Trumpian extremism will catalyse the West's decline


“From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first.”
— President Donald Trump

Image via ABC News

Image via ABC News

Image via Getty Images

Image via Getty Images


Opinion


Stephen Hawking has described current events as the most dangerous time for our planet. Noam Chomsky, a well-known critic of the U.S government, described the current Republican Party as "the most dangerous organisation in world history" arguing that Donald Trump's election will accelerate humanity's road to environmental catastrophe. An exaggeration? When measured against the horrors of the Nazi regime, Stalin, Hutu Power and Pol Pot, certainly. However, as Geoffrey Parker's book on the global crisis of the 17th century explains ( a crisis during which one-third of the population died as a result of climate change) famine, plague, war, revolution and social breakdown led to monumental and destructive upheaval in the 'Age of the Soldier'. 

The parallels between the early 21st century and the 17th century are unnerving. 'We too, he argues, are living through a period of global climate change. Regardless of its causes, the experience of the 17th century shows that long-term turbulence and unreliability of the weather inevitably produces calamitous outcomes for humanity. Whole ways of life will disappear. Climate-related catastrophes such as drought and flooding, harvest failure and enforced migration will produce civil unrest, conflict, disease and destruction. Apparently stable governments will fall and commerce will be fatally disrupted.' 2016 was the hottest year on record and the climate refugees produced by flooding from the UK to Bangladesh to Japan to the United States are indicators that these natural disasters may be warm-ups for what is to come.  Statements by NATO and NASA that climate change will bring major disruption to human security and geo-political order cannot be ignored. 

Despite this overwhelming evidence, Donald Trump calls climate change a "hoax" and has appointed Scott Pruitt to the head position of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, according to Hassan, 'described himself on his Linkedin as "a leading advocate against the EPA's activist agenda" and has claimed that the debate over climate change is "far from settled." According to Al Jazeera, Pruitt has received $270,000 in donations from the gas and oil industries. A climate change denier leading the fight against climate change? It is little wonder Chomsky makes dark predictions for humanity because of the illogical and woeful attitudes of which dominate the upper ranks of the Trump administration. 

It is not only the challenge of climate which has sparked protests and sent quasi-revolutionary waves across the United States. Thousands of protestors across the world have been on the street protesting against Donald Trump since 2016. During the poisonous elections, there were violent clashes between Trumpians and supporters of Hilary Clinton and Bernie Saunders. On several occasions, Donald Trump was threatened with assassination and attacks by those furious at his campaign's vulgarity and crudeness. On election day, a day which shook the world, the horror of Donald Trump's election pierced the hearts of liberal, left-wing and centrist alike. This spilled over into confrontations and protests. "Not my President!" chorused through ranks of furious minorities, women, students, activists, actors, and journalists. Effigies of Donald Trump were burnt, Nazi slogans appeared and vandalism occurred. White nationalists were caught on video doing Nazi salutes crying "Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!"

On inauguration day, rioting and protests dominated the headlines as President Trump, the false populist, laid out his disastrous plans in a fiery speech. In his first week, various executive orders have been accompanied by outrage and horror. Quite a disturbing development which has received less coverage was the detainment of hundreds of protestors and the arrest of several journalists for covering the election day riots. They could all face a $25,000 fine and 10 years in prison, a strong message by the administration, in the words of  Steve Bannon (Trump's senior adviser, for "the media to keep its mouth shut."

 The immigration order, a de-facto a ban on Muslims, has pushed government workers, civil servants, academics, judges, lawyers, centrists, anarchists, liberals, students, activists, journalists, women, Clinton supporters and Bernie supporters into unity against the abhorrent actions of the regime. It is chilling to watch an administration come to power which is the oldest, whitest, richest, unqualified, nepotistic, and male-dominated (75%) in living memory and one which is so appallingly out of touch on a wide range of the issues facing the modern world and different generations. These are not normal times and are now even more abnormal than the election day of Donald Trump.

The stench surrounding "America First" and "Make America Great Again" (Trump's Campaign slogan) have fuelled the flames of dissent. Words matter, but previous actions also matter. President Trump's nativist doctrine at home is at odds with the inherited institutions created by 'The Global War on Terror' to pursue foreign wars across the globe. "America First" exhibits an isolationist approach to global politics not seen since the 1930s and 1940s while "Make America Great Again" panders to the unipolar world of the 1990s which saw American military and political power at its peak following the fall of the Soviet Union and simultaneously (and implicitly) stating that American interests and lives are more important than others. While it is highly disputed President Trump cares about the average American's life or his supporters, enemies of the United States will latch onto these developments including ISIS and Al-Qa'ida while future non-state and state actors will use Donald Trump's naked aggression on issues such as immigration, extremism and refugees to recruit followers and produce propaganda. 

President Trump's rhetoric, including his pledge in his inauguration speech to "unite the civilised world against radical Islamic terrorism which we will eradicate from the face of the earth" will ensure the confrontation between the United States and the Greater Middle East will only deepen and its enemies grow more confident in pursuing their own murderous agendas. With protracted military operations and influence in countries such Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya, Palestine and Somalia, a fractitious relationship with Iran and Turkey, a contradictory relationship with the Gulf States and Islamist extremism and a relationship with the Israeli government near devoid of any serious consequential criticism, the Trump administration will aggravate at worst or at best manage the multiple fault-lines across the Middle East and Central Asia. 

His approach will impact and influence Europe's political currents, deeply affected by multiple terrorist attacks and a poor political response to the refugee/immigration crises. Equally, the impact of the historic Arab revolutions and counter-revolutions coupled with multiple military interventions and wars fought by the West in the Middle East has rippled across the continent, a shock which will be underestimated by the Trump administration. Even if the current administration does not cause a global crisis during its four years and the Trump administration is driven out of office in 2020 or impeached, the damage his administration will do by maintaining outdated ideologies and world-wide views will be significant. The stain it will leave on Western politics and society will take generations to remove. 

Donald Trump undoubtedly remains the liberal elite's hubris. The determination to remould global politics, dominate economic proceeding and dictate the 'New World Order' by the West went into overdrive during and after the harrowing events of 9/11. The Freedom Agenda of the Bush administration was spell-binding in its determination to transform the Middle East and inject democracy into a region. The experiment was an utter disaster. Spearheaded by Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, the use of Iraq and Afghanistan as laboratories for this ambitious project resulted in hundreds of thousands of dead.

The haunting pictures of Iraqi civilians being tortured in Abu Ghraib were not isolated incidents. Throughout the Greater Middle East and in other undisclosed locations across the globe, offshore, off-limits prisons were utilised to torture, humiliate and brutalise thousands of men and women. 'The Bush administration effectively sought to re-write the Geneva Conventions of 1949 to eviscerate many of their most important protections' and adopted an approach of "See no evil, hear no evil" as systematic torture was adopted by the British and Americans to pacify insurgencies and populations in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Far from heralding a renaissance in the Middle Eastern order, the invasions and subsequent occupations laid bear many myths surrounding Western values and the insidious ways which governments have utilised them to promote doctrines of regime change. The political correctness of the Obama administration could not whitewash the brutality of the drone strikes and the special operations which stoked anti-American sentiment as extra-judicial killings and secret assassinations were carried out with relative impunity across the region. The lack of accountability, the torture, the endless foreign wars, the Great Recession, the drone strikes, did the Bush and Blair administration think there would be no consequences? Did mainstream media's consistent stereotyping of Muslims and Arabs think there would be no consequences? Did giving voices to those calling for a 'War of Civilisations' think these words would not gain traction to radicals? Islamic extremism is real and must be challenged, however, the parallels between anti-semitism in the 19th century and early 20th century and Islamophobia in the 21st century are parallels which must be challenged rapidly. Our inability to prosecute George Bush and Tony Blair and hold them accountable for war crimes has also empowered bullies like Donald Trump and his cronies that they can act with a lack of accountability. 

Mr. Trump's rise is not a coincidence. President Trump is a twisted result of the worst excesses and rhetoric in Republican politics since 2001. His threats to steal all of Iraq's oil and carpet bomb Sunni populations occupied by ISIS and his advocacy of torture is in-part a product of the impunity with which the Bush administration and Pentagon circumvented and violated international law during the peak of the 'Global War on Terror'. The Republican debates were dominated by promises to launch more foreign wars from Libya to Iran.

The ignorance of the debaters were shocking and have been reflected in President Trump's executive order on immigration. The crackdown on refugees and immigrants from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, and Libya overlooks Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Egypt (the three countries all the 9/11 hijackers originated) and other Gulf States such as Qatar who have had a direct role in funding and arming neo-Salafist and Wahabbi terrorist cells across the region. 

Equally, the immigration policy overlooks that the majority of terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States have been conducted by home-grown extremists, foreign fighters and nationals in Brussels, Paris, London, San Bernardino, Orlando and beyond. Closing physical borders cannot close digital borders and the explosion of ideas. Furthermore, the West's explicit focus on the ultra-violence of ISIS and Al-Qa'ida has blind-sided policymakers to the opening of the space for marginalised white extremists, supremacists, and ethnic nationalists to operate. 

It must be remembered that Donald Trump's election was 'the work, almost entirely, of white people. Almost 90 per cent of Americans who voted for Mr. Trump were white, and most white U.S. voters, both men and women, cast a ballot for him (even though his opponent got more votes over all). And at least 90 per cent of non-white Americans did not vote for him. With a few exceptions, they are not overt racists or far-right zealots. Many of them are otherwise quite uninterested in politics. But these white people have developed a set of beliefs that have led them to see a sort of strongman nationalist politics of ethnic exclusion as being perfectly acceptable, only two generations after their country fought a global war against that very thing.' 

President Trump greatest crime is giving that space for the alt-right, neo-Nazis, racists and xenophobes to flourish in the United States and Europe. Islamophobia is rampant and the internet has given a voice to radicals who attack the religion as a whole. The greatest crime of the Republicans who openly opposed him during the Republican elections was to endorse such a man to lead the party and seize the presidency for political opportunity. 

ISIS, for all their grotesque and puritanical violence, never made me lose sleep. A Trump administration dotted by crackpots, conspiracy theorists, sexists, ultra-nationalists, ultra-conservatives, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, xenophobes, war-mongers, climate change deniers, and calculating opportunists lusting for political power does. 'It cannot be repeated often enough: none of this is normal. There is no precedent for such behaviour and while kakistocracy (which translates from the Greek literally as government by the worst people) may be a term unfamiliar to most of us, this is what it looks like. Be prepared for four years of epic misgovernance and brazen corruption.' Extremism takes multiple forms. Trumpian extremism, if unconstrained and unchallenged will leave permanent damage to the American Republic and inspire other governments, institutions and politicians across the world to act with impunity on a wide-range of political and social issues regardless of public opinion and the normal processes of government. 

When this radicalism is wedded to the military-security apparatus available to the Trump administration to crackdown on dissent (an apparatus designed to deter terrorist attacks by groups such as Al-Qa'ida and ISIS in post-9/11 America), these can be rapidly and suddenly be turned against its own population with dire consequences for us all. The Patriot Act, the National Surveillance Agency, the increasingly militarised American police force, the militarised Homeland Security, and the National Defense Authorization Act (which authorises the indefinite military detention of persons the government suspects of involvement in terrorism, including American citizens arrested on American soil) in the hands of Donald Trump seems far more sinister than them being controlled by the White House's predecessors. The mixture of peaceful protests and riots in Ferguson, Baltimore, and the response to the Boston Marathon bombing in-particular raised concerns over the potential dangers of which an increasingly militarised police department can bring to American politics, not to mention the problems which have already added to melting pot by gun-violence and police brutality. 

Supporters of President Trump, propelled by the roar of right-wing media, placed an extreme version of the elite they claim to despise into power. President Trump's support base, those who have revolted against Washington, will be bitterly disappointed to find that their plight, their economic exclusion, and their anger against the Washington Consensus will not be answered and that anger may worsen in the short-term and long-term.

Failed policies of the administration, including potentially sparking a second economic collapse, tearing up the Paris Summit Agreements and the continuation of the "Global War on Terror" will cause grievances and these grievances will force Trump and the Republican Party to find scapegoats when things get worse. They will tap into the United States' darker currents to accomplish this if crisis strikes and the first to be targeted will be immigrants, Muslims, African-Americans, Latinos, homosexuals, feminists, intellectuals and students.

In an overarmed society where over-zealous patriotism and nationalism remains a problem, a society where issue of race continues to flare its ugly head, where there has been a surge in hate crimes against American Muslims since 9/11 and after an election being won on divisiveness and lies, what is to stop Trump from using this rage against his opponents, activists, "traitors" who do not want to "Make America Great Again!" his way, progressive media, and opposition?

Trumpian extremism is a hybrid of nearly two decades of misplaced policy, and may have been the catalyst required to rudely awaken progressives from their slumber and, in some cases, apathy. There is not only a need to fight reactively for liberal and progressive thought, but to expand its meaning, to start its reform and revolution. Chelsea Manning, to some extent, commented correctly that 'the one simple lesson to draw from President Obama's legacy: do not start off with compromise. What we need is an unapologetic progressive leader.'

While politics must involve compromise and understanding the fundamental frustrations which allowed Donald Trump to come to the most powerful position in the world, the young must stand unapologetically for progressive thought, for a progressive future and fight every inch of the way to prevent the West falling back towards behaviours which defined its darkest days in history. "The great age of revolution!" Nigel Farage exclaims. "Their world is crumbling, ours is being built." Marine Le Pen asserts. "They want to stop our movement!" states Donald Trump. The far-right and right wing are insurgencies, they are not revolutions and the agendas they spout are a far-cry from visionary. Race war, the threat of a clash of civilisations, Islamophobia, anti-semitism, anti-immigrant rhetoric, nationalism, mass-deportation, xenophobia, walls, white supremacism, exceptionalism, intimidation, and voices of violence appear more a relapse into our baser impulses and man's darkest moments rather than a revolution. It is a volatile and dangerous form of politics: the politics of fear and scapegoating. 

The American people must act and must fight every inch against Donald Trump's presidency and most importantly the sycophants and opportunists who surround him. If they do not they may find the United States they once knew slip through their fingers. If the American Republic were to slip from view, it would hasten the West's decline. Donald Trump's administration in hindsight may not be the worst, however if allowed space to push its xenophobic agendas, it may be the beginning of worse to come and this is a crossroad which cannot be ignored and our politicians must step up to the challenge. 

Matthew Williams