Complex international realities for the US



article_image
China — which has been accused by the US of not doing enough to rein in its longtime ally — has maintained that political dialogue is the only solution -(AFP)


However, Trump’s characteristic brash talk notwithstanding, he would need to reflect deeply at present before intervening headily in the affairs of the South and Central Americas. There are complexities to consider on the economic front, for instance. One of these is the pronounced Chinese economic presence on the continents. For example, studies report that China’s trade with Latin America grew eight per cent to $ 255.5 billion in 2012, some six per cent more than the trade done by the US with the same region. Currently, Chinese investments in the continent stand at $ 77.0 billion, whereas the Arab world has received $ 60.2 billion, to take a region contiguous to Asia.


It is tempting to see striking similarities between the Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan administrations on the matter of foreign policy orientation in particular but there’s more than could meet the eye on these questions. To be sure, the two administrations are Rightist to even a disconcerting degree but finer differences between the US governments should not be ignored or glossed over in the interest of in-depth analysis of international politics.


The eighties when Reagan dominated US and world politics are similar in some incidental respects to the international scene confronting the Trump administration currently, but the differences between the two periods are quite considerable and complex. Re-establishing ‘American pride and might’ was a number one priority for both Presidents but one cannot equate the nature of the challenges and forces against which such national credibility had to be shored-up and bolstered. For Reagan, such oppositional forces came primarily in the form of the Soviet Union and the accompanying Cold War challenges. For Trump, it is the security challenge posed by Jihadists and the US’ economic war with China.


Reagan’s task was comparatively easy; Trump is not so fortunate. During the time of Reagan, the perceived main security threat to the US and its allies was relatively tangible, easy to identify and manage. That was, ‘the Soviet Empire’, to put it very simply. The notable decline of the political and economic fortunes of the Soviet Union at the time, worked to the advantage of the Reagan administration. But the IS challenge to the West today is of greater, mind-boggling complexity and is exceedingly difficult to manage. Moreover, this challenge has surfaced at a time when the West’s economic strength is on a marked decline. Such was not the case during the Reagan years.


Trump’s ‘fiery rhetoric’ on most matters notwithstanding, his administration is fully aware that its options are limited on particularly the economic, political and military planes. This is the reason why the Trump administration did a marked ‘U turn’ on threats to get tough with China on economic issues and is currently in an effort to re-negotiate NAFTA, having earlier threatened to scuttle the latter on the grounds that the North American free trade agreement was unfavourable to the US. Likewise, the US is highly unlikely to get into a headlong collision course with North Korea over the nuclear question, regardless of the US’ pro-war rhetoric that raises an immediate prospect of war.


The Trump administration would also think long and hard before militarily intervening in Venezuela.


Trump is on record as threatening such intervention but Vice President Mike Pence’s recent views on this possibility indicate a mellowing of the US position. In the event of the US intervening in Venezuela, it is bound to come up against stiff opposition by almost the entirety of Latin American states and this would pose insurmountable challenges for the US on particularly the diplomatic, political and economic fronts.


In contrast, Reagan and his predecessors had apparently little or no qualms in intervening militarily in the South and Central Americas. The ‘Irangate’ crisis during the Reagan years epitomized the degree of brazenness with which the US intervened in South America to ward off the Soviet threat. There was also the US invasion of Grenada and its political manoeuvres in Haiti that are worthy of recall in this connection. Generally, in times past, Latin America was a veritable happy hunting-ground for US administrations. A few such notable US interventions in the past decades are – Guatemala (1954), Cuba (1961) and the Dominican Republic (1965).


However, Trump’s characteristic brash talk notwithstanding, he would need to reflect deeply at present before intervening headily in the affairs of the South and Central Americas. There are complexities to consider on the economic front, for instance. One of these is the pronounced Chinese economic presence on the continents. For example, studies report that China’s trade with Latin America grew eight per cent to $ 255.5 billion in 2012, some six per cent more than the trade done by the US with the same region. Currently, Chinese investments in the continent stand at $ 77.0 billion, whereas the Arab world has received $ 60.2 billion, to take a region contiguous to Asia.


Economic influence converts to political and military influence and the US is quite aware of this. This is one reason why it would move discreetly in Latin America. It has to look over its shoulder at China and the US would need to do this all the time because China’s economic presence is growing world wide. Problems for the US are compounded by the fact that the West’s influence is on the decline all over the world in every main respect. The US cannot risk losing its waning influence in Latin America through unwise military decisions and this is why heavy-handed military interventions should be thought through thoroughly.


Accordingly, Trump cannot afford to be too brash militarily. Like Reagan he may go some distance in wooing authoritarian rulers, particularly if they happen to be in the Asia-Pacific, through concerns over the Chinese presence, but the Trump administration would always need to bear in mind current complex global economic realities. Since the West’s days are numbered as a dominant economic, military and political hemisphere, the US cannot afford to act with the relative assuredness of the Reagan administration in meeting its challenges.


These international constraints would compel the major powers of the West in particular to make their moves in global politics with caution. This accounts for Trump’s comparative camaraderie with the Chinese political leadership. Likewise, China too wouldn’t want to undermine the global economic opportunities that are opening-up by spurring needless international animosities. Too much is at stake in economic terms for all who matter, and rashness of any kind they would all guard against scrupulously.


If North Korea is hoping to pit China against the major powers of the West, its efforts would be in vain because the complex economic realities of the present would act as constraints against military adventurism of any kind.


 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
animated gif
Processing Request
Please Wait...