Does the US President Lead a New Axis of Evil?
Under Donald Trump, the times when U.S. administrations acted as a force for global good are fast becoming a faint memory.
May 14, 2019
Under Donald Trump, the United States of America is becoming the pivotal link in the new Axis of Evil.
At home, Trump is attacking the very institutions on which American democracy rests: free elections, the media and the rule of law. Like a caudillo, Trump is also keen to collapse any notion of the separation of powers.
Abroad, Trump acts in a Nero-like fashion. He is keen on dragging the world’s only superpower into a de facto alliance with the authoritarian leaders of Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, the Philippines and elsewhere.
At the same time, he is undermining NATO – an alliance of democracies – as best he can.
All of this matters greatly, for one simple reason: Despite all the talk about China leading the world in the future, the United States is still the world leader. After World War II, it developed a proud legacy defending democracy and fighting tyrannies.
As the Vietnam case underlines, it wasn’t always faithful to its own principles, but – despite transgressions — the principles remained valid.
Going over to the dark side
If the United States under the Trump Administration now switches to the dark, unenlightened, cynical side of world affairs, the world’s entire population will be worse off because of it.
The world will lose the United States as a more or less reliable beacon of hope and turn into a considerably nastier place.
This character change in the United States’ global positioning is coming at an especially bad time.
The challenges facing the world in the 21st century — climate change, the economic rise of extremely populous China and India, massive population growth, the development of artificial intelligence, the refugee crisis etc. – certainly require the active and constructive cooperation of the world’s richest and most powerful nations.
Otherwise, what needs to be a positive-sum game – if we are to master the significant challenges – is bound to turn into a negative-sum game. The constructive enthusiasm that the United States has traditionally put forth at such forks in the road is a condition sine qua non for proper management of world affairs.
A false approach appears
Trump and his authoritarian brethren, from Xi and Putin to Erdogan, Mohammed and Kim, falsely believe that, by advancing very narrow national interests (and, all too often, stuffing their own pockets), they can realize their “vision.”
Trump’s connections to Russia are key to the emergence of the new Axis of Evil. Though Special Counsel Robert Mueller found no evidence of collusion to influence the U.S. presidential elections, Trump’s shady links to Putin are beyond dispute.
The Russians have no qualms in admitting that they consider themselves as hostile to the United States. Putin’s gang is actively working to undermine a freedom-centered world.
The Russian leadership continues to operate a continuously weak economy, and is evidently incapable of taking care of the economic needs of the Russian people (thereby remaining in the best of Soviet and Czarist traditions).
It is only logical under those circumstances that Russia can only advance its standing globally by systematically seeking to exploit the temporary weaknesses of others.
No wonder Putin & Co. are relentless in their effort to pour oil into the European populist fire.
At home, Russia constantly beats the drum of war and claims that it is already fighting Washington and its allies — for instance, in Crimea and in Eastern Ukraine.
The use of radioactive materials in Britain — on two separate occasions — does probably constitute an act of war. And remember that an attack on a NATO ally is, according to the rules of the alliance, an attack on the United States. A terrorist act in New York and Washington in 2001 triggered precisely such a response from America’s NATO allies.
Besides, the wars of tomorrow won’t be like World War I or World War II. They will have a heavy cyber component and Russia is already waging such a war on America.
Consorting with the U.S.’s self-declared enemies
In view of all this, nobody can deny that Donald Trump is consorting with the enemy in time of war — but not just with Putin. Trump also claims to have the best possible personal relations with North Korea’s Kim, the rocket man.
Kim is heading up a repressive family dynasty that excels by starving its citizens in concentration camps and aiming rockets at United States’ closest Asian allies.
Trump, by his own admission, is waging a trade war on China, but claims to have great relations with Xi. The same goes for the Saudis. That regime was the power behind the 9/11 attacks and is now led by a murderous Crown Prince.
Even so, Mohammad bin Salman is best buddies with Mr. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner — which tells you something on the art of boundless cynicism inside the new Axis of Evil.
Basically, the new Axis of Evil is an oligarchy, an alliance between autocratic rulers that all too often act against the true interests of their own people.
The global dimension
But whatever the domestic political utility of seeing Mr. Trump indicted and tried – if not by the U.S. Congress, then by American courts – there also is a global dimension to this.
Never before has a U.S. President cast himself of the leader of an Axis of Evil. Previously, the U.S. government has always sought to use the existence of an axis of evil as a rallying cry to shake all too domestic-minded democratic nations out of their lethargy and entice them to take action globally.
But that appears to be history, at least for now. We are living in a new Age of Dictators in which populist authoritarians, goaded on by the ever-reckless Donald Trump, are rising up all in key nations to actively promote more than just illiberalism.
That role change should leave many Americans – i.e., those in the “other” half of them — not just speechless or paralyzed. The dumbness of Trump supporters who embrace Putin and are unaware that they are thereby coalescing with a self-declared U.S. enemy, even as they chant “USA, USA” at Trump’s rallies tells the world something about the severe deficiencies of the U.S. educational system.
As much as it excels at the top, the fact that courses in civics are no longer required to graduate from high school, never mind middle school, have had a definite effect on U.S. politics.
Donald Trump, in effective support of Putin’s strategy for the United States, is exploiting that deficiency to the fullest extent.
Under Donald Trump, the times when US administrations acted as a force for global good are fast becoming a faint memory.
We are living in a new Age of Dictators in which populist authoritarians, goaded on by the ever-reckless Trump, are rising up in key nations.
Trump and his authoritarian brethren falsely believe that by advancing very narrow national interests -- and stuffing their own pockets -- they can realize their vision.
If the US under the Trump Administration switches to the dark, unenlightened, entirely cynical side of world affairs, the entire world will be worse off.