“Dry it out and destroy it”: Why Pakistan should be wary of Donald Trump
You have heard of him. The old guy in a crisp suit, flashy tie, wisps of blonde hair, who had multiple Miss Universe contestants by his side. The guy you would see on TV pointing fingers and saying “You’re fired” with a smug look on his face.
Well, that smug face is looking at you now.
Today, Donald Trump will mount the podium at the Republican Primary Debate hosted by CNN at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California.
He has traded in his television show for a shot at the Oval Office. The republican front-runner and presidential candidate was interviewed by Sarah Palin a few weeks ago on the One America News Network. Yes, front-runner. You read that correctly.
The interview, which Palin had advertised as “the interview of the year”, opened with images of a broken America: a homeless man, a failed business, an application for unemployment benefits, a broken bridge and ‘Mexicans’ illegally crossing the border. Trump, in a Reaganesque manner, was seated behind a sturdy desk in a fancy office. His bright red tie complemented the image of a proud, windblown, American flag. He boldly said,
“Let’s make America great again.”
The viewer can do little else except scrunch up his nose at the stench of mediocrity.
However, his words seem to be resonating with the American public, especially the conservative segment. They want Trump to build a wall on the southern border to keep the ‘Mexicans’ out, tell them the ‘truth’ about the economy, strengthen the middle class and not give a damn about ‘political correctness’. This is the greatness which a large segment of the American population is aspiring to.
For Pakistan, this is particularly alarming. Trump’s guns are pointing at the current administration in the White House, politicians, Mexicans and anything foreign. Pakistan is an open, unsheltered target and doesn’t realise the consequences of Trump’s raging success with the American people. In 2011, NDTV reported that Trump had called for an urgent pull-back on aid to Pakistan unless it demolishes its nuclear arsenal. He ardently said,
“They are not friends of ours.”
He went on to add that,
“(There are) plenty of other terrorists in Pakistan, we know that.”
These comments reveal a deeper, more resolute prejudice against the Pakistani people.
Trump and his ideas are ruled by ‘the simple’. His solutions for complex problems are chillingly stupid.
Immigration? Build a wall.
Tax code? Target the ‘hedge fund guys’.
Employment? Americans first.
Pakistan? Dry it out and destroy it.
His reductionist policies and inability to understand anything above the remedial level will not translate into favourable policies for Pakistan. He uses a hammer where you need nuance with a bit of needle and thread. This is what the American people are supporting. They are enabling him to wield the hammer. It’s time to be vigilant and not get nailed.
These warnings could get drowned in the midst of cries in Pakistan that maintain that “he would never actually become President”, “Hillary’s obviously going to beat him” and a few misplaced “Pakistan Zindabads”. The truth is that even if Trump does not secure the office of the President of the Unites States, he has reawakened the conservatives and shaped their voice.
During this particular period, Pakistan and the US share a tumultuous relationship which is cracking under the weight of distrust. The US administration is already withholding $300 million in military assistance and the pressure to disable the Haqqani network is stronger than ever. Besides the US government, the American people are rallying behind Trump and there is a growing distrust in the groups of people their leader has conveniently dubbed ‘criminals’, ‘bad people’ and ‘terrorists’.
Trump is busy creating polarities within America and in the international community. His foreign policy involves apprehending the rest of the world for the sake of the American nation. He believes the US should never have returned Iran’s assets.
“I would have told them upfront, by the way, we will never give you back your money. We will never give you back your $150 billion. You're never getting that money back.”
Moreover, he believes that the US should extract monetary compensation for supporting Saudi Arabia.
“Like it or don’t like it, people have backed Saudi Arabia. What I really mind, though, is we back it at tremendous expense. We get nothing for it, and they're making a billion dollars a day... We should at least be reimbursed. We'd be an extremely wealthy country.”
Do the ‘us versus them’ undertones in his comments ring a bell? Do they take you back to 2001 when Bush warned the world that “you’re either with us or against us”? Of course, Bush was speaking in relation to the war on terror and Trump is just adamant on picking a fight with whoever he can for the benefit of the US. The congruence in their vocabulary and diction, however, cannot be ignored.
In addition to this, their understanding of the power and duties of the office of the President seem to have the same haughty texture. Bush felt that he didn’t need to ‘explain’ his decisions as President and Trump has unequivocally said that he does not care if he does not have the support of the allies, as leader of the free world “you got to get them (allies)”.
Pakistanis remember what Bush solicited them into. The entire world had to stand behind the bully with pursed lips. The bully might have been able to dodge a couple of shoes thrown at him, but the rest of the global community endured a beating. Trump would be much worse. Even without being in the Oval Office, Trump has enticed the American people to want things that are dangerous for the rest of the world. Whether he is going to win or not is not the debate we should concern ourselves with; the damage has been done.
Despite Trump’s stern disapproval of George W Bush’s policies as President and the war in Iraq, he holds certain individuals who were a part of the Bush administration in high regard. When asked whose national security expertise he admired, he named John Bolton, a man who was a staunch supporter of the American offensive in Iraq. If that’s enough to make your hair stand on end, listen to this – In 2009, Bolton declared that the only way to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons is by launching an Israeli nuclear strike on Iran.
Still no chills down your spine? Read on.
Trump believes that the most effective way to defeat ISIS is to bomb the hell out of the Iraqi oil fields and funnel the oil back to the US.
“We should definitely take back money for our soldiers.”
Are you going to press the panic button, or should I? While you’re at it, press the one that’s marked “senile” as well.
To avoid deterioration of Pakistan-US relations, Pakistan needs to develop an amicable relationship with the conservative section of the American population. It needs to be cognisant of the international climate and prepare its needle and thread, for home and abroad.
That begs the question: Is sharing Humans of New York’s (HONY) pictures enough to project Pakistan’s voice across continents? Or do we need something bigger, more drastic? How does one break through the sturdy veil of the international media? The problem with our sordid situation is that the empathy of the American people is not something which can be bought by hanging a few terrorists. The tragedy of our sordid situation is that humans should not have to convince other humans of their humanity. However, the world is such that hammers will be slung, guns will be pointed, people will be vilified and red ties will attract flies.
The international community should be conscious of the wave of neo-conservatism which is riling up the American population. Perhaps the world is moving is a new direction now. Let’s hope we have a say in where we’re going this time.
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