Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Trump and the politics of war

By Jerome-Mario Utomi    
30 January 2020   |   4:24 am
For so many centuries, war was considered a lawful violence so far it meets with these three conditions; ‘waged by the lawful public authority in defense of the common good, waged for a just cause, and waged with the right intention, not vengefully nor to inflict harm’.

For so many centuries, war was considered a lawful violence so far it meets with these three conditions; ‘waged by the lawful public authority in defense of the common good, waged for a just cause, and waged with the right intention, not vengefully nor to inflict harm’. Today, the argument does not hold water and faces a number of embarrassing facts. In fact, emphasis is shifting. Strategic insights from religious and global communities have brought about structural changes in such concept and gradual displacements of this long held view about war.

While those with religious inclinations argues that war fare cannot longer be supported or trusted as means of conflict resolution -as the consequence of such exercise or the degree of causalities cannot be predicted, and suggests- gospel and moral situation as way forward, the global community, advocates that any nation desirous of survival and development, must apply global accounts of previous wars in its day to day administration. Such knowledge without a shadow of the doubt has the capacity to promote understanding between individuals, communities, states, nations and regions of the world.

However, a country like the United States of America, under Donald Trump shows an example of a nation that is neither interested nor believes in this kind of thinking. The signs are there and could be spotted in the bellicose pronouncements and actions of the warmonger Donald Trump. Particularly in his recent killing of Iran’s highest-ranking general and commander-in-chief of its elite Quds Force, Quassem Soleimani. Indeed, an important distinction to make is that no same being can support terrorism under any guise or form, but the rate at which events are accelerating and intensifying under Trump’s administration is terrifying Admittedly, since assumption of office on January 20, 2017, when he was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States, succeeding Barack Obama, Donald Trump has done a great deal of good for the country more particularly in the areas of economic development and job creation Within this space, he created over 4 million jobs; More Americans are now employed than ever recorded before in history.

Created more than 400,000 manufacturing jobs since election, Manufacturing jobs growing at the fastest rate in more than three decades, Economic growth last quarter hit 4.2 percent, Women’s unemployment recently reached the lowest rate in 65 years, almost 3.9 million Americans have been lifted off food stamps since the election, helped win U.S. bid for the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Despite these achievements, the United Stares, through Trump’s asymmetrical policies-bordering on foreign policies, hazy discourse on competition with other world powers, has become characterized as a nation daily confronted with both open and cold threats of war, and its leadership reputed for intimidation. Trump by his recent actions and inaction has allowed other nations define the business of governance in the image of their understanding while he remained reactive. By his recent threats of open wars and economic conflicts with other nation, Trump tragically appear to have lost sight of, or allowed the real and lasting lessons rapped in similar mistakes in the past go with the political winds. Specifically, there are countless examples of such mistakes which point at war as unnecessary, but perhaps, understandably, the first one that comes to mind is from the error of judgement made by Bush administration as noted by former head of the National Security Agency, retired lieutenant general William Odom. Stating that; the choice to invade Iraq in late 2005 was a grievous mistake.

And will turn out to be the greatest strategic disaster in U.S history’. Odom was not alone in this line of argument as Senator Byrd (another American) in a separate statement argued that Americans supposed to have a full and vigorous debate about question as important as the choice between war and peace. If we had engaged in such a debate, instead of impulsively invading a country that did not attack or imminently threaten us, we might as well have avoided the tragic problems created by that war and its aftermath, he concluded.

There remains, of course, the strategic mistake by Vietnam for Trump and other world leaders angling for war to draw a lesson from. In 1977, the Vietnamese cunningly exploited the fears and desires of the countries of Asians that wanted to befriend them. They talked tough over their radio and newspapers. Their leaders were insufferable. They were filled with their own importance, and prided themselves as the Prussians of Southeast Asia. True, they had suffered, taken all the punishment that American technology has inflicted on them, and through sheer endurance plus their skillful propaganda, exploiting the American media, defeated the Americans.

They were confident that they could beat any other power in the world, even China, if it interfered with Vietnam. Today, Vietnam is not only represented by just dot in the world map, its economic power is dangerously exhausted and the country has learned that when soldiers are long in the field, the resources of the state get depleted. Very important, just as it is important to avoid warfare and adverse effects it creates, it is necessary that President Trump keep a clear-eyed view on the consequences of involving in economic wars. 

As subsequent paragraphs will reveal, apart from President Trump’s involvement in, and criticism by different economic analysts for drawing battle lines without  ‘provocateur from any quarter, with the wider world and going into ‘pointless renegotiation’ of the global trading system- a development that made foreign governments to believe that the United States was willing to abandon the established norms of trade policy, Trump’s administration has also been blamed for featuring a pitched battle between the so-called globalists (represented by Gary Cohn, then the Director of the National Economic Council), and the nationalists (represented by the Trump’s advisers Steve Bannon and Peter Navarro). In the mid 2018, the leading globalists left the administration and the nationalist’s the President among them were in command’.

Accordingly, in recent editions of Foreign Affairs Journals, President Trump was described as a leader with a highly distorted view of international trade and international negotiation. Viewing trade as a zero-sum, win-lose game, he stresses one time deals over ongoing relationships, enjoy the leverage created by tariffs and release on brink man ship, and public threat over diplomacy. The President had made that he likes tariffs (‘trade wars are good and easy to win) and that he wants more of them (I am a tariff man). Trump also went so far as to impose tariff on steel aluminum import from Canada, something that even the domestic industry and labour unions opposed. Over the last 30 years, the US steel and aluminum industry has transformed to become North American industries with raw steel and aluminum flowing freely back and front between Canadians and the US plants.

Take the U.S.-China relations as another example; going by history, the relationship took a promising turn in November 1999 when they agreed on the terms for China’s entry into the World Trade Organisation. China’s entry, member’s opined, will greatly increase its economic links, based on a framework of set rules, with the United States and other member countries. This will lead to mutually beneficial relationships. Presently, the United States is in the midst of the most consequential rethinking of its foreign policy. Very recently, Chad P. Bown and Douglas A. Irwin, reported how Trump threatened to leave the WTO, something his previous actions suggest in more than idle talk. He says the agreement is rigid against the United States. The administration denounces the WTO when the organization finds US practice in violation of trade rules but largely ignores the equally many cases that it wins. Although the WTOs dispute settlement system needs reforms; it has worked well to defuse trade conflicts since it was established over two decades ago. His attack on the WTO, they argued, goes beyond rhetoric. The administration blocked appointments to the WTO appellate body which issue judgment on trade disputes.

The dispute settlement system is not perfect. But rather than make constructive proposals for how to improve it, something Canada and others are doing. The United States is disengaged. The Trump administration may end destroying the old system without having drafted a blue print for its successor. Effective U.S. strategy in this domain, a report suggested, will requires not just reducing the risk of unintentional conflict but also deterring intentional conflict. Beijing cannot be allowed to use the threat of force to pursue a fait accompli in territorial disputes. Yet managing this risk does not require U.S. military primacy within the region. As the former Trump administration defense official Elbridge Colby has argued, “deterrence without dominance—even against a very great and fearsome opponent—is possible.”
It is my hope that Trump’s administration will do well to remember this words.
Jerome-Mario wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.


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