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Isolationist Trump


US President Donald Trump’s desire to disengage from ‘loss-making’ involvements
abroad has reached such extreme levels that it has shocked many in his own establishment, sparking even the resignation of Defence Secretary Mattis and significant others. By Trump’s reckoning, anything that US has to pay for and does not provide an immediate return is a loss. He is following similar isolationist policies at home with his anti-immigration and climate-skeptic moves.
At any other time, this would have been of less concern for the Americans, as they had no rivals for Global Power status. That is not the case now, as China, with its huge financial reserves, is more than willing to fill in the vacuum. Also developing is the threat of Islamic fundamentalism in many small countries, which has been kept at bay only due to foreign intervention, including that of the US. Trump’s decision to withdraw from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan has left its allies stranded and feeling betrayed. In the Syrian conflict, Trump is basically leaving the Kurds, who were staunch US allies, at the mercy of Turkey. This also leaves Russia free to further support Syrian President Assad in the brutal way he has thus far.
The planned withdrawal in Afghanistan, which would constitute a retreat, actually, if it hands over significant amount of power to the Taliban after ongoing negotiations, will create a major challenge for India. All the aid and effort put into developing that country would prove a complete waste, even as Pakistan obtains its much desired ‘strategic space’. It will feel free to concentrate on anti-India activities with the involvement of China. Even though India has had a proactive policy in dealing with this strategic threat, the impending 2019 General Elections will naturally take the focus away. The emergence of a weak government, particularly if it is ideologically compromised in management of foreign affairs, could allow matters to get out of hand.
Trump’s disregard for the impact of his policies on US allies and friends will have similar effect on other parts of the world. His policies will only strengthen the totalitarian and fundamentalist regimes. The interference by China and Saudi Arabia in the affairs of other nations will increase. The hopes that emerged from the ‘Arab Spring’, for instance, are bound to be dashed. The rights of women and minorities (actually oppressed ones), will receive a severe setback. The lack of certainty will impact badly on the global economy, hindering the efforts of countries like India to reform and restructure their own. In a couple of decades, an isolated US might find there is nobody willing to do business with it anymore!