With Donald Trump due to be inaugurated as the 45th President of The United States later today, many in that country and elsewhere are freaking out a bit. For the first time in the modern era there are due to be more protesters in Washington for Trump’s big day than supporters. Trump’s campaign caused many to be concerned with how he’d act as a president. I mean, how do you accept a President who made disparaging comments towards ethnic minorities, women and disabled people? Also, how do you live in a country where half the voting population (minus 3-ish million) elected someone like that?
Depending on who you ask, the answer is; “you don’t”.
America is more divided than it has been since the Civil War. The simplistic narrative is that the transfer of power between Obama and Trump is a transfer of power from good to straight up evil.
The problem with this narrative is it completely ignores the impact that the Obama administration’s foreign policy has had on the world. The Obama administration (and his intelligence agencies) oversaw the most reckless foreign policy in decades. The (botched) Arab Spring, the new Cold War ‘policy’ to turn Russia into a pariah state, the indiscriminate drone attacks, the inaction against Islamic extremism in less geopolitically important parts of the world (Boko Haram in Mali and Nigeria for instance). I could go on..
Wikileaks documents have revealed the Libyan chapter of the Arab Spring to be one of the Obama administration’s more heinous foreign policy crimes. As Obama’s Secretary Of State, Hillary Clinton went to war in Libya not because there was a genuine threat to US sovereignty or an actual significant popular uprising against the regime of Col Gaddafi, but because she thought that knocking off a famous dictator would play well for her election campaign in 2016. Obama (to his, um..credit) has regretted how things played out in Libya but his regret doesn’t change the fact that under his watch Libya went from being a stable country into a vacuum for extremists groups. There is no light at the end of the tunnel there. No real government or democracy. Just rubble. At least Bush had the sense to install governments in Afghanistan and Iraq. The title of ‘government’ in Libya is something now claimed by six different groups. It’s this reckless ‘go to war and ask questions later’ foreign policy which was started by Bush and taken to frightening extremes by Obama.
Now let’s talk about Russia. When George W Bush left office in 2009 to embark on a career as an outsider artist he painted a picture of his pal Vladimir Putin. Russo/American relations were strong, there were no sanctions on trade and there was an agreement between the two countries to not invest in nuclear weapons. Obama broke this agreement and committed to investing $1Trillion US over 20 years towards ‘modernising’ America’s nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile NATO pushed closer towards Russia and the democratically elected government of the Ukraine were overthrown. Russia went into the Ukraine and annexed Crimea as a response, yet we’re told that Russia are the lone antagonists. The mere act of provoking Russia has left the entire world in a far more uncertain place.
When Obama took office in 2009 there was a collective sigh of relief after Bush and his neocon cowboys were put out to pasture. Obama couldn’t possibly be as reckless as his predecessor. Instead Obama adopted a neocon foreign policy attitude and cranked it up to eleven. America were going to police the world and there wasn’t a damn thing anyone could do about it.
Except people did do something about it.
Putin got involved in western politics, BRICS signed some of the biggest trade and military deals in history, Brexit happened, Le Pen is happening and serious doubts over neo-liberal/conservative ideologies were planted in the minds of the American voter.
And now we have Trump. A man whose foreign policy experience extends to what countries he owns golf courses in. A man who was elected to office for the mere fact he has absolutely nothing to do with the politics of Bush, Clinton and Obama. He may end up being worse in other ways but at least he won’t be like anything like them, right? We’ll soon find out.
Trump campaigned on ideas like breaking up NATO and not getting involved in stupid wars. This anti-globalist message may seem crazy to anyone old enough to remember why things like NATO were set up in the first place but when you look at Obama’s foreign policy record how could things possibly get much worse?
What Trump does domestically is yet to be seen, but all signs point to an increase in wealth inequality, discrimination against minorities and an extreme trend towards deregulation. This will surely weaken US influence around the world and usher in a new era of global plurality. Wars will have to be agreed to by various parties rather than be undertaken by the country with the most to gain. We didn’t just get here when Trump was elected though. Every US administration since the end of the cold war did this and Obama accelerated the process.
There is one certainty; the world is a lot less stable post Obama.