Has the US bitten off more than it can chew?
With the hegemonic world order shifted in its favour, the US has always been at the centre of most states’ foreign policies. Its long period of engagement with and inside other states has determined the course of history for many decades and continues to do so. However, what has come as a surprise is this sudden shift in US foreign policy with the states it had entered into multi-lateral agreements.
The extensive engagements outside its realm were to uphold the ethos of these agreements and it comes as a surprise as to how US is waging a war against the pillars which have propagated and kept these norms intact. While some of these still fall under the paradigm of ‘upholding ethos’, none can be labelled as forerunners of liberalism, which the ‘free world’ has taken decades to perfect, and few to swing off from balance.
For the latter, an important case in point is US relations with North Korea. The two states had gone rogue late last year, in their own might, and US was taking all measures necessary at casus belli, to raise the stakes for an armistice, which eventually came. The relationship that was solemnised in the Koreas with the Kim-Moon handshake has offered some respite to US foreign policy under President Trump after the 12th June Singapore Summit. But in all its grandiose and celebration, the summit hasn’t materialised into concrete steps taken towards denuclearising North Korea. However, dragging China in, the platform Kim Jong Un used to address the world, is a little too much off putting US over the world.
The vigour with which Trump addresses matters of ‘national interest’ and his haste in making ‘America Great Again’ has uncovered those important facets of the paradigm which has dominated both domestic and international narratives for decades. US’ recent trade wars with European and North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) countries and China as a counteractive measure for correcting US economy has turned out to be an unpredictable development, or one many didn’t think the Trump administration would go forward with. US, the champion of liberalism has broken all trade arrangements and ushered in an era of new alliances, the basis of which are unknown.
Perhaps because the US wants more leverage in its own foreign policy decision-making as the hyper-globalised society of the West seemed to have been over-done with their open economies and borderless regions. But for this, the US itself has to be blamed. It’s forced democratisation of the entire Middle East and strained relations with Iran, Russia and China have increased the costs associated with economic unions, for all states that had benefited from these with the emergence of New World Order.
The cost of this continuous across-the-globe war has cost the West in terms of human capital, ammunition, and the over-spilling terrorism and migrant crisis. While the US isn’t directly affected by this international migrant crisis, it faces a similar situation at home and extra punitive measures have cost the Trump administration international condemnation and loss of consensus at home.
US, the champion of liberalism has broken all trade arrangements and ushered in an era of new alliances, the basis of which are unknown
With the Arab Spring becoming more complicated, the stakes have been raised with external involvement. The Middle Eastern countries have fallen like dominoes, but Iran remains a major hindrance towards carving new borders in the region. With Trump breaking the olive branch extended by ex-President Obama, the newly placed sanctions on Iranian oil with the help of reluctant European countries, is going to adversely affect the Iranian economy. News reports have revealed that the US and Israel are formulating a more concrete plan for continued peace in Middle East with Russia, one that further isolates Iran. The plan and meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week can be interpreted as a mere tactic to entice Iran. With growing economic hardships at home and international isolation, Iran is expected to behave erratically. Already the emerging domestic dissident voices seem to be creating discomfort for a theocratic state such as Iran. The questions now arise, for how long can Iran sustain itself? And if trouble comes, how long is it before it comes knocking another door for Pakistan?
The rapid changes in US domestic and external policies are too rapid to be consolidated in other states’ foreign policy decisions. With concerns to Middle Eastern politics, the Trump administration seems to be at a loss of understanding of their present status and how to go beyond it. This affords Iran some time to strategize and perhaps find solace in Turkey and Russia.
But not all is going to hell. With costs of negotiations amounting to more than those associated with rebuilding and restoring, the US finally has more than it can chew.
We see a weakening US under Trump, but the hegemon still lays with it. It will be years before the rapidly-developing China can shift the balance in its favour. Perhaps with these new trade restrictions the shift would come swiftly and sooner but for now US’ all-out efforts and European countries’ clinging onto the more powerful state for support and direction in narrative-building has created a rather hostile environment. Trump seems to be fishing in some tough waters and its efforts at casus belli might prove to be more dangerous than anticipated.