The countdown for the US presidential election which takes place 3 November 2020 has started, and the world is holding its breath for the outcome. The last week of September 2020 saw the first presidential debate between the two candidates: Republican candidate President Donald Trump who runs for a second presidential term, and Democrat candidate Joe Biden. More presidential debates are expected this month, with all the suspense and drama that presidential debates have commanded in past US elections.
In their first debate, Trump and Biden locked horns in what was described by the western media as the most tumultuous presidential debate in recent memory. The belligerent tone that dominated it and descended into bitter taunts and near chaos was unprecedented in presidential debates, the history of which goes back to September 1960 when first held between Democratic candidate John Kennedy and Republican Richard Nixon.
I do not intend to venture on a political analysis of the debate to determine which of the two candidates holds the better chance at winning the election; the criteria involved are highly complex. Over and above, previous presidential debates have more often than not involved surreal details that contributed towards tipping the balance of a certain candidate over the other. These details at times had nothing to do with policy, plans or agendas, but rather concerned elements such as the candidates’ looks, facial expressions, gestures, postures, gazes, and eloquence; as if the debates were held to select a Hollywood star. Even more curiously, the outcome of the popular vote and the Electoral College almost always came in favour of the candidate who had been less popular in the pre-election polls.
We must acknowledge the fact that American voters are fully immersed in their local politics; they vote according to concerns such as their job market, incomes, social standards and services. They are in the main part indifferent to international issues and foreign policy, even though their country’s policies on these fronts determine its standing as the world superpower.
I admit that the issues preoccupying me vis-à-vis the US presidential election carry not much weight with American voters, and will be no determining factors in which candidate wins or loses the election. However, I cannot overlook the bunch of policies that marked the first term of President Trump in 2016 – 2020, and which I believe has seriously jeopardised world peace and stability. The election of Trump for a second term would imply not only that he would carry on with his disastrous foreign policy but, more seriously, that the American people endorse this policy and are rewarding Trump for it.
I have closely followed up on Trump’s foreign policy ever since he was sworn in as President of the US on 20 January 2017; while I could not conceal my concern and apprehension towards it, I waited a year-and-a-half for him in office before I made any comment.
In May 2018, under the title “Trump’s policy wreaks havoc with the world”, I reviewed Trump’s pledges during his electoral campaign which ran on his motto “America First”. Inauspiciously, one-and-a-half years later, owing to his reckless decisions, Trump’s motto metamorphosed into “America alone”. Totally oblivious to obligations towards his allies, friends, advisors and aides, he succeeded in alienating them all. He typically acted as a businessman with no principles, who brags that he cares nothing for success alongside others, but rather relishes the taste of success achieved over the dead bodies of others. Trump continued to shock the whole world by breaking up the great pileup of world community achievement in rapprochement and peace. He had no qualms over the US withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on the climate change, oblivious to global concerns on pollution, global warming, or the need for clean energy. He pulled the US out of the World Trade Agreement, jeopardising the interests of US partners and allies, and driving friends and foes to retaliate to his damaging moves. As if all this were not enough, he pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal known as the P5-plus-1 without consulting with the other partners in the deal, who despite US withdrawal remained committed to the terms of the agreement. In short, his moves turned what had been international conciliatory trends into devastating conflict.
In June 2018, under “Americans, too, are furious with Trump”, I tackled the step taken by Trump when he announced his accord with North Korea to neutralise its nuclear programme. Back then, American analysts failed to determine the criteria that would bind both parties; they described the agreement as “loose and pointless”. Many expressed concern over Trump’s persistence in excluding anyone who opposes him or refuses to cater to his whims, including his aides. American analysts voiced alarm at his persistence in undermining all standards of peace, stability, harmony and mutual benefits established post WWII, on political, economic and military levels. Such moves provoked a long list of friends and foes alike, and dragged the US into conflict with global powers that included Russia, China, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Iran and North Korea. Political leaders in some of these countries declared they no longer had confidence in treaties or commitments signed by the US.
In September 2018, I wrote under the title “The world holds its breath on Trump” about the US withdrawal from UNESCO, and Trump’s threats to pull out of NATO. These moves and declarations rocked the world, further shaking confidence of US allies in the merit of remaining linked to the US. Accordingly, many countries reconsidered their ties with America, which thanks to Trump, could renege on any principle or commitment. This has led political experts and analysts to fear for the reputation of the US; one American analyst even said it would take years to rebuild relations which Trump has corrupted, and to regain the trust of the world in the values and principles that were instilled by the American founding fathers.
In our region, it is impossible to overlook the arrogant policies adopted by Trump while handling Palestinian or Arab rights, throwing UN decisions to the wind. He started with announcing the US recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and then endorsed Israel’s sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights. Trump also persisted in imposing the status quo on the Palestinian Israeli map, while allowing Israel to expand its building of settlements and usurping more Palestinian lands. In a disastrous development, he even demanded of the Palestinians to swiftly accept the status quo lest Palestine loses everything. The region was only saved from the repercussions of this disastrous decision when the UAE and Bahrain signed conditional conciliations with Israel, which stipulated freezing the annexation of any Palestinian lands to Israel.
How can I raise this file without commending the wisdom of the Egyptian leadership in handling the reckless president who throws anything and everything to the wind? All through, the Egyptian leadership has held on to Egypt’s strategic interests; it avoided all conflicts and was keen to cultivate relations with all US political, economic and military institutions, and not to restrict the relations to the White House.
This is my opinion as an Egyptian vis-à-vis what befell the world because of a US president who is aspiring to win a second term. Yet I repeat that, unfortunately, American citizens do not reckon with these considerations as they head to the polls. That I fail to comprehend.
9 October 2020