Trump’s unwinding of Obama’s era

As Ex-President Obama’s helicopter left the tarmac of White House on 20 Jan, President Trump sat down with his aides to start a new era of fast pace unwinding. Trump’s thrust lines (apparently) are aimed at aggressive posturing, pushing things to limits and putting all targets on the defensive, with a view to create strategic space for major policy shifts and bargaining.

With one stroke of the pen, he has dismantled the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), seriously dented the concept of Obama Care and wows to overhaul the bureaucracy in Washington. Addressing an audience at West Point in 2014, Obama stated: “Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.” It appears that the ‘best hammer’ in US is now wielded by an aggressive Goliath, who has decided to use it with no holds barred.

Can the American system, which boasts of maturity, in-depth debate and global reach, afford an exogenous shock like the Trump phenomenon? Is the Commander-in-Chief Trump, destined to become the Divider-in-Chief? How is the establishment in Washington and the rest of the world going to accommodate the Trump phenomenon in the next four years? And finally, is Trump going to last for a complete term? These are some of the complex questions this paper aims at addressing.

For those who were expecting some reconciliatory tone in Trump’s inaugural speech on January 20, may have now tasted the pie. Trump surprised all and sundry with a straight talk and blasted politicians, the establishment in DC and even the allies in the east and west. 80% of the speech focused on looking inward, creating jobs and ‘Making America Great Again’ through a massive Dubaisation of America.

However, there is an interesting paradox in almost all Trump objectives and policy shifts:

Trump’s China policy appears to be hinged around aggressive posturing. However his first act of dismantling Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), would create a vacuum in the region; no other country is positively placed to fill it than China.

The case for the Dubaisation of America warrants a sustained infrastructural development phase. Despite technological advancement, human resource is a prerequisite for such grand ventures. With the American demographic profile and aging white population, Mr Trump would not only need preserving and sustaining the current 45 million immigrant population but also allow a massive influx to meet the objective. As per BQ Magazine, UAE is relying heavily on foreign labor to keep its projects and economy running. 2015 estimates suggest that UAE is populated by 90% foreigners or expatriates. Trump’s Dubaisation could translate into an influx of anything between 10 to 15 million additional labor force. In the same breath, President Trump wants to tighten the immigration policy, which could make the Dubaisation plan a nonstarter.

As quoted by, the social benefits of Obamacare were not restricted to hardcore healthcare only. It offered Americans a number of new benefits, rights, and protections in regards to their healthcare. It set up a Health Insurance Marketplace (HealthCare.Gov) where Americans could purchase federally regulated and subsidised Health Insurance during open enrollment. It introduced new taxes and tax breaks, among other provisions. Any dent in Obamacare would be damaging for the common Americans and may become a harbinger of accentuating an already divided polity.

Writing in Politico Magazine in January, Michael Grunwald conducted a review of the Obama era. He appreciates Obama on many accounts as: “What he’s done is change the way we produce and consume energy, the way doctors and hospitals treat us, the academic standards in our schools and the long-term fiscal trajectory of the nation. Erasing the name of Obama from all welfare schemes will be counterproductive and divisive.”

On the foreign relations front, Trump is yet to come up with a new policy, but his challenge stems from an uneasy relationship with head honchos of Washington, especially the CIA and the establishment cabal on Capitol Hill. Trump was critical of the American establishment in Washington and didn’t bother to take cover of diplomatic niceties expected during such a formal discourse on January 20.

As a Brexit bitten Europe is reeling under intense pressure to hold the Union together, the Trump phenomenon could hit the continent like a bolt from the blue. The rise of right wing politics in the EU, and the specter of Frexit (France) and Dexit (Germany) and others falling like ninepins, appear to be a new reality. What kind of West could be witnessed by the rest of the world, if the Right Wing politics sweeps both sides of the Atlantic?

Obama’s Asia Pivot to encircle China and containment of Russian Federation in Eastern Europe and the Black Sea periphery could be reviewed by the Trump team in days to come. An inward looking Trump could create a global vacuum in Asia Pacific, Eastern Europe as well as West Asia. US credibility in the international arena has already suffered a setback by the dismantling of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Can the old US allies trust Mr Trump, who can end such alliances with a stroke of pen?

In the Afro-Asian region, conflicts are affecting Syria, Libya, Yemen, a fractured Afghanistan, Turkey and Indo-Pak tensions. A reported by Foreign Affairs, during the campaign, Trump pledged “to dismantle the disastrous deal” and to “force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal.” We may witness another policy shift on Iran and further destabilisation of an already sensitive region. Unfortunately the Trump team on National Security and defence policy lead by Flynn-Mattis duo does not comfort the leadership in Tehran. Much will be clear, as Donald Trump has already invited Benjamin Netanyahu for early February meeting in Washington.

The last major challenge for Trump would be the way he handles Putin and China; although Russia is considered the leading threat against the US, Trump has displayed his appreciation for Mr Putin as a statesman. How does he intend convincing his own team on National Security and Foreign Policy, especially the omnipresent CIA, on the issue of winning Russia? This may be the deciding factor in shaping the Global Environment. Can Putin shake hands with Trump, signaling isolation of a trusted ally like China, or, is the world moving into the realm of Kissinger’s Concordant, a tri-polar world controlled by respective spheres of influence under the auspices of China, Russia and the US?

Last of all is the big question of Trump surviving his term in office till 2021. This is being discussed in continental US as well as other major capitals of the globe. We may acknowledge that it may be very difficult to predict anything about this very question; we will leave it here as a food for thought for readers to make an intelligent guess.

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