What to expect from a President Trump
Fourteen months before the United States chooses its next leader, extraordinary and unprecedented events are taking place in the Republican Party: Billionaire businessman Donald Trump is leading the pack and crushing all opposition from conventional candidates in public opinion polls.
Trump is reviving and distilling American nationalism into a potent brew from the chaotic confusion that George W. Bush left it in.
It is easy to sneer at Trump and dismiss him as a billionaire television star, as the woefully mediocre political media in the United States have done. But Arab leaders and analysts should not make the same mistake.
Trump is first and foremost an exceptionally successful businessman, a figure of genuine intellectual and business talent who exudes the swaggering self-confidence very different from the pathetic fake macho bluster of Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and the rest of their gang.
And he may prove to be surprisingly good news for the United States’ traditional friends in the Arab world. Trump alone in the Republican field has spoken out strongly and acknowledged that the original invasion of Iraq was a disastrous mistake. He has opposed sending arms to Ukraine and putting US troops in harm’s way there. He advocates a hard-headed policy of putting US economic and business interests first. This was the kind of clear-eyed pragmatism that allowed the US-Saudi special relationship to flourish for most of the past 80 years. It is a striking contrast to the catastrophic Bush and Obama policies of wrecking one Arab government after another in their ceaseless quest to “promote democracy and human rights” — when all that is promoted is anarchy, endless violence, massacre and murderous extremism.
Most of all, Arab policymakers and pundits need to recognise that Trump can win.
He is probably worth between $8 billion and $9 billion, yet is enormously popular with grass-roots Republican voters.
Every time a member of the large field of Republican nonentities tries to outflank him by puffing himself up and swearing to stand up to the Islamic State (ISIS), his standing collapses in the polls. This has happened to former Texas governor Rick Perry, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who on August 30th memorably suggested the United States wall off Canada.
The list is endless.
Yet the more these puffed-up candidates posture, pout and threaten, the more their non-existent support evaporates and Trump rises ever higher. There is a profound message in this phenomenon: Even hard-core Republicans are sick and tired of endless, ridiculous wars that go on forever and only make things worse than they were before. One crucial message needs to be proclaimed loud and clear: Trump can win.
He may prove to be an excellent president or a terrible one. But he will be the real thing, a departure from the endless woeful incompetent, mediocre and mindless purveyors of worn conservative clichés.
A President Trump would, on the basis of his recent statements, work for a stable Middle East with restored potential for the United States as well as European and Asian investment.
He would prefer to work above all with successful, prosperous Arab states that embody the values that made him so rich.
He would distrust and oppose the rise of Iran. He would not naively fall, as Barack Obama and the woeful John Kerry have so disastrously fallen, for a disastrous deal that capitalises the Iranian ayatollahs through a global oil price recession by freeing up $55 billion to $100 billion that they can immediately spend on trying to destabilise every moderate nation in the region.
A President Trump is the best bet to restore the moderate, consistent and pragmatic policies that guided Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in their generally highly successful engagement with the region.
No better alternative prospect is remotely in sight.