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Mon. October 15, 2018
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Offspring of Populism: Imbalance of Power or International Disorder?
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Introduction

Whether we like it or not, history develops dynamically, overwhelming human beings with contingencies. It was beyond theoretically justified prediction of such a phenomenon as repetition of world war, where the same actor, Germany, was the reason behind this massacre. No one could foresee that a defeated post-WWI Germany with its moral downfall would revitalize its morale; but such a populist as Hitler could accomplish this “mission”. Nor no one “big shot” expert in international relations and politics bet on Donald Trump. While certainty in prediction of Hillary Clinton`s landslide victory in the elections held sway in the “great minds” of academic circle, such a populist upstart as Mr. Trump ad verbum snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

History shows us that when a populist leader comes to the fore in an influential state, it ushers in a new era, shattering the persisting international order and bringing imbalance of power. Look at Lenin - ideologist of communism and world revolution, who created the “Soviet Monster” that overwhelmingly shattered the world and brought international disorder – appeared on the ground of populism. Or another leader that heralded Lebensraum and opened the Pandora's box was Hitler, who emerged completely leaning on populism, and whose policy no less, even more diabolically, than that of Lenin`s and Stalin`s, degenerated equilibrium into imbalance of power. Is the emergence of populist Donald Trump, then, a precursor to the approaching imbalance of power or international disorder? It is not highly unlikely. Given that the US is still central to the world affairs, if populism fully prevails in America, and this trend mushrooms into persistency, then, it could beget a chain reaction and fuel world populism. And in case the USA rolls back to its isolated past, then the world would succumb to imbalance of power or international disorder, and the “soft” imperialistic expansion of China under the pretext of “win-win” policy would replace America.    

““Make America Great Again”” And The Leaning Leadership of USA

 After the fiasco of the Soviet Union, the US has established a monopoly in the world: the whole international political and economic systems directly or indirectly intertwined with Washington. Moreover, the US, with its way of development and the way the Americans live, has set a pattern, which is always been perceived as an ideal one – the model many nations want to emulate, especially after the evaporation of communistic ideology. Of course, many speculations swirl around fading power and losing leadership of the US, because of China`s rise and Russia`s assertiveness; nevertheless, the latter are no more than revisionist states that aspired to reshape the world order, built by and oriented to the US. But what Trump is striving for is “Make America Great Again”, which is already great. America would be great, in Trump`s perception, “when it was isolated and had limited footprint in world politics, when xenophobic attitude and religious intolerance were instilled in American society, when democracy ceased to be a priority for American foreign policy.”

Donald Trump`s election campaign proved not to be, as many predicted, as empty words, but he started implementing what he vowed. His policy of “America First” unequivocally implies isolationism, since it is predisposed to refocus long-arm directed-abroad American business on the domestic market: relocate American transnational corporations back in the USA and create more job opportunities for its citizens. So, he is doing what he promised to do. Trump abolished the Trans Pacific Partnership, which was the cornerstone of Barack Obama`s policy of “Pivot to Asia.” Given this isolationistic tendency in foreign policy, the think tank functioning under the US Congress expressed its concern publishing report on “the US role in the World”, and outlined the following: “the US is less concerned with exercising global leadership, less engaged overseas, and more inward looking; more skeptical about the value of alliances, and more transactional in its approach to U.S. relationships with other countries”[1]. So, Trump drifts America towards isolationism.

Populist Trump is instilling xenophobic attitudes and religious intolerance in American society, while tolerance is the backbone of liberalism. As Dominic Tierney put it: “America's ideology is its identity, and would be incredibly difficult to cast off. Russians without Communism are still Russians. Americans without liberalism have no idea who they are”[2]. “Why Farage, Le Pen, Wilders, Hofer, Trump, et al.? All of these populists project themselves by definition as anti-elite. … This ideological rhetoric has unmistakable resonances of historical populisms such as fascism”[3]. Indeed, winning elections leaning on white Americans and, hence, designating protection of whites as priority, building a wall between USA and Mexico, enlarging the list of nations prohibited to enter the US territory, “associating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with a foreign terrorist organization and putting it on the same level as al Qaeda and the Islamic State”[4] and many others antagonize USA, making it less attractive to the world.

Above all, the foreign policy conduct of the United States is becoming more and more odious: not only does Trump not promote democratic values, but he also shows more “admiration for repressive strongmen. He has uncritically embraced multiple nondemocratic leaders, including Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump chose one of the least democratic countries in the world, Saudi Arabia, for his first international trip as president, and basked in the attention lavished on him by Saudi Arabia’s repressive leaders. Visiting Poland in July 2017 at a key moment of worrisome democratic backsliding in that country, he avoided speaking to the issue and instead joined the Polish government in attacking the free press”[5], put Thomas Carothers.

The US will not be a leading democratic state if Trump`s irritating decisions do not change. Otherwise, the attractiveness of America will deteriorate, badly affecting its prestige and role in the world. Consequently, America, as an ideal model, would be doomed. And, as a result, it will have thorny repercussions on the world, given that the globe is inextricably linked to America.

The World After Trump`s Dream Comes True

Trump does not understand the undertones of world politics, as the latter is more than a business. In business you may end up in bankruptcy and then recover, but the fate of a state is the fate of a nation. Trump`s ill-conceived decisions have far-reaching repercussions on the world, fueling world populism, laying a path for revisionists to be more assertive, changing the landscape of world politics and economics and, hence, bringing imbalance of power or international disorder.

If Trump`s dream “Make America Great Again” comes true, the world would be spinning in the following direction:

  • America, notwithstanding “Trumpism”, could still stay an ideal model for the whole world, but it will be an attractive populist model. Populism in USA can fuel populism in the world, the latter deriving populist impetus from the leading nation.
  • China expresses assertiveness, and its statements regarding the role of PRC in the world are no longer surreptitious. In the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Mr. Xi heralded the “New era”[6], hinting at the leaning role of USA and leading role of China. China`s revisionism is directed at replacing Washington-oriented international economic and financial systems, and more binding the world with Beijing. Soft economic expansion of China could easily be converted into political leverage; so minor states need balancing power indeed against the rising PRC. If USA rolls back to the isolationistic past, the world political landscape would be gloomy, dominated by China, which is transformed, but still, communist power.
  • Of course, what the US has built is not virtuous, but the world cannot get by without America. According to Emmanuel Todd “it is not America`s productivity that is essential within a world economy where demand is sluggish, but, rather, its consumption”[7]. “In a slowed down, depressed world economy”, Todd continues, “America`s propensity to consume more than it produces ends up being viewed by the rest of the planet as something positive, even meritorious. In every recession, we enthusiastically praise the persistent dynamism of American consumption …[8]. So, we cannot even imagine the world without USA

 

Conclusion 

It would be sophomoric to predict that the world is on the edge of collapse, but it is at the threshold of transformation. The emergence of Trump, as it was with Lenin and Hitler, could be a sign of a new world order, where the China-America struggle would replace the Russia-America one. China will rise, especially when the US is aggressive and less attractive. But it is on the shoulders of the US Congress to continue checking Trump`s ill-conceived plans, since the only ones who can hold back Trump are the ones who elected him. Otherwise, the world would succumb to international disorder.     

 

Otabek Akromov is currently a senior student at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, majoring in International Relations. He is a research assistant in Center for Advanced International Studies. His research interests lie in the area of security, religion, anthropology and ideology. Otabek is also a close observer of new trends and developments in Middle East and Central Asia.

 


[1] Ronald O'Rourke and Michael Moodie. U.S. Role in the World: Background and Issues for Congress. Congressional Research Service, September 22, 2017. p. 4.

[2] Dominic Tierney. Why Are Americans So Ideologically United? The Atlantic, August 23, 2011. Retrieved from: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/08/why-are-americans-so-ideologically-united/243951/

[3] Ulrike M. Vieten and Scott Poynting. Contemporary Far-Right Racist Populism in Europe Tandfonline, Journal of Intercultural Studies, October 28, 2016. p. 535

[4] Hooman Majd. Trump Is Inching Toward War With Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Foreign policy, October 11, 2017. Derived from: http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/10/11/trump-is-inching-toward-war-with-irans-revolutionary-guards/  

[5] Thomas Carothers. Democracy Promotion Under Trump: What Has Been Lost? What Remains? Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, September 06, 2017 Derived from: http://carnegieendowment.org/2017/09/06/democracy-promotion-under-trump-what-has-been-lost-what-remains-pub-73021

[6] Tom Phillips. Xi Jinping heralds 'new era' of Chinese power at Communist party congress. The Guardian, October 18, 2017. Derived from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/18/xi-jinping-speech-new-era-chinese-power-party-congress  

[7] Emmanuel Todd. After the Empire: the breakdown of American order. Columbian University Press, New York, 2002. p. 67

[8] Ibid. p. 70

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