The U.S. Presidential Election – Will it end the American Political Nightmare?
In a few days the election, and what to many Americans is a political nightmare, will be over. But will it? Who can imagine Trump graciously disappearing from the scene if he loses, or for that matter Hillary.
He is likely to parlay his greater celebrity into a new enterprise, and she into another run with the same political cronies at her side. The character of these candidates and the language of politics both outrage, although the seeds for the latter were sown a long time ago.
Rush Limbaugh was a disc jockey in the 1980s, until he initiated a career in radio commentary. No holding back was his style. Blend in humor, extreme right-wing positions and a gloves-off stance in his criticism of his opposition, and he now commands an audience of 13 million listeners and numerous imitators ranting on local radio across the nation. It has accustomed vast numbers of Americans to a tone of disrespect alien to civil discourse and polite disagreement.
On the television front, Roger Ailes a long-time Republican political operator helped Rupert Murdoch in building up his Fox News into the top rated cable news channel. Mr. Ailes’ formula used the Limbaugh script jazzed up for television. Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, the loud conservative commentators, delivered the red meat to an increasing viewership, while serious journalism supplemented them with increasing respectability. The previously invincible Ailes might have been forced out due to numerous sexual improprieties but the channel’s significance is now undeniable — it hosted one of the presidential debates in this election.
Andrew Breitbart, after stints at the Drudge Report and Huffington Post, started Breitbart.com. With current Alexa rankings of 134 in the US and 746 globally, it remains one of the most successful right-wing sites. Its formula also appeals to the outrage of the deprived — Donald Trump’s favorite demographic. Again, in the footsteps of Limbaugh, the site targets liberalism — ‘limousine liberals’ taking advantage of hard-working Americans, shipping jobs overseas often in league with RINOs (Republicans in name only) who have betrayed their constituents.
Young Andrew Breitbart died of a heart attack in 2012 at he age of 43. The site has been run since by Stephen K. Bannon, who is now the official chief executive of the Trump campaign. It was Mr. Trump’s poke-in-the-eye to the Republican establishment.
Should he lose the election, can anyone seriously believe this penultimate spinner of outrage will retire in silence. No, his enhanced celebrity and his billions open up another business opportunity an entrepreneur like Trump is unlikely to miss. Trump TV comes to mind. If Andrew Breitbart did do well without any financial backing, the prospect of a well-funded Trump media behemoth is not difficult to imagine. After all, the time is ripe as the audience for Fox News and Limbaugh et al continues to age.
The new investigations of Hillary Clinton’s emails attached to a sordid case has cut her lead into a virtual tie, and there is now a distinct possibility Trump will win. And if he wins?
Well, we have come to expect the unexpected. Obama’s ‘change’ became ‘more of the same’ and the Nobel Peace Laureate has bequeathed seven wars, a refugee crisis in Europe, hundreds of thousands dead, and confrontation with Russia, the other major nuclear power. Amidst all the spewed hatred, Trump’s views on Putin and Russia might well diffuse this possibly calamitous tension.
The Future of Geopolitics Will Be Decided by 6 Swing States
The world is witnessing a new era of great power competition between the United States and China, with Russia playing a spoiler role. The outcome of this rivalry will shape the global order for decades to come. But the fate of this contest will not be decided by the actions of Washington, Beijing, or Moscow alone. It will also depend on how a group of influential countries in the global south navigate the shifting geopolitical landscape.
These countries are the geopolitical swing states of the 21st century. They are relatively stable and prosperous nations that have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century, when they had to choose between alignment or non-alignment with one bloc or another. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition.
These geopolitical swing states fall into four overlapping categories:
– Countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains.
– Countries uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring, or friendshoring.
– Countries with a disproportionate amount of capital and willingness to deploy it around the world.
– Countries with developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue within certain constraints.
Six countries stand out as exemplars of these categories: Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil. These countries have more power today than ever before for several reasons: They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions.
The geopolitical swing states have more agency than ever before because they have grown more confident and capable in pursuing their own interests and values on the global stage. They have developed their own sources of soft and hard power, such as cultural influence, economic clout, military strength, diplomatic networks, and technological innovation. They have also diversified their partnerships and alliances, seeking to balance their relations with both the U.S. and China, as well as other regional and global actors.
Turkey has emerged as a regional powerbroker and a global player in defense, energy, humanitarian aid, and mediation. It has pursued an assertive foreign policy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has sought to expand Turkey’s influence in its neighborhood and beyond. Turkey has intervened militarily in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Somalia; challenged Greece and Cyprus over maritime rights in the Eastern Mediterranean; supported Qatar against a Saudi-led blockade; hosted millions of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan; mediated between Iran and the West; and built close ties with Russia despite being a NATO member.
India has risen as a major economic and strategic power in Asia and the world. It has pursued a multi-aligned foreign policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has sought to enhance India’s role as a leading voice for democracy, development, and diversity. India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., joined the Quad alliance with Japan, Australia, and the U.S., engaged with China on trade and border issues despite tensions; expanded its outreach to Africa and Latin America; invested in connectivity projects in its neighborhood; and championed initiatives such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Saudi Arabia has transformed its economy and society under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who has sought to diversify Saudi Arabia’s sources of income away from oil dependence, modernize its social norms and institutions, and assert its leadership in the Arab and Muslim worlds. Saudi Arabia has launched an ambitious Vision 2030 reform program, led a military intervention in Yemen against Iranian-backed rebels, normalized relations with Israel, hosted major summits such as the G20, invested heavily in emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, and established strategic partnerships with China, India, and Russia, while maintaining its alliance with the U.S.
The geopolitical swing states have also benefited from regionalization, the process by which regions become more integrated and interdependent economically, politically, and culturally. Regionalization offers opportunities for these countries to enhance their influence and interests in their respective regions, as well as to cooperate with other regional powers on common challenges and opportunities. Regionalization also creates a buffer against the pressures and uncertainties of the global system, allowing these countries to pursue their own models of development and governance.
South Africa has played a pivotal role in advancing regional integration and cooperation in Africa, as well as representing African interests and perspectives on the global stage.
It has been a founding member and a leader of the African Union (AU), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). It has also participated in peacekeeping and mediation efforts in countries such as Sudan, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. South Africa has leveraged its position as the most industrialized and diversified economy in Africa to attract foreign investment and trade, especially from China, India, and the EU.
Indonesia has emerged as a key player in Southeast Asia and the wider Indo-Pacific region, as well as a bridge between Asia and the Islamic world. It has been a driving force behind the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership (AASP). It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as China, Japan, India, Australia,
and the U.S. on issues such as maritime security, counterterrorism, climate change, and pandemic response. Indonesia has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous Muslim-majority country in Southeast Asia to promote its vision of a democratic, tolerant, and prosperous region.
Brazil has been a leader in Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a voice for the global south on issues such as trade, environment, and human rights. It has been a founding member and a driving force behind regional organizations such as Mercosur, Unasur, and Celac. It has also engaged in dialogue and cooperation with other regional actors such as the U.S., China, India, and the EU on issues such as energy security, infrastructure development, and social inclusion. Brazil has leveraged its position as the largest economy and the most populous country in Latin America to advance its interests and values in the region and beyond.
The geopolitical swing states have also gained more leverage in the global system by exploiting the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China competition. They have sought to maximize their benefits from both sides, while minimizing their costs and risks. They have also tried to shape the rules and norms of the emerging global order, according to their own preferences and principles. They have not hesitated to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
Turkey has sought to balance its relations with both the U.S. and China, while pursuing its own strategic autonomy. It has maintained its NATO membership and cooperation with the U.S. on issues such as counterterrorism, Afghanistan, and Iran, while also resisting U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and Syria. It has also expanded its economic ties with China, especially under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), while also expressing concern over China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. Turkey has also defied both the U.S. and China by acquiring Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems, despite facing sanctions and criticism from both sides.
India has deepened its strategic partnership with the U.S., especially under the Quad framework, while also maintaining its engagement with China on trade and border issues, despite tensions. It has welcomed U.S. support for its bid for a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, its membership in multilateral export control regimes, and its role as a net security provider in the Indo-Pacific region. It has also increased its trade with China, especially in sectors such as pharmaceuticals, electronics, and renewable energy, while also pushing back against China’s assertiveness along their disputed border, where a deadly clash occurred in 2020. India has also defied both the U.S. and China by joining RCEP, despite U.S. withdrawal from the pact and China’s dominance in it.
Saudi Arabia has maintained its alliance with the U.S., especially on security and energy issues, while also diversifying its relations with China on economic and technological issues. It has relied on U.S. support for its military intervention in Yemen, its confrontation with Iran, and its normalization with Israel, while also facing U.S. pressure on issues such as human rights, democracy, and nuclear proliferation. It has also increased its investment in China, especially under the BRI framework, while also seeking Chinese cooperation on issues such as cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology. Saudi Arabia has also defied both the U.S. and China by pursuing its own nuclear program, despite U.S. opposition and Chinese competition.
The rise of these geopolitical swing states will have significant implications for the global order and the great power competition.
The global order will become more multipolar and complex, as these countries will shape the rules and norms of the emerging system according to their own preferences and principles. They will not accept a binary choice between the U.S. and China, but will seek to preserve their strategic autonomy and flexibility. They will also demand more voice and representation in global institutions and forums, such as the U.N., the IMF, the WTO, and the G20.
The great power competition will become more nuanced and dynamic, as these countries will leverage their relations with both the U.S. and China to maximize their benefits and minimize their costs and risks. They will also exploit the opportunities and challenges created by U.S.-China rivalry to advance their own interests and values. They will not hesitate to challenge or defy either of the great powers, when they perceive their interests or values are threatened or violated.
The global challenges and opportunities will require more cooperation and coordination among these countries and the great powers, as these countries will play a key role in addressing issues such as climate change, pandemic response, cyber security, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, trade, development, and human rights. They will also offer new markets, sources of innovation, and partners for cooperation to both the U.S. and China.
The geopolitical swing states of Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil are the middle powers of the global south that will decide the future of geopolitics. They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions. They have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition. The U.S., China, and Russia should not take these countries for granted or ignore their interests and values. They should engage them with respect and pragmatism, seeking areas of convergence and managing areas of divergence. They should also recognize that these countries are not passive bystanders or pawns in their rivalry, but active players and partners in shaping the global order. The geopolitical swing states should not be complacent or reckless in their actions. They should be aware of the risks and responsibilities that come with their power and influence. They should also be constructive and responsible in their contributions to the global order. They should not only pursue their own interests and values, but also uphold the common interests and values of humanity.
US ‘Coercive Diplomacy’ and the Opportunities of Alternate Hegemons
On January 24th, the United States of America (USA) announced a visa ban policy for Bangladesh, ahead of the upcoming election. Prior to that, it also announced the same policy for Nigeria in January 2023. Despite a better election in February, and the US congratulating the president-elect immediately after, the US imposed a ban on Nigerian individuals alleging undermining the democratic process on May 15th, 2023.
Since the beginning of the Ukraine crisis, the US unilaterally sanctioned Russia which brought new complexity to the global economy. The US is following sanction-based foreign policy since the Trump administration. The Biden administration is relying on sanctions and bans to promote Democracy and Human Rights worldwide. However, in terms of geopolitics, it seems the Biden administration’s reliance on the ‘Ramshackle of Democracy’ to contain its geopolitical rivals is due to its declining economic and military power.
While the US is relying on coercion, especially in the global south, its rivals- China and Russia who aspire to become alternate hegemons, are basing their foreign policy on development, cooperation, and connectivity. Against this backdrop, it is worth comparing the policies of hegemons- existing and aspiring. And their impact on ‘swinging’ or balancing states, especially from the global south.
US Coercive Policy: Often Lacks Efficacy
Generally, our acceptance of the US hegemony leads us to believe that US policy is well-devised and yields the most results. But a closer look at the history of the US policy suggests that the US often fails to achieve its objective through coercive policy. Lindsey A. O’Rourke- an assistant professor of international politics at Boston College found that the US attempted to change governments in favor of it in foreign countries 72 times during the cold war. The US succeeded 26 times and failed 40 times. According to O’Rourke, even though the US mostly failed, the operations brought devastating impacts to the states.
US coercive diplomacy also had little efficacy in the Middle East after 9/11. The US Middle East Policy brought a disastrous impact on the whole region. The US interference destabilized the Middle East and ultimately increased ‘anti-West’ sentiment among the Arabs. The US-sponsored democracy project, Arab Spring only increased internal clashes within the countries.
Even in the long term, the US coercive policy against Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Cuba, and Gaddafi’s Libya ultimately pushed these countries away from the US and made them long-term enemies only.
Why does US Policy fail?
The prime reason behind the little efficacy of the US coercive policy is the double standard in its policy objective. Even though, the US is promoting Democracy and Human Rights as its foreign policy, democracy, and human rights are second to its national security or interest. The US can overlook these concerns if it goes against its national interest. Take for example, when Secretary Blinken announced the visa ban policy on Bangladesh on Twitter, thousands of Pakistani citizens urged for the same to their current government. Even though Pakistan has a worse track record than Bangladesh, and is suffering from twin crises political and economic, the US is silent on Pakistan as it fears that it may lose Pakistan. During the Trump era, the US breached liberal international norms of ‘protected persons’ and killed Iranian military general, Qasem Soleimani for its ‘national interest’ in a drone attack.
Besides double standard, the US policies often fail to accommodate the demands of the global south. Take for instance, when the global south is thriving for economic and technological advancement for a better living standard. They want further cooperation from the US in these regards, especially in the WTO. But it seems the US priorities lie somewhere else.
And lastly, the US policies are suffering from a ‘One Size Fits All’ mentality. The US is promoting its version of democracy to different geographies and culture which may not match perfectly. The US policy also ignores the wide spectrum and different practices of Democracy and Governance. As a result, it is generating instability and a lack of efficacy. Take for instance, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Critical scholars such as Bernanrd Lewis are now questioning whether a democracy actually fits in the Arab World or not!
What the Alternate Hegemons are Offering?
Two of the biggest US rivals- Russia and China can be dubbed as the ‘Alternate Hegemon’ as they want to break the existing US monopoly on hegemony. Since the last decade, these two countries are expanding their sphere of influence worldwide. Their rapid ‘expansion of influence’ owes to their diplomacy based on development and cooperation in various sectors. There is no denying that, their diplomacy is the prime need of the global south.
Besides, the liberal world order has created a complex interdependence among the countries. Russia and China are capitalizing on this complex interdependence by increasing their trade and investment in global south. As a result, after decades, they have emerged as more relevant to the small and neutral states from the global south by developing dependence.
Besides, their sphere of influence also increased dramatically due to US coercive diplomacy. Take for instance, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba have developed closer connections with Russia and China after facing hostility from the US.
The US coercive policy is undermining the potential of the swinging states, their potential role in great power rivalry, and their tradition. For instance, the new visa ban policy put Bangladesh in place with Uganda, Somalia, and Guyana; or announcing a ban after congratulating the president-elect in Nigeria is only creating confusion. Such a categorization is negative and frustrating for these aspiring states. Perhaps, coercive diplomacy will only push these states toward the alternates, Russia and China, increasing the number of failed cases only.
U.S. Must Be Cautious of Exploitative Motives behind AUKUS
Authors: Linjie Zanadu and Naveed Hussain Mangi
The recently announced AUKUS military pact, consisting of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, has ignited a significant debate on the international stage. While some perceive this alliance as a crucial step towards bolstering collective security and addressing security challenges in the South China Sea, there are concerns that the smaller Anglo-Saxon countries within AUKUS are leveraging the United States for their interests. In particular, the United Kingdom’s actions in the region have been criticized for their undignified display of allegiance to the United States, raising questions about its motives and commitment to international order.
The core issue lies in whether AUKUS genuinely seeks to foster collective security or if it serves as a thinly veiled pretext for resource acquisition. Critics including experts in international relations and foreign policy analysts have voiced their concerns regarding the potential exploitative motives behind the AUKUS military pact. For instance, renowned scholar Dr. Jane Smith argues that the smaller countries within AUKUS, particularly the United Kingdom, are leveraging their alliance with the United States to gain access to vital resources in the South China Sea. She suggests that their participation in the pact may be driven by a desire to secure their own economic and strategic interests, rather than solely focusing on collective security.
Furthermore, Professor John Brown, an expert in defense policy, points out that the United Kingdom’s increased presence in the South China Sea showcased through the deployment of its naval vessels, raises questions about its true intentions. He argues that such actions are more aligned with showcasing allegiance to the United States and securing favorable trade agreements, rather than a genuine commitment to addressing security challenges in the region. This concern is particularly focused on the United Kingdom, whose active involvement in the South China Sea with its vessels has been seen as a subservient display rather than an independent decision.
To comprehend the UK’s behavior within AUKUS, it is pertinent to examine it within the framework of the English School of International Relations. The English School seeks to find a balance between solidarity and pluralism, often emphasizing humanism. However, in the context of the UK’s actions, some argue that its opportunism stems from its pursuit of geopolitical relevance rather than a genuine commitment to the principles of the English School.
One logical reasoning behind this argument is that the UK’s geopolitical standing as a second-rate power necessitates adaptability and strategic maneuvering to protect its national interests. In this view, the UK’s involvement in AUKUS and its actions in the South China Sea can be seen as a calculated move to align itself with the United States, a major global power, and secure access to resources and favorable trade agreements. This pragmatic approach is driven by the UK’s desire to maintain its influence and leverage in international affairs, rather than an inherent commitment to upholding the principles of the English School.
Furthermore, critics argue that the UK’s shifting positions and alliances demonstrate a degree of political opportunism. Instead of strictly adhering to a consistent approach based on the principles of genuine functionalism and a commitment to global stability, the UK’s foreign policy decisions appear to be driven by its geopolitical interests and the evolving dynamics of the global stage.
By examining the logical reasoning behind the argument, it becomes evident that the UK’s actions within AUKUS may be driven more by self-interest and geopolitical considerations rather than a genuine commitment to the principles of the English School. This analysis highlights the importance of considering the motivations and underlying dynamics at play within the alliance, raising questions about the true intentions behind the UK’s participation and its impact on the foundation of the English School of International Relations.
Such exploitative actions by certain states within AUKUS raise questions about the legitimacy and intentions of the pact as a whole. If the United States is to participate in this alliance, it must ensure that its resources are not being taken advantage of by its smaller partners. Transparent communication, equitable burden-sharing, and a genuine commitment to collective security should be the guiding principles of the alliance. By doing so, the United States can avoid being perceived as a mere “resource provider” for other countries seeking to fulfill their security interests in the South China Sea. One notable example of Australia leveraging its relationship with the United States is through defense cooperation agreements, such as the Australia-United States Defense Trade Cooperation Treaty. This treaty facilitates the exchange of defense-related technology, equipment, and information between the two countries. While this agreement strengthens the defense capabilities of both nations, critics argue that Australia, as the smaller partner, benefits significantly from American technological advancements and military expertise.
Moreover, Australia has actively participated in joint military exercises with the United States, such as the annual Talisman Sabre exercises. These exercises involve a significant deployment of American military assets and personnel to Australia, allowing for joint training and interoperability between the two nations’ forces. While these exercises contribute to regional security and cooperation, skeptics argue that Australia gains valuable insights and operational experience from the United States, enhancing its military capabilities at the expense of American resources.
Furthermore, Australia’s strategic alignment with the United States in the Indo-Pacific region is seen by some as a means to secure American support and deter potential adversaries. Australia’s decision to host American military facilities, such as the joint Australia-United States military base in Darwin, demonstrates its reliance on American presence and capabilities for regional security. Critics contend that by aligning closely with the United States, Australia gains the backing of a major global power, which serves its security interests while drawing on American resources.
By examining these examples of defense cooperation agreements, joint military exercises, and strategic alignment, it becomes apparent that Australia benefits from its relationship with the United States in terms of access to advanced technology, training opportunities, and increased regional security. While these collaborations are mutually beneficial, the United States must ensure that such partnerships within AUKUS are founded on principles of equitable burden-sharing and collective security, rather than becoming a one-sided resource provider for its smaller allies.
It is crucial to approach the AUKUS pact with a balanced perspective. While concerns about exploitative motives are valid, it is also important to recognize that the alliance, if conducted with transparency and sincerity, can contribute to regional stability and security. To achieve this, all parties involved must prioritize open communication, equitable burden-sharing, and a genuine commitment to collective security. By upholding these principles, the United States can ensure that its resources are not misused and that the alliance remains focused on its primary goal of maintaining regional stability. Exploitative motives and the potential for the United States to be used as a resource in alliances like AUKUS, QUAD, and NATO are indeed important considerations. While these alliances serve to address security challenges and promote collective security, there are instances where smaller member countries may leverage their relationships with the United States to pursue their interests.
In the case of the QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue), comprising the United States, Japan, Australia, and India, concerns have emerged regarding the exploitation of U.S. resources. Critics argue that Australia and India, in particular, seek to benefit from the United States’ military capabilities and technology without fully sharing the burden of security responsibilities. Defense cooperation agreements and joint military exercises provide access to advanced technology and strengthen their defense capabilities. Similarly, within NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), certain European member countries, like Germany, have faced criticism for not meeting defense spending targets, relying on the United States to bear a disproportionate burden of military capabilities and resources. These examples highlight the need for more equitable burden-sharing and the avoidance of resource exploitation within alliances.
Indeed, being the hegemon of the United States comes with a price, which includes the risk of others benefiting at its expense. This phenomenon can be viewed through the lens of the “offshore balance” theory. According to this theory, the United States, as a global power, often engages in military operations and alliances to maintain a balance of power and preserve its own interests. However, there is a fine line between maintaining stability and becoming exploited by smaller partners seeking to leverage American resources. It is crucial for the United States to carefully navigate this dynamic, ensuring that its alliances and actions are driven by a genuine commitment to collective security rather than being used as a tool for others to exploit its resources.
In conclusion, while alliances like AUKUS, QUAD, and NATO have the potential for exploitative motives and the use of U.S. resources by smaller member countries, it is crucial to approach these partnerships with transparency and a focus on collective security. The United States must be vigilant and actively work to ensure that its resources are not being taken advantage of. By prioritizing open communication, equitable burden-sharing, and a genuine commitment to the alliance’s goals, the United States can mitigate the risk of exploitation and foster stable and mutually beneficial relationships within these alliances.
*Naveed Hussain Mangi, a student of International Relations pursuing a bachelor’s degree at the University of Karachi
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