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Aggressive foreign policies in a global village?

By Afam Nkemdiche
08 July 2016   |   3:51 am
Conventional wisdom holds that anyone seeking the number one political office in any of the world’s most powerful nations must come with a wealth of experience in foreign policy.
Hillary Clinton. David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

Hillary Clinton. David McNew/Getty Images/AFP

Conventional wisdom holds that anyone seeking the number one political office in any of the world’s most powerful nations must come with a wealth of experience in foreign policy. Such aspirants didn’t stand a chance of getting party nomination if they didn’t possess an impressive experience in the critical area of foreign policy formulation and implementation, because the machinery of powerful nations are essentially oiled by aggressive foreign policies.

In an apparent routine attempt to diminish his rival in the eyes of the electorate, President H. W. Bush was alleged to have remarked in the early days of the U.S. 1992 presidential election that his domestic dog knew more about foreign policy than the Democratic Party nominee: Bill Clinton. A rather unbecoming remark in a president; but it didn’t deter the then little known former governor of the equally little-known state of Arkansas to clinch victory over the patriarch of the Bush dynasty, notwithstanding the numerous spanners that were thrown in the path of his race for the White House.

A hard-working Candidate Bill Clinton had hinged his campaign primarily on the issues that deeply concerned the ordinary citizenry: the domestic economy. The candidate walked his talk. President Clinton’s impressive handling of the domestic economy would later easily earn him a second term in office. When he left office in 2001-Bill Clinton was universally acknowledged the best U.S. president since World War II. The 42nd president of the U.S. has since become a reference point on the American economy. President Barack Obama, who recently endorsed Bill’s spouse as his prospective successor in the White House, has Hillary’s charismatic husband to thank for his second term in office.

Talking about Hillary Clinton these days readily evokes the name of “the new kid on the block,” Donald Trump. A little over 12 months ago when the ongoing race for the White House commenced, virtually everyone, from the leading presidential aspirants through political pundits to public commentators, had flippantly mocked the brash New York real-estate tycoon for lacking the requisite experience to make an effective bid for the Oval Office. Washington establishment said the Johnny-come-lately knew next to nothing in foreign policy; Donald Trump was thus adjudged “unelectable.”

The Republican Party to which the controversial aspirant affiliated himself was overtly, but now subtly, hostile to his aspiration; the party even dubbed him “an outsider.” Dauntless, the reality television guru resourcefully deployed his massive media experience to communicate to the ordinary U.S. citizens how he proposes to solve their existential challenges. The target audience responded approvingly in unexpected millions across the country, with recorded appreciable increases in the Republican Party membership!

Today, not only has Donald Trump become the presumptive Republican candidate for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the world now talks of a possible President Donald Trump in the White House. Political pundits are now the wiser; now they conveniently pontificate that the unexpected emergence of Donald Trump as a candidate has much to do with “rising anti-establishment sentiments” among the ordinary citizenry. Interesting discovery! The only surprise here is that these Ivy League pundits failed to see this so-called “anti-establishment sentiments” phenomenon way back in the 1992 U.S. presidential election, when an underdog Bill Clinton overwhelmingly defeated the larger-than-life sitting president, war veteran President H. W. Bush.

Worse still, these pundits still didn’t see it when, in 2007 another underdog, the then obscure first-term African-American Chicago senator, not only won the Democratic Party nomination against all odds, but went ahead to roundly defeat another larger-than-life war-hero-turned-politician, Republican Candidate John McCain. It is a measure of the tragic disconnect between the U.S. intellectual class (policymakers) and the ordinary citizens that it took until 2016 for the former to see a phenomenon that had stood out like a sore thumb even back in the early 1990s: affordable information communications technology comprehensively shielded the ordinary citizens from the usual sophisticated goading of the establishment, and consequently redeemed their electoral independence.

That unfortunate disconnect is not peculiar to the U.S. It is a common feature in all other leading nations; and its concomitant, intense anti-establishment feelings are just as palpable in these other countries. Physical manifestations of these intense negative feelings unfurl before our eyes on a daily basis. On the continents of America, Europe, and Asia we hear of angry gunmen randomly shooting at innocent people, including frail elderly men and women, pregnant women and children in such unlikely places as churches, mosques, and in schools; and in most cases, these angry men later turn their guns on themselves.

We hear of cases of otherwise intelligent and highly educated persons expending long months and even years painstakingly planning the mass-murder of their fellow human beings. In the course of writing this piece CNN Breaking News reported the latest of these heinous acts; the mass shooting incident in Orlando City of Florida, which claimed 49 lives and mortally wounded 50-odd people – the worst mass shooting incident in U.S. history, it was reported. How could so much extreme sadism exist in the world’s wealthiest nations, even with robust social safety nets for their indigent nationals. Again, conventional wisdom has always imputed this oddity to inequitable distribution of the common wealth. I take a different view of this age-old dilemma for a number of reasons.

First, the science of psychology has conclusively shown that material wealth alone cannot fill the void of human aspirations. Human beings are said to possess potential creative energy in varying gradations; Nature decreed that this energy be positively expended.

Second, unemployment, whether engaging or otherwise, is today regarded as a societal challenge that will never go away, because of the aggressive profit motive of business ventures. Business simply regards labour as a component for creating profit! Therefore when appreciable profit is absent employment is denied.

In addition to conflicting with Nature’s perceived purpose for human beings, persistent trade cycles, since the days of Adam Smith, have convincingly shown that placing profit above labour in business feasibility studies would never lead to sustained market stability. Putting labour above profit (the as yet untried solution) may well be the elusive answer to trade cycles.

Afam Nkemdiche, engineering consultant, writes from Abuja.