Let us reverse the roles.
Imagine if you will that the British prime minister, or the German chancellor, arrives in the United States and goes on television to make the following pronouncements:
Your administration is in turmoil;
Your president has got his economic policy all wrong because he wouldn’t listen to my advice;
You Americans are kow-towing to the Russians because deep down you’re afraid of them;
Your president’s biggest rival is ‘my friend’ and so would make a much better leader;
I can’t wait for this trip to be over, so I can go visit Vladimir Putin; at least he’ll be easier to deal with;
And by the way, this supposedly great capital of yours is one of the most dangerous places on earth because the mayor is an idiot.
The list goes on …. But you will have all read the papers, or watched the news on television, and you can fill in the blanks.
Now let us imagine how the United States might react to such remarks. With a sense of outrage would be my first guess, a groundswell of indignation and anger that would cut across party, political and class lines. How dare he/she talk to us like that in our own house!
What kind of person would have the temerity, I can hear American commentators spluttering in the studio, the sheer unmitigated gall, to come to our country as a guest, publicly insult our president, tell us what we should or should not be spending to defend ourselves, and express out loud the wish that we should find a different leader?
What kind of house guest does that to a gracious host? What kind of upbringing can such a person have had? Didn’t their mother teach them any manners at all? The list of splutterings goes on, too …
Well, Donald Trump is such a guest. The kind of man whom comes to dinner and tells his host the food is crap.
Now, Mr. Trump’s defenders will say that, yes, he may go a bit over the top sometimes, but then he is only saying what many are thinking. It is just his style, they will add. It may make people feel uncomfortable, but doesn’t it make a refreshing change to have a politician who speaks his mind, or in the common vernacular, “tells it like it is”.
No it does not. The man is a boor. He is a boor in the manner of a saloon-bar braggart whose ego tells him every waking moment of the day that he has all the answers to all the world’s problems and so feels entitled to say whatever he likes, and in whatever manner, regardless of any offence it may cause. His smug, self-satisfied expression gives the game away: Trump is having fun, and he is having it at the expense of lesser mortals than himself.
Having said that, I will be the first to admit some of the things he says may need saying. But that is arguable, and anyway they should be said face-to-face, in private meetings, not in public forums designed to cause maximum humiliation for his hosts – hosts who are also, I feel obliged to add, America’s friends and allies.
There are two kinds of ally: those ones who genuinely want to be a friend because of common cause and those who don’t wish to be a friend, having no shared interests, but have no choice in the matter. Trump is intent on turning the former into the latter.
I keep hearing of late the phrase ‘New World Order’. It is written or uttered as an adjunct to the opinion that old-style political methods and conventions have been found wanting and that a new approach is needed. That may be so, although I have my doubts. Those old-style methods have produced, in the seventy-odd years since the Second World War, a world that shrinks from starting a Third World War. A far from perfect world, it is true, but not one that wants to blow itself up. It is a world that has gone from strength to strength economically, creating a living standard in its most advanced countries that is unprecedented. For all the trouble spots, for all the faults, inequities and exceptions, for all that yet needs to be done, it has been a world of lasting peace and rising prosperity.
What do people who trot out the phrase New World Order as an operating mantra have in mind, exactly? To me it has a fascist ring. Adolf Hitler talked of a New World Order, and we know what that meant and what it led to. And who will design and lead this NWO? Donald Trump? President-for-Life Xi? Vladimir Putin?
Trump would nominate himself, of course, but he talks of a New World Order as if it were a new dressing on his cheeseburger. His policies have no underlying philosophy, no sense of idealism. They are purely transactional. He would call the transactions ‘deals’ because he is a self-appointed master in the Art of the Deal. (Which is ironic because, other than a tax cut that largely benefits American corporations today and which tax-paying citizens will end up paying for tomorrow, his administration has been remarkably long on rhetoric and notably short of transactions.)
The Trump White House, its policies and its cronies, represent less a New World than a New World Disorder. Since Trump’s election the world finds itself in a greater state of chaos than at any time in living memory. It may or may not be in need of ‘shaking up’, but not if it means returning to the kind of global trading free-for-all that in times past led to recessions, unemployment and wars. Not if it is a world in which migrants seeking a better life are classed as at best a nuisance and at worst as scum (much in the manner of the Third Reich dismissing Slavs as inferior beings). Not if it is a world in which half the population is designated as useful only for the entertainment of the other half – and you know which half I mean.
Not if, in summary, it is a world that would take us back in a time machine to an earlier century in which nation-states ruled by despots asserted themselves by fiat and force, usually in the name of … you guessed it, a New World Order.
This is not a journey I wish to take, for any number of reasons, some arguable and others not, but least of all with Donald Trump in the driving seat.