to crush the Russian Federation, at the risk of encouraging the ‘peaceful’ rise of China. Frankly, if you are dumb enough not to understand the Chinese vision of multilateralism, artificial intelligence and international law & its deeper no-feedback issues, then EU needs a diplomatic check-up.
Thus, what we learn here is that the decoupling of the Atlantic bloc (and we must add the Canadians too), was near to imminent, and it must not be blamed to Donald J Trump alone.
The Indian Affair
It took 4 administrations in the US for the Indian Government to reinstate the QUAD framework in 2017 along with Australia and Japan, and there is no doubt that despite the bipartisan support of the US, the Indian National Congress and the Bhartiya Janata Party have yet not achieved amazing impetus in the relationship segment they avail. The Modi Government is, like any government, slower towards the US in strengthening the Indo-Pacific, but the decoupling of India from its Chinese neighbour is owed to the cold war mentality-led NAM, which has perpetuated negatively. It means that India will not be interested in the One-China policy and the NAM approach, but it will surely disrupt and bring the US and Russia closer in handling the one-and-only enemy that QUAD members indicate towards — China. However, the preconceived notion that QUAD is an anti-China alliance, would surely be a weak argument or premise for the 4 amazing democracies, because doing that makes QUAD another NATO that ASEAN does not want. Yes, Japan under Yoshihide Suga will engage with Russia, South Korea and the Cambodians, but as the economic decoupling of ASEAN and India is happening, education, tech and culture also will drive the necessities of QUAD in line with the interests of the US. Leaving the ‘Xi’ factor, the US has given some clear indications to India, which we must never ignore:
- You cannot rely overtly on the freebies of the developed countries for long;
- Cooperation and maritime infrastructure development is impossible if India does not stand revisionist on what its national interest could be;
- Education and quality of life are not an American but an Indian problem — India’s Governance has to focus better on these attributions to benefit the youngest generation in the 2020–29 decade;
- The China factor can only be dealt when the US is considered a reasonable partner, and the audacity to speak for Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong comes within India, (as it chairs the UN Security Council, Shanghai Cooperation, G20 and other important and consequential summits and bodies) is shown and applied;
- The US-India relationship has to be more transactional and relevant and cannot be based on cultural ethnocentrism alone that the Congress lobbies of Lutyens Delhi used to benefit from since the 1960s;
- India’s Sanatana approach of diplomacy cannot be abrahamized;
- India’s stern commitments in Afghanistan and international terrorism can be a significant step;
Showing Indian diplomats their real face was important for Trump, and acting with realism has been remarkable from the Indian side, with utmost humility. Dr S Jaishankar admits this in his book ‘The India Way’ and it is sure that the realpolitik Indo-US ties will be a reasonable place to cater ahead.
On America First
The binary transactional relationship between Europe and the US was broken by the America First policy. Trump’s AF policy cannot be isolated from the US relations with the Middle East, Europe and China, and considering the 4 years, the US has achieved these feats, in order to posture the US Foreign Policy:
- Transitional Justice cannot be the means to exploit the resources of multilateral governance;
- Human Rights cannot be based on a plethora of intersectionalities in the name of ideology/religious extremism;
- Indigenous rights will matter and are not detached from nationalist appeals in partner democracies;
- Economic development should only be internationalized when the origin countries focus on development economics and not conflict economics;
- Technology is political, and no one can control its future. The best anyone can do is to master and harness its susceptibilities to adapt new challenges in a neorealist order;
- International Law cannot be eulogized to hamper the civilizational roots of the sovereignty of states (example — R2P and Transitional Justice);
More or less, what Trump reflects is a face of realism and not the years of utopia that misused the mandate and honesty of neoliberalism and global capitalism. Yes, changes are disruptive and cause harm, but countries cannot over-rely on institutions and alliances alone. They have to stand up, and compete like India, Singapore, Nigeria and even other European economies are intending to do. This will surely fulfil the cause of a real American leadership, which can be synonymous to the term ‘Rogue Superpower’.