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Racism and Trump’s Strong Man politics: Is America Turning on Itself?

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From Birmingham Jail some 60 years ago, Martin Luther King prospected his non-violent protests to force those in power to negotiate for racial justice, and that “There is strange illusion that time solve problems … The time is always ripe to do right.” Trump’s inflammatory language and violent response to peaceful protests following George Floyd’s death manifests Trump’s playbook of strong man politics and the fated problem of structural racial injustice in the United States. The longevity of racial discrimination as the prevailing problem and lack of countervailing policies of the successive US administrations raised it to the level of a contemporary socio-political quagmire.

Despite two consecutive terms of Barack Obama as the first black American president, once again thousands of Black Americans from around 140 cities are marching towards the White House to redress their structural racial abuse. The US President commands the world’s strongest military but fails dismally in addressing racial discrimination at home. Perhaps they are helpless in view of the structural nature of the problem where black is filtered in everyday life from police officers, district attorneys and judges to the employees of different firms and even school teachers. However, Presidents from the past have at least used to condemn racial abuse, calm violence, protect the Americans and even express commitment to end the inertial cycle of racial discrimination.

But what to expect of a President who is known to have reached the level of a ‘Mad Emperor’, walled off in a bunker in the White House, quell the protests with tear gas, flash grenades, and rubber bullets and threaten to use military on the very people who raised him to the highest executive office in the world. He, like many other occasions, inflamed his own dumpster fire with his violence glorifying tweet, ‘When the looting starts, the shooting starts,’ a repeat of the Miami Police Chief Walter Headley’s words in 1967 who was criticized by the rights leaders for holding racial ‘bigotry against the black community’.

Trump’s rash approval for Putin over his ‘very strong control’ over Russia China’s violent dealing of protesters in the Tiananmen Square as ‘the power of strength’ reveals his appreciation for strong man politics. His introduction of unidentified police in Chicago and many other US cities without patches, badges, nameplates and unmarked Humvee to quell George Floyd’s protesters, terming them as ANTIFA terrorists, is his attempt to convert secret service into his version of Hitler’s SS. Moreover, his attempts to control US justice system depict Hitler’s use of social justice to quell political dissent in his policies of exclusion. Moreover, Trump’s appreciation of Henry Fords’ ‘Good Bloodlines’ inspiring Hitler’s Anti-Semitism, evidently explains similar traits in his political attitude. 

His continuous stubbornness to promise compensation and attempt to mislead protesters’ agenda from grievances over racial abuse to market failure with his George Floyd’s ‘Good Day’ comment sparked anger on social media; where a US citizen sarcastically tweeting that, “People protesting while risking health in pandemic, you threatening to use military on US soil, social unrest we haven’t seen in decades, no proposal from you on addressing systemic inequality… its all good Donald.” 

Caught between the deadly pandemic and protests, America is poised even to a serious disease; the President himself. A President who denounce his own advisors, photo op in front of the Church without pray, threaten protesters with ‘vicious dogs’, treat media like an authoritarian thug and downplays war veterans and even his own generals; calling James Mattis, his former Defense Secretary, a ‘Chaos’ and a ‘Mad Dog’. Mattis, a fine Marine, war veteran and a loyal general would hardly take on his commanders in public, but surprisingly in this case, the General endorsed the protesters and termed President Trump, the commander-in-chief of the US armed forces, a ‘threat’ to the Constitution of the United States.

Floyd’s death, apart from being an extra-judicial murder and epitome of appalling dilemma of human rights, is the evidence of institutional racism in the US. Racism, which flocks around income inequalities, job opportunities, health facilities, education, mortality rates and other basic life standards, still haunts the American society with stark prejudice against the African Americans. The World Health Organization and National Vital Statistics estimate that the US stands worst among 21 western countries in terms of child mortality rate; where for every death of a white child, 2.1 African American child die. Arguably, mortality rate among African Americans is 20% higher than the rest of racial groups in the US. Similarly, the data from the US Census Bureau in 2018 reveals that the income of Black Americans is less than 60% of the income of White household. The Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances report in the year 2016 that the median net worth held by white families is around staggering 10 times the net worth of the black families. Unemployment, which remained twice among Black Americans than in the White for the previous decades, stood 16.7% in Black against 14.2% in the White Americans as per the statistics of the US Department of Labor for April this year.

These statistics are even pulling the trajectory in negative against black Americans, especially amidst the COVID-19 crisis when the US economy is dwindling overall.

Worldwide outcry over Floyd’s death with slogans as ‘I can’t breathe’, and ‘no justice, no peace’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’, redoubles not only criticism of Trump’s administration but American hypocrisy on human rights.  The outcry is being heard from London, Paris, Berlin, Vancouver, British Columbia and even spills to the Third World states in Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. This is also a chilling reminder for hundreds of other such racial killings by police in these countries including Adama in Paris, Reges Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, London Riots of 2011 and racist murder of Stephan Lawrence and thousands of other such racist executions in custody in the so-called model democracies. More importantly, it not only gives bonus to China, Russia and even Iran to remind the US of its duties to observe ‘democratic standards’, but also help them question US’ moral global leadership and its self-imposed conventional entitlement as the ‘bacon of democracy’.

Conclusively, Trump has failed with a pandemic that killed more Americans than the Vietnam War and is failing to bring prejudice-less rule of law to the American society. America’s decline, not oblivious from multiple geopolitical indicators, is not because China and Russia are getting stronger, but because its president is turning America on itself; pulling down America’s prestige as vibrant democracy to the land of a ‘strong man’. However, shoving away Black Americans neither gives his rhetoric of making America Great Again a life nor complete him his playbook of a strong man. This is because as Martin Luther King once stated, ‘Riots is the voice of unheard’, and resistance to the systemic racial abuse will continue for so long unless heard and compensated systemically by the Madeleine Albright’s ‘indispensible’ America.

Furqan Khan studies International Relations at the National Defence University, Islamabad. He consistently writes journal and news articles with contributions at a number of international conferences.

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Addressing the infodemic should be the key priority of a Biden administration

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The 2020 election underlined the growing tribalism in the United States with many seeing it as a referendum on the soul, identity, and future of the United States.

One reason for the growing divisions is that Americans increasingly self-segregate, living in communities that reinforce their political, social, religious, and philosophical views facilitating the growth of visceral political anger. Consequently, everything is political and personal and compromises virtually impossible. 

The election and the result highlighted that millions of Americans, despite plenty of factual evidence to the contrary, hold views not based on empirical evidence. Millions believe the 2020 election was neither free nor fair and that Democrats support globalist cabalschild-trafficking, paedophilia rings.  

The tribalism is most visible in the way many Americans respond to the Covid-19 pandemic with 76% of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents asserting the US had done a good job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak, even though the virus continues to run rampant across the country. Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary around 29% believe Covid-19 is an intentional bioweapon, others believe Bill Gates had planned the pandemic or that 5G technology is responsible for the outbreak. 

Without tackling the infodemic, a Biden administration would struggle because proponents of disinformation (the intentional spreading of untruths) and adherent of misinformation (belief in untruth) have increasingly moved from the fringe to the centre. 

A study from the Cornell Alliance for Science identified President Trump has the world’s biggest disseminator of COVID-19 misinformation. It is therefore unsurprising that so many Americans question not only the root of the pandemic but how to combat it. Consequently, many doubts any information that does not come from Donald Trump, especially as many of his supporters look at life in a binary way, of either full support or full resistance.   

Soon after being declared winner, Joe Biden announced the establishment of a COVID-19 advisory board composed of public health experts, whose role would be to aid in coordinating the response to the pandemic. However, relying on science is problematic as the hyper-politicisation has meant many Americans mistrust scientific findings, holding it to be equally biased.

Beyond a highly partisan Congress, which is likely to stall many of Biden’s policies, the administration would need to grapple with President Trump’s judicial legacy. President Trump not only appointed three Supreme Court justices thus altering the political leaning of the court, but he reversed the trend of promoting diversity. For example, in 1977, the judiciary was predominantly white and male, but successive presidents worked hard to bring forth minorities onto the bench to reflect the nature of American society. President Trump’s nominees could end up slowing down or torpedoing an ambitious, reformist agenda. Challenging the legitimacy of the courts would only add to the growing division, especially as studies indicate that over 60 percent of Americans have faith in the judicial branch.

Joe Biden is uniquely suited to address many of these challenges. Firstly, his age may be an advantage; he has lived through many changes, and he can rely on those experiences as he reaches out to people. He has blue-collar roots, and the fact that he attended a non-Ivy League university would appeal to many Americans suspicious of the elites. His religious commitment gives him a unique ability to speak to many of President Trump’s religious supporters; he just needs to find the tone.

Biden’s principal task should be to use to White House pulpit to speak with people, connect with them, and persuade them to abandon their hyper-partisanship. He should reject President Trump’s usage of executive orders, regulatory discretion particularly when things will get tough, such as Senate refusing to confirm his nominees. As an experienced bridge-builder, he must spend more time speaking with people, bringing them to the Oval Office to persuade them to support empirically-test policies. Reminding opponents, he secured the support of over 80 million Americans. 

The Biden administration will also face many demands from Progressive claiming they worked very hard to get Biden elected. They will argue, with merit, that having a moderate agenda, one designed to win over moderate Republicans and Independents is a betrayal. However, Biden emphasises his goal is to heal America, to bring an element of stability. To pacify the Progressive, he must emphasise he is overseeing a transitional administration, designed to restore civility and unity and lay the foundation for Kamla Harris.  

Reversing the infodemic would take time as it calls for healing divisions and encouraging many Americans to abandon many strongly held ideas, which requires empathy. Joe Biden has the skills to do bring about positive change, and for the sake of many Americans and the world, we must hope that he succeeds.

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Fakhrizadeh’s Assassination Could Endangers Biden’s Diplomacy

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Image source: Wikipedia

The international political situation heats up, especially in the Middle East, after the killing of Iran’s leading nuclear scientist, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Apart from Mohsen, several other Iranian nuclear scientists have also been killed in the past decade.

Mohsen was attacked in eastern Tehran on Friday (27/11). He was ambushed by an armed group and the target of a Nissan car explosion before a gun battle broke out. He was rushed to the hospital, but his life could not be helped.

Iranian political and military officials have blamed Israel and US as the masterminds behind Mohsen’s assassination and attack. Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for retaliation for Mohsen’s death. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani also said he would retaliate and appoint Israel as the mastermind behind the attack.

Iran and Hezbollah are currently said to be targeting Israelis and Jews around the world. Places owned by Israel and Jews will be the main targets of their retaliation for Mohsen’s death. Israel is also raising its guard. The Israeli government is reportedly on standby and is tightening the security of its embassies around the world. Jewish communities around the world are also asked to be on high alert. The Israeli military has also increased its vigilance along the country’s borders.

What is interesting is that the US secretly deployed the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier to the Arabian Gulf region last Wednesday. Although US Navy Fifth Fleet Spokesperson, Rebecca Rebarich, denied the movement of the fleet was unrelated to Mohsen’s assassination, the international public interpreted the aircraft carrier in order to anticipate the escalation of threats that might arise after the murder case.

There is not much information about Mohsen. Mohsen is the head of the research and innovation organization at the Iranian Ministry of Defense. He’s the main figure behind Iran’s secret nuclear development.

In April 2018, PM Netanyahu mentioned Mohsen’s name when uncovering a nuclear file which he said had been smuggled by Israeli agents from Iran. He named Mohsen as the head of a secret nuclear project called the Amad Project.

In its 2011 report, the UN nuclear weapons watchdog also identified Mohsen as the mastermind behind Iran’s nuclear technology. He was considered to have the ability to do so and at that time it was suspected that he still had an important role in these activities.

Mohsen’s assassination is certain to provoke a new confrontation between Iran and its enemies, including the United States and Israel, in the final weeks of Donald Trump’s presidency.

Mohsen’s assassination is considered as the culmination of the US and Israel’s strategic plan to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, various parties consider Mohsen’s killing to be the culmination of Israel’s long-term plan.

Mohsen has long been the target of several Israeli prime ministers as well as several directors of the Mossad spy agency. This murder was also predicted to aim at uprooting Iran as a country of nuclear knowledge.

However, some international observers have speculated that the main purpose of the assassination was actually to obstruct the US administration in the era of President-elect Joe Biden who will dialogue to find a diplomatic solution to end the conflict with Iran.

What’s more, President Biden has expressed his intention to re-enter the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, which has been largely devastated since President Donald Trump left the deal in 2018.

Statement from Amos Yadlin, former head of Israel’s military intelligence and head of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS). Amos said whoever makes the decision to assassinate Mohsen should know that there are still 55 days left in which the White House has someone who sees the Iranian threat as they do. In fact, Amos says Biden is a different story. Amos’ statement certainly points to President Trump who is still in power in the White House.

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Biden’s victory: An Opportunity for Transatlantic Reconciliation after Trump and Brexit?

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Joe Biden’s victory Last November came at a critical point during the Brexit negotiations between The European Union and the United Kingdom. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether a change in the American presidency will substantially affect the talks between Europe and Britain. Realistically speaking, the effect the Democrats’ victory in the US will have, at least on Brexit talks before the end of this year, will be minimal.

On a positive note, now that Donald Trump has been defeated, this leaves very little room for the UK to use the threat of a quicker and better deal with the US to try to subdue the EU and make them accept a more pro British agenda. The UK has no longer the US is an alternative to fall back onto if no deal is the result of the negotiations by December 31st.

Since the 2016 British referendum, the decision to leave the EU was enthusiastically greeted by Donald Trump. In very simplistic terms, Trump saw The British “Yes” vote as an act that vaguely resembled his campaign slogan “Let’s Make America Great Again.” The long standing, more loyal foreign policy ally of the US in Europe, was slowly showing signs to move away from the multilateralism Donald Trump greatly despised.

Ever since the outcome of the Brexit referendum became official, Donald Trump voiced his strong support for the UK to pursue a hard Brexit, and even enticed the British government with the prospect of a robust trade deal between the US and the UK, to convince the UK to drop out of the EU without a deal. In reality, none of those big American promises ever materialised. From 2016 to 2020, Donald Trump did absolutely nothing to support the UK. Biden’s victory last November, makes any past promises made by Trump impossible to fulfil.

Biden will, in principle, follow a diametrically opposed foreign policy to Trump’s. He sees the EU, and not the UK, ask the key actor that will help him advance American interests in the European continent. While there have been mutual expressions of willingness to strengthen the relationship between the Americans and the British, Joe Biden has always been skeptical of Brexit, and has made it clear from the start that one of his priorities in foreign policy will be to rebuild the relationship with the EU rather than pursuing a trade deal with the UK.

Ideally, should the UK try to have some sort of leverage to negotiate with the incoming American administration, they need to aim to strike a workable deal between with the EU before the end of this year. That, however, seems unlikely to happen. From an American perspective, it is highly probable that the Biden’s administration will not prioritise any UK-US trade deal in the foreseeable future. There is a strong possibility that Joe Biden will focus on domestic and close neighbours (Canada and Mexico) Issues during his first year in the presidency.

While this is understandable, considering the legacy of the Trump, Biden also has to be careful enough to avoid the temptation to play hardball with the UK because of Brexit. If he does, this could prove to be a fatal mistake with long lasting consequences, specially in a moment when the West is struggling with its own internal weaknesses and the rise of external threats to its unity.

One aspect that both Europe and the US have to acknowledge is that the importance of the UK goes beyond striking a trade deal with the EU. Looking at the rise of more geographically widespread authoritarian and antidemocratic pressures from central, Eastern Europe, China and Russia, the UK is still plays an important role on the continent’s security. Talks on further cooperation on how the EU and the UK will cooperate on foreign and security policy once the transition period ends on 31st of December 2020 have not yet been held. The UK, unfortunately, is likely to remain a crucial partner on such topics especially due to its role as a prominent and active member of NATO, and therefore, talks on this issues should not be left unaddressed.

The UK is aware of its importance militarily, and this explains the £24.1 billion investment announced by the UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, this year. This is the largest investment since the end of the Cold War and it aims to modernise the armed forces, as well as to expand the Royal Navy to turn it into the largest fleet in Europe.

This move will enhance the UK’s status as Europe’s leading military power. The UK has also been among the first respondents to recent security crisis in Ukraine and Belarus. Not engaging with the UK altogether in security and foreign policy issues may prove to be detrimental in the long run for the security in the EU, especially considering the rising tensions and instability in the Ring of Fire, from Belarus to Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Nagorno-Karabakh.

The EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) and the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) allow for intergovernmental cooperation, this means that  states can pursue their own policies and coordinate them only when they align with the EU’s. The CSDP also allows EU member states to intervene when NATO as an alliance chooses not to. To date, there are 17 of such interventions, in all of these, the UK has been the biggest contributor.

Security is an area of opportunity for Europe and the US, Biden could potentially push for the Europeans to grant the UK an observer role in the Political and Security Committee, or the Foreign Policy Council to advance a common security and foreign policy for the region that wouldn’t only benefit Europe, but also the US interests in the wider European area.

Recently, the UK has been an advocate of what is called a “Global Britain” that echoes the times of the great British Empire’s prominence as a global player. How this will be achieved is still unclear. This grand strategy may fare impossible under current economic and political conditions in the UK and in the world, as well as with the uncertainty surrounding the future relationship of the UK with its neighbours after Brexit.

Anything can happen, the UK could pursue a close, special relationship with Europe where cooperation is prioritised, or there could be a more profound break between the two, where the UK sets its own agenda against the EU’s. For decades, the terms Europe and the EU have been used interchangeably. Now that one of the major European players is out of the organisation, both sides have not yet worked out how the future relationship will be. If it continues to be antagonistic this could send the whole continent into a spiral of chaos, reduced capabilities an increased volatility.

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