Donald Trump will make pandemic an excuse to make his protectionist policies stronger…
The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic constitutes an important episode in the progress of human civilization. The pandemic has so far hit over 2.6 million people globally and claimed more than 185,000 lives. This has not just been an emergency in the healthcare sector but also in the economy. The recession that the pandemic has caused worldwide is certainly not going to subside anytime soon.
While deep implications are already being felt in the health and economic sectors, the pandemic is bound to leave a serious impact on the world order as we have seen over the years. And particularly, the devastation that the deadly virus has caused in the United States indicates that we are set to witness a bigger change in that country’s behavior. However, only history can pass the verdict whether that change will be good or bad.
The US, known to be the only superpower in the world, has seen the virus affecting more than 840,000 people at the moment with the death toll approaching 47,000. The magnitude is far more than what any other nation has witnessed and this marks a sorry chapter in the history of the progress of a country that has weathered some great challenges in history.
What is significant is that the US has witnessed this low at a time when Donald Trump is its commander-in-chief. The rise of the maverick populist is the consequence of the nation’s political and cultural undercurrents that have only grown strong over the last many years. Unlike many who feel Trump has turned America’s political identity upside down, he is actually a product of a brewing change. And the post-coronavirus world is set to make it worse.
For Trump’s US, foreign policy moves after pandemic could be more limited
Let’s understand it from the perspective of foreign policy. Washington’s external policies have evolved over time. From an affluent nation which largely averted the blow of the two world wars and contributed towards the rebuilding of the traditional powers in Europe after 1945 to become a hegemon that found itself at odds with state and non-state actors as the world entered the Cold War and post-Cold War period, the US’ foundation of liberal internationalism gradually changed into that of a ‘benevolent’ predominance.
Watch: A brief history of the US Protectionism Agenda that Trump has bolstered
As the world became more diverse and chaotic in its political orientation post-1991 when the erstwhile Soviet Union collapsed, the US’ foreign policy priorities changed too. While it rather fought the shadow of the ghost of communism in the next 10 years, the attacks of 9/11 marked another change in the direction of its foreign policy. Post 9/11, the US’ list of enemies saw terrorism clinching the top slot and George W Bush’s ‘war on terror’ inaugurated the new foundation.
As the world became more diverse and chaotic post-1991, the US’ foreign policy priorities changed too.
This enemy was vague than the communist breed even as the US tried to pick tangible targets in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying those were the epicenters — real and potential — of terrorist threats. Hence, started the never-ending wars in Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) while Washington continued to play its role in the ‘war against terror’ as seen by the West and its allies in other parts of the world as well. These wars not only made the US bleed — in terms of money and manpower — but also made changes in its foreign policy priorities imminent.
The hawkish foreign policy stance that the administrations of the Bush father-son duo and Bill Clinton in between took, witnessed changes in the times of Barack Obama. The latest Democratic president, who took over at a time when the US was fighting the recession, understood very well that no matter how rich you are, wasteful expenditure of funds and lives is not a wise thing to do. Obama avoided dragging the US into another wasteful war in Syria even though that made him look weak in the eyes of his allies.
But his dilemma could not have been ignored: After the endless brutal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya and many other places on this planet, the US needed to call off its interventionist role at some point in time. The liberals in the US would just have no place to hide had Obama dragged the country into another quagmire in Syria where the reality in the conflict zone is extremely complicated to find an easy and quick solution.
At this point in time, American society was already witnessing a churning. While the war decisions started facing a backlash, the rise of a black president in a white-majority nation too had its social reactions. The stage was perfect for the entry of Trump who not only thrived on the white supremacist sentiment but also ensured a policy to look within that widened his populist appeal. After the liberal establishment overused the idea of interventionist war as a move towards making the world a better place, Trump came up with an antithesis to project that he cares for America’s own interests before anything else.
As logical progress from his ‘America First’ idea, Trump defied every international engagement that featured the US. He kept on pursuing the goal of building a wall along the border with Mexico to prevent the entry of illegal immigrants. He even started bashing America’s old allies over-extending them the traditional security cover as a big military power.
For a populist in Trump, pandemic offers a political opportunity
At a time when the Trump phenomenon is nourished by the deep politico-cultural polarization in today’s US and it, in turn, sustains the very same culture to make the Republican’s populist political style ever-appealing, the advent of the pandemic makes it interesting. It is very much likely that Trump would make the devastation a reason to cement his populist rule even though the fact is that his administration could have avoided such an extent of the loss.
Watch: How a Bible Prophecy shapes Trump’s Foreign Policy
The president has routinely attacked the mainstream media over its criticism and his administration has not stopped short of hijacking masks meant for its friends. There is a method in his madness and Trump knows that he still could emerge as the winner because politically, the populist is still the nation’s most trusted face at the moment.
There is a method in his madness and Trump knows that he still could emerge as the winner because politically, the populist is still the nation’s most trusted face.
For the critics, continuing with ‘America First’ at the time of the pandemic is not a wise thing to do because the world needs a united fight against the pandemic. But Trump’s decision to freeze funds for the World Health Organization makes it amply evident that he cares little about the world. He is likely to make his country more immune from the outside world and make the pandemic a reason to promote his inward-looking policies. The US is already in a state of retreat in the international milieu and Donald Trump could just cement his protectionist policies further in the course of the pandemic.
Militarily, the US forces, especially the Navy, have been seriously hit by the pandemic which might see the superpower’s reach in far-off theaters fading a little. In the Far East, China has already intensified its naval activities sensing that the Americans are not in their best state to operate the patrolling. These developments could make the security establishment in Washington anxious but certainly not Trump who considers the military outreaches less than prominent. After all, the ‘political’ rules the roost in the US these days.