Less than a year into the Trump presidency, after several statements and international visits, one finally gets a sense of the Trump doctrine’s basic framework. Since Trump fought the establishment to win the presidency and had no political compulsions unlike others in the ‘swamp’, I have always taken him for his word. Therefore, to me, his doctrine is on expected lines.
Unlike his predecessors who sucked up to every form and shade of Islam, from the moderate to the most radical, Trump has displayed clear thinking on what is turning out to be a huge global menace. His predecessors turned a blind eye to China’s meteoric rise continuing instead to focus on Russia long after the end of the Cold War, a bluff he has rightly called. The most important and probably the least discussed aspect of Trump’s foreign policy (because what can you expect from the halfwit analysts in the mainstream media) is his massive outreach towards an emerging India.
Considering that the United States is the strongest, richest and most dominant country in the world, and will keep wielding the kind of influence that no empire in the history of the world has for many decades to come, the American president’s decisions and positions on various issues matter to every living human being. Therefore, it is interesting to see, for lack of better terminology, what sort of a world Obama left for Trump to further sculpt and modify, and how Trump has gone about doing that.
By the time Obama left office, the short-sighted cycle of interventions and regime changes that he carried out along with secretary Clinton across north Africa and the middle-east under the garb of the ‘Arab Spring’, had already taken a disastrous toll. The Assad regime in Syria was in no mood to give in to Obama’s fantasy of creating a corridor from Saudi Arabia to Europe, with the intention of rendering Russian gas supply to the continent redundant. In response, the Obama administration armed Jihadis to overthrow Assad, giving birth to the much-dreaded ISIS. Saudi Arabia, a sophisticated and moneyed version of the ISIS, continued to be America’s foremost ally and continued to wreak havoc around the world by funding Islamic terrorism. The Obama administration turned a blind eye to this, and even went on to forward heavy doses of “aid” to Pakistan, the epicenter of Saudi’s sinister schemes, at regular intervals. This was despite the Pakistani military sheltering Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11, for many years. Towards the fag end of its tenure, the administration awoke from its slumber and realized that it needed to protect its partners in the Asia Pacific region from an expansionist China. But the typical snowflake mentality with which president Obama backed out from a meeting with his Filipino counterpart after being at the receiving end of some ‘locker-room talk’, illustrated how his administration was perfectly at ease to watch the Philippines fall into China’s lap so long as the blue-eyed boy remained in his safe-space.
Donald Trump, from the time he was a candidate, often spoke about how American animosity towards Russia was unnecessary in the twenty-first century, and how both nations could achieve a lot if they worked together. Trump was baselessly accused of being Russia’s stooge, a charge that has been peddled with impunity but that finds no resonance with any investigation agency or any court of law. Despite minor instances of hostility, like diplomats and media outlets of both countries being at the receiving end of police action and regulatory legislation in each other’s territory, both nations have worked together to clean up after Obama. One year after Trump’s election, the ISIS is fast disappearing. It remains to be seen what sort of a political solution is agreed upon after ISIS breathes its last. The Trump administration already tested the waters by stating that it would allow the Syrian people to determine their own fate, implying that it would allow Assad to continue. Unfortunately, after the negative publicity the Assad regime received from a war-mongering American media, it wasn’t taken very well back home. But one can rest assured that at least the administration’s instincts are correct. Hopefully, it will find a way to materialize its vision.
In Saudi Arabia, one currently witnesses a consolidation of power by the crown prince. The heir to the throne as well as president Trump have stated that they are in touch, and that they are planning every move in consonance. The way members of the royal family have been bumped off or thrown behind bars comes across as brutally autocratic. But then again, one must realize that we’re talking about Saudi Arabia, a land where women are routinely stoned to death and homosexuals are thrown off buildings. However authoritarian the crown prince might be, he seems to be a reformist. Women finally being allowed to drive in this archaic barbarian society, something quite unthinkable, has finally materialized. Trump realizes that the clergy and petro-dollars that fund global terrorism are the two factors that should be dealt with. He seems to be betting big on the current crown prince, working closely with him and extracting results, instead of extracting donations and giving him a free pass. What comes of this churn in the desert kingdom remains to be seen, but what is important is that there is a definite, large-scale and unprecedented churn.
The areas in which the Trump doctrine has outshone its peers, is its handling of China, Pakistan, North Korea, the traditional Asia Pacific Region, and India. None of the administration’s moves vis-à-vis these countries can be perceived in isolation. President Trump has displayed deftness that his predecessors can only dream of, playing like a grandmaster on the geopolitical chessboard. After accurately judging the threat an expansionist China poses to the current world order, he has decided to hit them wherever he can. An armed conflict or a trade war being off limits, he has gone about strengthening and partnering with the dragon’s enemies and crushing the dragon’s friends. If one follows his moves in and around China, this is the clear pattern that has emerged.
The Trump administration has taken on Pakistan. Instead of falling prey to the military cartel’s charms, it has blocked the annual aid to the country.
Moreover, to free its citizens from the clutches of the Taliban which is hands in glove with the military, it has openly threatened military action against the country. It has recognized parts of the disputed Kashmir region as sovereign Indian territory. These measures were long overdue, and they have three primary effects. To begin with, largescale Jihad takes a hit. Next, it strengthens neighboring India. And thirdly, it weakens China on the geopolitical front considerably. China uses Pakistan as a pawn to destabilize India, and an ineffective Pakistan means China is deprived of a key strategic option. The Americans should have acted on this front long ago, and one can only imagine the kind of nincompoop Trump’s predecessor might have been to have instead sent aid to this terrorist nation.
A strong India, for the first time, is something America’s foreign policy is not averse to. Circumstances have arm-twisted them thus. Be that is it may, Trump is once again the first president to actively move in that direction. Trump realizes that he needs one important partner to take on an expansionist China. He also realizes that irrespective of whether India choses to be that bulwark, none of America’s traditional partners in that region will successfully defend themselves without Indian support. After all, India is a nuclear power and one of the world’s major military powers. The Trump administration has worked closely with the Indian government to enhance its military capabilities, operationalizing a pact that gives India access to weaponry that only NATO countries are privy to. Among the factors that hardly finds a mention in the mainstream media, is that India and the United States have become one another’s largest partners in joint military exercises in the last one year. This newfound bonhomie between the world’s largest democracies, important nuclear and military powers, has strangely been missed by most of the world. The term ‘natural allies’ coined by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and George Bush, isn’t a figment of people’s imagination anymore.
The Trump administration has now renamed the Asia Pacific region, which compromises of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania and Japan, as the Indo Pacific region. Considering how, apart from India, most countries in the region have been traditional American allies, this a clear signal as to how the region will unite and under who’s leadership it will consolidate its strengths to take on China. Indeed, one of the administration’s top priorities is to ensure unity and cooperation in the region. Prime Minister Modi, who was elected more than two years before Trump, has already taken several measures in that direction by creating the Japan-Australia-India axis. The triune has worked closely, especially on the military front where it has conducted several joint exercises. With the Trump administration making the region one of its foremost priorities and actively bringing the Southeast Asian countries on board, like we witnessed recently during the ASEAN summit, a firm bulwark against expansionist China is fast readying itself.
And finally, the elephant in the room- North Korea. Trump rightly says the country should have been taken care of long ago by his predecessors. North Korea’s recent tests have given the international community enough reason to doubt their dismissals of the country as a perennial bluff-master. China is the country’s only ally, and the Trump administration has forced China’s hand to impose sanctions on the country. How they managed to force or convince China to take such measures, is beyond the scope of this article. But the sanctions coupled with Trump’s provocative statements has made the North Koreans respond with one test after another. This is a high stake geopolitical game of poker between two madmen. Nobody knows what either one’s final objectives are. One can only venture a guess: Trump seeks to beggar the country so that a Soviet style collapse ensues, and Kim seeks to test one bomb after another until the international community has no option but to legitimize his reign. Trump has taken this approach because he believes this is the only way the regime can be overthrown before it is too late. Who folds first remains to be seen.
Among the criticisms Trump often faces is that he has no regard for human rights, considering he seems to be at ease with the most authoritarian leaders of the world. This is a strange criticism. Let us not pretend that the so-called leader of the free world has upheld democratic values and championed human rights in the past. Installing brutal dictators who toe their line all around the world has been the empire’s favorite pastime. At least, unlike his predecessors, Trump has refused to be a hypocrite about it while dealing with them. For his detractors, a nuclear holocaust or a third world war are imminent dangers that stare in our faces, just like they were around this time last year. I predict that seven years down the line, when Trump is completing his second term in office, they will still be parroting the same rubbish. As Trump cleans up after their blue-eyed boy who made a complete mess of the world, one wonders to what extent blind hatred can cloud people’s perceptions.