I really wanted the United States to elect Donald J. Trump as its 45th President. I really did. That desire became even stronger once he made his statements about Mexicans, Muslims, and the Chinese.
The reasoning in my head was that Americans were having such a smooth ride destroying the world with its acquiescence that it would be fun to watch them struggle to keep friends in the world: actual friends, not the numerous ‘partners’ (I’m thinking Canadians and some of the Europeans). I thought this is what it would take for the American population to finally wake up and realise their footprint in the world, and how the world views them. Perhaps this would encourage them to consider a different path and world order.
The very existence, or rather the public position, of Mr. Trump has helped fuel more chaos in the world. He is probably the best thing, politician wise, to have happened to the ISIL. The current war between ISIL and the West is a war of narratives, of propaganda, and the 21st century has helped even out the battlefield a little bit more. Social media has enabled ISIL to deliver its message directly to its intended audiences.
ISIL’s narrative focuses on the entire Western world as the enemy, brands all of them infidels, and calls for their indiscriminate murder, like the US is doing in Muslim countries. ISIL points to plenty of evidence to support its claims. Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and others are all gripped by Western-backed violence. In fact, ISIL even uses the Palestinian cause in its recruitment because Israel is seen as a stooge of the West and as doing the US’ bidding. Sweden’s foreign minister was recently banned from Israel for acknowledging as much.
The Western narrative, or propaganda, has focused on creating classes of Muslims and branding some of those as their enemies, not Islam or Muslims as a whole. Islamist, Salafist, Ikhwani, Wahhabi, Sunni, Shia, Secular, Alawite, Moderate and on and on, these are the new Muslim identifiers. And one sees Muslims are buying into the narrative. The groups in Syria, for example, are all seeking similar labels, for being the defined ‘good Muslims’ comes with its own tangible benefits: weapons, the holy grail of the Middle East.
But Trump has played into ISIL’s hands. He is the personification of ISIL’s West and a realisation of European fears. He has abandoned all pretence of morality and has made it clear he does, in fact, consider all Muslims his enemies and that the West under his leadership will do so as well. He advocates for policies like carpet bombing — and similar, banned practices — and wonders why he can’t use nuclear weapons wantonly. In essence, he wants to do almost everything ISIL says the West is already doing; only he is not one for public relations. Friends worry and foes smile with glee.
He has praised Putin more than most other world leaders — raising many an eyebrow in Europe. Russia, after all, has been a key ‘other’ in Europe, different from the Turkish ‘other’. The leader of their world — the so-called free world — cosying up to Europe’s collective Public Enemy Number One has people asking questions. Somebody quoted Churchill’s military assistant as saying that the purpose of NATO, when it was created, was to “get the Americans in, keep the Germans down, and keep the Russians out”. But Trump wants America out and Russia in, a scenario many Europeans are fighting. Trump becoming best friends with Putin is bound to make some European politicians sweat (e.g., the Baltic countries who believe the United States will protect them from a Russian assault). He also wants his allies to start carrying their weight and militarise their societies as well.
Trump is considered a threat by the American establishment because he has been railing against them for ages. He went so far as to even refuse to support the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives in his re-election campaign. But an equally plausible reason is that he has been unravelling the narrative that the establishment has been crafting over years and pushing aggressively. They went for segmentation of Muslims — classic — whereas he has made Muslims collectively his enemy.
Everything I was expecting from a Trump win is turning out to be wishful thinking. Mr. Trump started making his scandalous comments about a year ago, and he is still going strong. Why change your message when it resonates with your audience? The Republican electorate in the US has rewarded Mr. Trump for his positions. It does not help either that many ‘enlightened’ people are now competing in the denunciations of a group of people, comprising about a fifth of the earth’s population. Even some establishment political leaders have thrown caution to the wind with former House leader Gingrich also repeating Trump’s calls for a ban on Muslims (although he was hoping to be Trump’s running mate so maybe that is why he did it?).
I am one for excitement in life, but I think I would draw the line at opening Pandora’s Box. And I think that is precisely what his presidency is going to be.
I wrote this essay in 2016 before the US presidential election.