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The travel ban – how the Trump critics are doing their Math – 2+2 = 22?

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[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] L [/yt_dropcap]et’s start from the most recent happening. Bill O’Reilly interviews Trump for Fox news. He asks him ‘Do you respect Putin’? Trump replies ‘Yes, I do!!!’ The interview rolls on. After a few moments, Bill O’Reilly tells him ‘Putin’s a killer (meaning – How can you even think of having good relations with a killer?).’

Trump coolly replies with a lazy shrug ‘There are a lot of killers out there. You think we (the US) are so innocent???’   This remark unsurprisingly prompted a lot of opposition and criticism in social media with ‘patriotic Americans’ taking Trump to task for his unsavoury and un-presidential comments. Yet, this writer believes that it was ultimate showmanship from Trump and one of the reasons why he became the President.

People have criticised Trump saying that he has very little knowledge of politics, he has no experience, does not know how policies are made, is naive about Russia, has a mercurial temper etc. What his critics have got totally wrong about him is the fact that Trump has got a far sharper understanding about international politics than his critics will ever give him credit for.

Trump knows that better relations with Russia will end lots of unnecessary conflicts and will ultimately help America. He knows that rather than fighting a three-way war (with Russia and Assad on one hand and ISIS on the other) and complicating the mess leading to a no-win situation for all involved, it is better to co-operate with Russia and take on the ISIS. With that, let’s come to the ‘Muslim ban.’

A week ago, Trump signed an executive order banning refugees of seven countries – Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Iraq, Iran and Libya from entering the US for at least 90 days. It also froze the entire US refugee program for 120 days and reduced drastically the number of refugees that the US will accept in fiscal year 2017. Immediately there was an outpouring of protests in and outside the US.

His critics are taking pleasure by calling it a ‘#MuslimBan’. Now that the emotional outpouring is mostly done with, let’s sit down calmly and think through the whole ban. First of all, it is not a permanent ban. This is only a temporary stop of 120 days so that proper measures can be studied about immigration / refugees and a decision could be taken and implemented. Secondly, the people who took disastrous decisions which worsened the war leading to thousands and thousands of deaths are happily sitting at home. Yet, Trump is heavily criticised for enforcing the so-called ‘Muslim Ban.’

Fine, let us assume that what the critics are saying is right!!! Let’s call it a Muslim Ban. Now what is a Muslim Ban? If all the Muslims are banned, then it can be called as a Muslim ban. In this situation, are all the Muslims banned? There are about 50 Muslim majority countries in the world. Out of that if 7 out of 50 countries are banned, then how can it be called a Muslim Ban? The fact is that only 1/7th out of the total Muslim majority countries were banned. So the critics would do well to call it a ‘1/7 Muslim ban’.

Which will lead us to the next question ‘Why did he choose Muslim majority countries only?’ The Trump administration did not choose these countries at all. These were selected by the Obama administration as “countries of concern.” This was done in December 2015 initially for Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria. Two months later, the Obama administration added Libya, Somalia and Yemen to the list.

Fine it has become a norm to ask the craziest questions just to criticise Trump. So let’s ask one more. Why were only Muslim majority countries selected? This, in the face of it, seems to be a reasonable allegation. Hence the next time Donald Trump is selecting the list, he should be more careful.

For example, for argument’s sake, let’s assume that the same seven countries are being placed under the terror watch list. After zeroing in on around 3 countries, he should remove the remaining four. Then one Christian majority country, one Hindu majority country, one Jewish majority country and one Buddhist majority country can all be added. In this way, equal distribution to all religions can be made. Doing this can also earn Donald Trump the title of ‘A Secular leader.’

Finally what is Obama’s reaction to the immigration ban? Obama’s spokesperson said that Obama feels that individuals protesting are “exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.” Obama, in private might well be thinking “What is this Trump guy up to? I have been in office for eight years and yet Trump has done more in eight days than what I did in eight years.” Since those are his thoughts about Trump, his public comments could be excused.

Amidst this entire furore, two things have been completely missed. One is how is Iran in the “countries of concern” list? If its position is justified in the list, then how come a nuclear deal was signed with Iran? Iran is the only country among the seven that has a central working government. It also has a moderate government. Logically, it should not have been there in the list.

Secondly, Trump missed an opportunity by failing to condemn the terrorist attack on Muslims that happened in Quebec, Canada by a white French-Canadian Christian student. Innocent people of all religions should be protected from terrorist attacks. Trump would have done well to condemn the attack. With regards to the temporary immigration stop, if Trump says that he will do everything to stop the Syrian war and he needs a temporary 90/120 day stop on immigration, what is wrong with that?

Finally a word needs to be mentioned about Demonetisation in India since that was also a move which prompted widespread criticism from analysts. Critics and economists including Kaushik Basu, Ruchir Sharma, Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh among others lambasted Modi’s move by pointing out various reasons- it will lead to disaster, common people are suffering terribly, it is slowing down economic growth, why take measures to bring only such a small quantity of black money etc. That question that has been foremost throughout the country in the last 20-30 years is ‘who will bell the cat (who will take on corruption)?’

Indians, in specific, have become numb to corruption. It happens in the residence when he/she tries to buy/sell property undervaluing the property so as to gain financially from it. It happens at the office when he/she submits inflated bills, sometimes in connivance with the management, the accounts department, the auditors etc. It is universal in India!!!

Yet, when someone with guts comes on to bell the cat, the same critics, who raised the initial question of belling the cat, are turning around and now finding fault with the type, quality and sound of the bell. As for their concern for the common man/woman, if the commoner turns around and says “We are not bothered about the temporary inconvenience. Even if a small segment of the corrupt suffer, we are willing to bear the inconvenience”, what would they do? They probably will turn around to the common man/woman and scream “You don’t know what is good for you. Only we know what is good for you!!!”

As for the critics who have been continuously trying to take down Modi and Trump, this writer says “Good try. Better luck next time….”

Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are those of the author

Harish Venugopalan is a Research Assistant with the Observer Research Foundation. He has done his Masters in International Relations from the Dublin City University (DCU) in 2011-2012. His current research interest is ‘Conflict Management in Africa’.

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Americas

Trump: The Symbol of America’s Isolation in the World

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The president of the United States, who came to power in 2016 with the slogan of “Reviving Washington’s Power”, has become the messenger of failure and defeat of his country in the West Asian region and in the international system. The U.S. numerous military and political defeats in countries such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon were so outstanding that there’s no way Trump can brag about his achievements in the region.

On the other hand, many Democrats in the United States, and even the traditional Republicans, have been criticizing the President’s costly and barren foreign policy in West Asia. In such a situation, Trump attempts to attribute this failure to the country’s previous administrations and condemn them over what is happening in today’s world, especially in the West Asian region, and he blames Obama for Washington’s constant and extensive failures in this area.

Besides, Trump’s other projections about the hard conditions of the U.S. in West Asia are noteworthy. In his recent remarks, Donald Trump said that if he wasn’t at top of the U.S. political and executive equations, Iran would capture the Middle East (West Asia)! This is while Islamic Republic of Iran created stability in the West Asian region, and besides, has stood against the long-term, medium-term, and short-term and destructive goals of the United States and its allies in the region.

Trump’s strategic weakness in the West Asia is an important issue which can’t be easily overlooked. Of course this strategic weakness did exist during Obama’s presidency, but the truth is that it reached its peak during Trump’s presidency. And in the future, this weakness will bring severe blows to the United States.

The fact is that the strategic calculations of the United States in the West Asia region have all failed. And many of the pre-assumptions that Washington called them “strategic propositions”, have never turned into reality for some reasons, including the vigilance of the Resistance movement in the region. This is the reason why America is so confused in confronting the equations of West Asia.

Under such circumstances, the only way before the President of the United States is to leave the region and confess to his defeat; an issue that many American analysts and strategists have noted. It shouldn’t be forgotten that in spite of his campaign slogans for stopping the military intervention in the region, the current president of the United States has intensified conflicts and created constant security crises in West Asia.

The direct, perfect, and comprehensive support of Donald Trump for takfiri terrorists reflects this fact. Trump started his support for ISIL since the beginning of his presence at the White House in early 2017, and he stood for the terrorists until the fall of ISIL in Syria. Even now, Trump is attempting to revive terrorist and takfiri groups in Iraq and Syria.

Despite passing half of his presidency, Trump has claimed that the defeat in Yemen, Syria and Iraq was Obama’s legacy. There is no doubt that Obama and his two secretaries of state, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, played a major role in creating terrorist and takfiri groups (especially ISIL), and committed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq.

There is also little ambiguity in the strategic, operational and even tactical defeat of the Obama administration in the battlefields of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. However, Trump can’t deny his share in this defeat, and pretend as if he’s the messenger of the victory of the United States in these scenes! The fact is that Trump completed the military and political defeats of the United States in the West Asia region. Today, the United States is defeated in the battlefield, and can well see that its pieces had failed in these wars.

On the other hand, the White House has lost the political arena of the region. The failure of the United States in the Lebanese and Iraqi elections, on the one hand, and the popular support for the resistance groups in Yemen and Syria, has left Trump and his companions disappointed in the region. In such a situation, attributing the recent and ongoing defeats of the United States to the Obama administration is completely expectable, and at the same time, unacceptable!

Finally, we can see that just like Obama, George W Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan and Carter, Trump is stuck in this strategic miscalculation in the West Asian region. Undoubtedly, in his last days in power, Trump will also understand that there’s no way he can overcome this strategic weakness through Saudi and Emirati petrodollars.

However, it seems that the scope of Trump’s defeat in West Asia would be wider than the previous presidents of the United States. Undoubtedly, in the near future, Trump, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo and Nikki Haley will become the symbols of failure in the US foreign policy, especially in the West Asia. In other words, the president of the United States and his companions at the White House will have to admit to defeat in the West Asian region at a great expense, and this is exactly what frightens the American authorities.

first published in our partner Tehran Times

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Weather and White House Turmoil as Elections Loom

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc as it traversed the Florida panhandle.  The first Category 5 hurricane to hit the area since 1881 when records began, its 155 mph winds (only 5 mph short of Category 6) felled massive trees, blew away houses, collapsed buildings and left devastation in its wake.  Relatively fast moving at 14 mph, it was soon gone continuing as a Category 3 into neighboring Georgia and then further up its northeasterly path.  It seemed to signify a stamp of approval for the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report on holding earth to a 1.5 degree Celsius warming issued a couple of days earlier.  We are at one degree now so storms can only be expected to get worse.

In northeastern Turkey, a 300-year old stone bridge disappeared overnight.  Villagers convinced it had been stolen called in the police.  Further investigation concluded it had been washed away by a flash flood caused by a sudden summer thunderstorm further upstream — clearly far more intense than in the previous three centuries.

Ever more powerful hurricanes, monsoons and forest fires point to a proliferation of extreme weather events that experts relate to global warming.  Yet President Donald Trump and his administration remain obdurate in climate change denial.

Thins are certainly warming up in the White House.  Nikki Haley announced her resignation in an amicable meeting with the president.  A staunch defender of many of Mr. Trump’s most egregious foreign policy changes, the UN Representative will be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opportunities in the private sector.  So said the announcement.  An astute and ambitious politician she has probably reassessed the costs versus benefits of remaining in a Trump administration.  Some tout her as a future presidential candidate.  Should she be successful she will be the first woman president, who also happens to be of Indian and Sikh ancestry.

The rap singer Kanye West visited the president in the Oval office.  A ten-minute rant/rap praising him was followed by a hug for which Mr. West ran round the wide desk that had been seemingly cleared of all paraphernalia for the performance.  He is one of the eight percent of blacks voting Republican.  Sporting the Trump trademark, Make-America-Great-Again red hat, he claimed it made him Superman, his favorite superhero.  And some suggested it was all further proof the place had gone insane.

A little over three weeks remain to the U.S. midterm elections on November 6th.  Their proximity is evidenced not by rallies or debates rather by the barrage of negative TV ads blasting opponents with accusations of shenanigans almost unworthy of a felon.  A couple of months of this and you lose any enthusiasm for voting.  Perhaps it is one reason why nearly half the electorate stays home.  Given such a backdrop, the furor over ‘Russian meddling’ in elections appears to be a trifle misplaced.  Others call the whole business a ‘witch hunt’ and state flatly the U.S. does the same.

The old idiom, ‘put your own house in order’ is particularly apt when we realize the beginning of this affair  was a Democratic National Committee email leak showing ‘the party’s leadership had worked to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign’.  It resulted in the resignation of DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Always fair, aboveboard elections?  Not bloody likely, as the British would say.  Given the rewards, it’s against human nature.

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The hot November for Trump is arriving

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Political turmoil in the United States has become extremely unpredictable. The turn of events became worse with an op-ed at the New York Times on September 5. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon described it as a coup against Donald Trump.

The reality is that the president faces domestic problems in his second year in office. This has rarely happened in the US political history. The issue is of great importance with regard to the approaching mid-term congressional elections in November. Republicans have the majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, but they feel the risk of losing the majority in both houses due to Trump’s record.

Indeed, a feeling has emerged among some American politicians that their country is heading in the wrong direction because of Trump’s policies. Even former President Barack Obama has joined the election campaigns by breaking his promise not to get involved in political affairs.

The situation is not also good for Trump internationally. Disagreement with the European Union – a traditional ally of the United States – over trade and political issues, trade war with China, increasing tension with Russia, exit from international treaties such as the Paris climate agreement and the 2015 multilateral nuclear agreement Iran, have all made Trump to look dangerous in the eyes of the world. All these issues have made the situation unfavorable for Trump and his government at home and abroad.

But what is the answer of the president of the United States to these criticisms? The answer to this question is one word: economy. However, Trump is proud of his economic record.

According to statistics, the Labor Department published on September 8, US employment growth in August has beat market expectations, the non-farm payrolls increased by 201,000 from the previous month. Analysts were expecting growth of about 195,000.

The unemployment rate for August remained low at 3.9 percent. The average hourly wage rose 2.9 percent from the year before. That’s the highest level since June 2009. The latest figures are increasing speculation that the Federal Reserve will raise its key interest rate this month. The US economy expanded 4.2 percent in the April-to-June quarter, and is expected to grow more than 3 percent in this quarter.

But the economy cannot keep the president of the United States from the edge of criticism. Trump is in a difficult situation and worried about the result of the election and possible control of Congress by Democrats.

Issues such as the confessions of Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen on bribing women for having affairs with Trump and Russia’s possible involvement in the 2016 presidential election could possibly lead to his impeachment and his dismissal from power.

The US constitution says that the impeachment of the president should be endorsed by representatives from both chambers of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Democrats now have 49 seats in the 100-member Senate, and if they get 51 seats in the November election, they will still need at least 15 Republican senators to impeach Trump.

Still, if Democrats win the November election, even if this victory does not lead to Trump’s impeachment, it can put further pressure on him and cripple his government. According to a CNN poll, decrease in Trump’s popularity even among his supporters shows that the days following the November election will be hard times for Trump and his government.

First published in our partner MNA

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