War, namely, the use of actual force hovers in the background, while warfare, which is really all other means in relations between states, remains the Trumpian leitmotif. Contumely for African countries one day, invective for Iran the next. Last week it was Pakistan. It’s all grist for a presidential mill in a psychedelic world where facts swirl about on the periphery dominated by a frenzy of colorful falsehoods in the center.
Forget the beautiful Benin bronzes, the contributions to arts, culture, the rhythms of dance, jazz, and pop. The continent is reduced to ‘shithole countries’ in the Trump cranial toilet bowl.
Has Iran fulfilled its JCPOA (Iran deal) obligations? Yes, say all the parties and the supervising IAEA. No, says Donald Trump. Iran is violating the spirit of the deal. But it’s a nuclear deal, Mr. President. If you envision a broader agreement, no one is stopping you from new negotiations. Surely one also needs to ask who is largely responsible for the destruction of Syria, the arming of rebels, the millions of refugees, and now the bloated bellies of starving Yemeni children.
In Africa, the real issue is the U.S. role in ravaging the countries on the continent: from the 1961 execution of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo independence leader and first elected Prime Minister, by a U.S. supported Belgian task force to the present day rape of Libya and a proxy invasion of Somalia.
Libya used to be an economic magnet for temporary African migrants; the U.S. invasion turned it into an exporter of refugees from a ravaged country. While the flood of weapons leaking out have empowered religious extremists groups like Boko Haram, raining violence and terror on countries as distant as Nigeria. Another group, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been responsible for attacks in Algeria, Mali, Niger, Tunisia and elsewhere.
There is an aspect of Mr. Trump’s remarks that has been overlooked. Among the most developed OECD countries, there is one that, in relative terms, matches Trump’s description. His own. Its situation is also likely to get only worse under the Trump tax cuts favoring the asset rich.
The OECD ranks the U.S. as almost the worst (35th out of 37) in terms of poverty and inequality. It has the highest Gini coefficient of all Western countries.
Close to 40 million (or 1 in 8) Americans live in poverty. One in five households (19.7 %) say they have difficulty affording food at some point during the year.
Lack of a national health care system means the ‘health gap’ between the US and its peer countries continues to become worse. It leads to such outcomes as the worst infant mortality rates and the lowest life expectancy.
At five times the OECD average, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It causes both economic loss and personal tragedy on an untold scale.
The US education system (schooling) still lags behind its advanced peers. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted every three years, ranked the US 38th of 71 countries. Among the then 35 OECD participants, the US ranked 30th in Math and 19th in Science. It does not bode well for future US global competitiveness, and might also explain to some extent the high incarceration rate.
The poor US metrics cry out for greater social intervention. Yet US elected representatives respond principally to rich campaign donors in an election system of legalized bribery.
The US appears to have long forgotten that the true measure of a society is not how it treats the rich, but how it meets the needs of its least privileged. Sadly, of little concern to Mr. Trump in his universal vilifications.