Daily Mirror (Cartoon added by TW from internet)
Tomorrow Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, a country founded on the principles of freedom and equality, will be completing one year in office. Has the world become a better place under his stewardship? The answer is an emphatic ‘no’.
Since time immemorial, the good people have tried to make the world a better place. The slogan ‘Towards a better tomorrow has motivated many philosophers, world leaders and reformists to rise and right the wrong. They faced many a challenge. Many were killed because they dared to question the wrong. In the battle between the good and the bad, the latter seems to have prevailed.
As a result, with each passing day, the world becomes more and more unlivable. With the rise of unbridled capitalism, the deterioration has been fast. This is because most of our leaders today, the trustees of our welfare, are self-centred and avaricious for power and wealth. Bad leaders are least concerned about making a better tomorrow. Good leaders, on the contrary, are concerned about tomorrow. Where does Trump fall into and how will the next generation remember him?
Under Trump, needless to say, justice, freedom, democracy, human values, our environment and our very existence have come under threat. There is a global erosion of democracy and value-based politics while the threat of war is on the rise.
His one year in office has virtually brought the nuclear clock dangerously close to midnight. Next Thursday, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists will host a live international news conference at 1500 GMT (8.30 pm Sri Lanka time) to tell the world how close we are to the doomsday because of Trump. At present the clock is set at three minutes to the hour.
With Hawaii and Tokyo issuing warnings of incoming missiles from North Korea in what was later being trotted out as a mistake or coincidence, some analysts believe that these mistakes were deliberate and aimed at preparing the people for a war with Pyongyang. As Trump is unpredictable and apparently not receptive to saner counsel, his amateurish political adventurism could fast track the nuclear holocaust that will turn this world into a wretched hell, fit only for the living dead.
Mercifully, as Trump marks his first year in office, the tension in the Korean peninsula over North Korea’s missile politics has somewhat eased with talks being held between the two Koreas amid the prospect of the athletes of two Koreas marching behind one flag at next month’s Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of PyeongChang.
Well, Trump, in an apparently unscrupulous move, seized on the opportunity to claim that the de-escalation was largely because of his aggressive stand which saw him proudly claim that the United States’ nuclear button is bigger and more powerful than the North Korean one.
With Trump in office the nuclear clock’s hands can only be advanced, not set back, as he, in addition to nuclear jingoism, has pooh-poohed the dire warnings about climate change. During the campaign for the presidency, Trump said climate change programmes were a “waste of money” and that climate change itself was an “expensive hoax”. Once in power, he wasted no time to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal which set the ambitious target of limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.
Last month, more than 16,000 scientists from 184 countries published a warning to humanity advising that we need to change our wicked ways to help the planet. To the irrational president who wants to make America great again at a terrible cost to the environment, such warnings make little sense.
The world under Trump is not a better place is also the ruling of Freedom House — an independent watchdog dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world. In its latest report titled “Democracy in crisis”, Freedom House says, “Political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade in 2017, extending a period characterised by emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States’ withdrawal from its leadership role in the global struggle for human freedom.”
Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, autocrats the world over, especially in the developing world, feared the United States’ response with regard to human rights violations. Despite criticisms over the war on Libya and extrajudicial killings, the Obama administration attempted to arrest the democracy decay that began with President George W. Bush’s war-on-terror policies, under which human rights concerns had been ignored to give priority to whatever anti-terror measures. Today, democracy worldwide has been battered and weakened. In Europe and elsewhere, electoral victories of rightwing populist leaders who are anti-immigrant and anti-minorities are attributed to the Trump legacy marked by comments such as ‘shithole’ countries. In Trump’s speeches overseas, rarely does he mention the words democracy and human rights. On the contrary, he “expressed admiration and even personal friendship for some of the world’s most loathsome strongmen and dictators” (Freedom House 2018 report).
The Trump legacy provided fertiliser to the growth of “charismatic strongman politics”, according to a survey published by the World Economic Forum ahead of next week’s annual sessions in Davos. Trump will address the sessions on the last day. With the US not pushing the human rights agenda as it had been in the past, Myanmar could carry out the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minorities, the Philippines’ President could carry out his extrajudicial killings of alleged drug peddlers and Israeli soldiers could beat and arrest Palestinian children. Saudi Arabia could ignore international appeals to lift the naval blockade on Yemen where millions of people are dying of starvation and disease — without food and medicine. In all these cases, the culture of impunity is preposterous.
Justice is an essential component of democracy. Trump’s decision to recognise the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was a blow to global justice and a contempt of international law and moral principles.
Though he is presiding over the most buoyant economic conditions of any recent US president in his first year, his popularity is plummeting. To prop up his popularity, he apparently feels he needs to placate the rightwing vote base, to whom international democracy erosion is a non-issue.
Since Trump is not speaking against oppression, 2018 will not be a year of democracy, freedom and global justice. The United States’ withdrawal from the global democracy struggle takes place at a time when China and Russia – countries which give an autocratic interpretation to democracy — are emerging as alternative power centres. Whatever criticism of the US foreign policy in the past, democracy campaigners have looked to the US for support. Where can they turn to when democracy is under threat? The bigger question is: Whither democracy, freedom, human rights and liberal values in a China-led future world order?