For many, the English lexicon fails to provide strong enough adjectives to adequately depict the emotions stirred by the 45th U.S President and Commander-in-Chief, Donald J. Trump. I for one would have chartered myself amongst this many, the man repulses me, perplexes me and indeed, outright fucking annoys me. These emotions I attribute to him on more than one level, spanning from his rise to popularity, his premiership itself, his support base, his mannerisms and speech and his stupid fucking inability to blend his fake tan around his jaw line properly.
A short time ago, as I was reading an essay by the late and great William Blum, it suddenly struck me that these emotions I feel towards Donald Trump, the abhorrence, the awe, the confusion, are all equally inspired when I look at contemporary U.S foreign policy spawned since the conclusion of the Second World War. It was from this realisation that I progress to propound, that Donald Trump is not some new populist phenomenon, rather he is a very very well established phenomenon, he is the characteristic manifestation of decades of U.S foreign policy, rolled up into one large, fast food loving, wig wearing statesman.
I will categorise my comparative character analysis of The Donald and U.S foreign policy under the following themes; hypocrite, superciliousness, Ignoramus, and finally, as an accumulation of the previous themes, an impresario. I begin the empirical exploration of my argument with the idea of hypocrisy. I won’t bother defining hypocrisy, its use here is relatively layman and anyway it will become fairly clear how I justify its use. U.S foreign policy is defined by hypocrisy, so much so I wouldn’t even question someone asserting that the conjunctive composition of the word came from the Latin translation for American idiocy. There’s numerous directions one can look in to see this hypocrisy, I’ll highlight my favourites.
The U.S, land of the free, promoter of democracy and liberal principles, and covert (although not always) financier and moral supporter of human rights abusing right wing militias. Most explicitly this hypocrisy is illuminated by President Reagan’s support for the Nicaraguan Contras in the late 80’s. Like think about that, not just in Nicaragua but all throughout Latin America – Allende in Chile, Goulart in Brazil, Figueres in Costa Rica – and many more throughout the world, the U.S, it has been argued, funded butchering death squads, amongst other tactics, as part of its foreign policy conduct in the ideologically constructed and surmised war against communism. These dirty tactics of covert support to right-wing human rights abusing anti-democratic regimes does not really match with the liberal human rights promotion and democratic values espoused in the discourse of U.S mouthpieces. It is inherently hypocritical, a hypocrisy symptomatic of the fact that U.S foreign policy is malevolent and self-serving and must be guised in the dress of liberal human rights and democracy promotion.
And, well. Who embodies this hypocrisy better than a certain Mr. President Trump? Delineating anything Trump does is difficult because well, trying to understand his speech/rhetoric or tweets is a serious hazard to brain cells. So I’ll keep this display of hypocrisy simple, Trump tweeted 27 times in the buildup to 2016 about the number of times Obama played golf during his 8-year tenure as President (in and around 100 times.) Since taking office, and not even having completed his first, and hopefully last, 4 years, Trump has been videoed on 249 different occasions playing golf, this does not include the number of times he has not been photographically documented on a course. Seriously, there’s a whole website devoted to documenting Trumps outings (I don’t think they count 9-hole sessions either, only the full 18.) But yes, much like there’s a website dedicated to Trumps golfing hypocrisy, so too is there a plethora of websites dedicated to highlighting U.S foreign policy hypocrisy and the different tyrannical and human rights abusing regimes it supported when it suited lady Liberty’s interests. A precedent has been set for blind-eyeing hypocrisy by decades of U.S foreign policy, and it is this precedent that accommodates Trump’s blatant hypocrisy.
Superciliousness is a fantastic adjective, it’s fantastic because it sounds like super silly-ness and that’s how I sound when I try to spell it or pronounce it. It is also fantastic because it describes Trump and U.S foreign policy absolutely sublimely. Simply, superciliousness is an adjective pertaining to the behaviour or belief that one is above everything else, it draws on the notion of, and belief in, superiority. Within the global system, the U.S are the champions of this behaviour. To their credit, as a nation they carry a uniqueness within the international order, and their hegemonic credentials, with the exception of a future challenge inevitably inbound from China, are largely unquestioned. But this dominance isn’t the result of some God-given U.S superiority, although I’d say you could meet a fair few people who would argue it is, it is the result of bullying. In personifying terms and on the international stage, the U.S is a bully. Its foreign policy is the diplomatic equivalence of stealing someone’s lunch money and giving them a wedgie. With the Iran nuclear deal that Trump so elegantly teared up, the dominant European leaders pleaded with Trump, met with him, flattered his ego and tried so hard to prevent the abandoning of a vital deal in the stability of the MENA region. But no, he wedgied Merkle, Macron and May and then stole their lunch money in the form of European tariffs. He then proceeded to, in the words of Nelson Muntz, Haw Haw in their face as he tore up the Iranian nuclear deal (to compliment his tasteful abandonment of the Paris climate accord.)
U.S foreign policy is characterised by this bullying in more ways than just the abandonment of deals, whether that be the imposition of conditional and tied economic aid, UNSC vetos and vote bartering. Like this, Trump too is a bully outside of his diplomatic exercises. We’ve seen Trump infer derogatory remarks about journalists based on disability, race and gender. We’ve seen him literally push other leaders forcefully out of the way at NATO summits so that his tangerine mug and fluorescent toupée are front and centre. We’ve seen his cringeworthy, dick measuring handshake charade. And we have of course, heard the recordings wherein described and depicted are nothing less than abhorrent and questionable sexual actions. And again, this is merely Trump manifesting in his actions the actions of decades of U.S foreign policy.
Heinrich Heine made an almost Nostradamus prediction in 1823, “where books are burned, in the end, people will also be burnt.” This remark is often drawn in a stunning parallel to the Nazis and their historical trajectory from book burning to the Holocaust. But more relevant to us now, Heine also made another philosophical proposition, and this one in the case of Trump and U.S foreign policy, is as stunningly pertinent, “A Brainiac notices everything, an ignoramus comments about everything.” To elucidate this point, I direct you to Mr. Trump’s twitter feed. If one were to take a superficial glance at Trump’s twitter feed over the span of say, a week or two, one would be in awe at the extent to which one human can be so knowledgable and opinionated on every single little fucking thing, and as a further caveat, how one can have such an extreme and provocative take on every single little fucking thing. His Twitter feed should not be read superficially however, it needs context and that context is founded in our previous themes of hypocrisy and supremacy. It is founded in a presupposed knowledge that the U.S is superior, and in being the president of it, this makes Trump a supreme voice in the world. As a final correlative of this, from his twitter it would appear Trump is the highest source of knowledge on everything, and well if Trump concedes that he isn’t an expert on something (rare) he will undoubtedly have a great uuuge team of guys working on it, probably the best guys as well.
The point to be made here is that Trump has a self-declared role to play in everything, like an intolerable nosey neighbour. The U.S has occupied this role of very nosey neighbour as central to its foreign policy doctrine since the emergence of the Cold War. Since then, there are U.S fingers in every pie, and when questioned why they are in this pie? Well, the obvious unquestionable retort of course, it’s to stop the spread of communism, or more recently, it’s in the pursuit of a global War on Terror. The U.S comments about and involves itself in every global dynamic, fulfilling Heine’s ignoramus criteria. Trump has simply personified this involvement and moved it online to the digital platform of Twitter. Silver-lining being of course that every so often, he treats us to a little presidential gem. Covfefe.
Impresario, if we think of the global system as one big musical concert, there are so many components and elements which go into putting on this display, and in producing this display there is so much that can go wrong and so much that has to be appropriately timed in unison or otherwise. If we present the international system in this figurative manner, then the U.S is our Impresario. There’s two deductions I want to elaborate on with this point. The first refers to normative construction in the metaphysical sense. In this regards, the U.S is that supercilious beast previously described, it is superior in a sense that it establishes normativity within international behaviour. It lays down the law and the law lays down for it based on actions that suit the interest of U.S foreign policy. The best example of this I can think of is targeted killing and assassination. An act which is under International Human Rights Law and International Humanitarian Law, unilaterally condemned. In 1991 Israel conducted a program of Targeted Killing, the U.S condemned it, in line with normative comprehensions of International law at the time. Fast forward, the War on Terror has changed the game, terrorists’ function in remote cells and new landscapes and the constitutive nature of warfare now means boots on the ground is impractical, unfeasible and unpopular. Enter, targeted killing via the medium of remotely controlled aircraft, hugely convenient and efficient in the conduct of U.S foreign policy and military operations. All of a sudden, the normative landscape has shifted, while International law continues to condemn the act, it hasn’t changed since its inception, but the U.S have now established a normative acceptance of this behaviour and lead the way in its use why? Because they needed to, because it suited. This is a large claim, and an interesting one to which there is much ongoing debate. In this sense the U.S and its foreign policy is our Impresario they produce the nature the of the international system, they organise what becomes normatively accepted within the system, and what is not.
The second deduction, reaffirms Trump’s embodiment of U.S foreign policy, because Trump too is a producer, an Impresario if you will. He has produced a new conception of politics, not just in the States but also globally. America, sneezes the whole world catches a cold. Well America farted and Trump slipped out, and as a result we have seen the global surge in increasingly populist and nationalist based behaviours and parties, the denunciation of unfavourable facts as fake news, the populist rise of Le Pen in France, the nationalist, Alternative für Deutschland in Germany, Bolsonaro in Brazil and of course the B word, Brexit. U.S foreign policy is a global pace setter, a producer and adaptor of behaviours, it appears Trump is exactly that also, an incarnation of years of American hypocrisy, superciliousness and ignorance.