Saturday, April 20, 2024
CommentaryTrump and the global decline of political leadership

Trump and the global decline of political leadership

Now that, Hillary Clinton, hopefully, is going to win, there is no doubt that she has to do a great deal not only to heal the wounds that have been created within the American people, but also to restore and promote American prestige abroad. Moreover, there is a dire need for a series of high level discussions and debates on why there is a drastic decline in the quality of leadership everywhere around the world, writes Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu.

When Donald Trump declared his intention to become the President of the United States, and started to speak about building a wall along the US-Mexican border and started to make anti-Muslim and many other childish, stupid and reckless remarks, I was  provoked to write an article many months ago by saying that if he were to be elected as the President of the United States, it would be a great shame for the  great  and compassionate people of the United States and  even  a threat to peace and stability in  the world. This is because, as the most influential superpower, I thought what the people of America and the world should look for is not a reckless billionaire who knows how to make money and who boasts of being smart for avoiding taxes but a much more intelligent, calm, wise, visionary and far sighted leader who fully understands the complexities of today’s world and how to run and manage diverse and multi-cultural societies and how to solve the serious and more complex problems of the world.

It is important to note that when Ivana, the former model from Czechoslovakia divorced  Trump, she walked away with USD 14 million in addition to other perks like a massive mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut.  Yet in Trump’s defense, in  the summer of 1990 his legal team pointed to alleged financial troubles plaguing the businessman at the time  wrote to a judge that the “Defendant does not have the means to support his wife, his children and himself as they previously lived.” This is how he perhaps tried to avoid the payment of taxes due to him. Rightly or wrongly, I now also tend to believe that Donald Trump’s knowledge of international relations may even be much lower than that of many ordinary Ethiopians let alone of our Ethiopian scholars. Incidentally, despite the fact that America is the country of the immigrants with best brains, its foreign policy and outlook of the world has been generally very bad.

I even like to go as far as saying that the American system of Government and so-called “democracy” is like a football game where the key players are mainly the rich and the famous while the spectators (the electorate) are innocent and perhaps even ignorant people who adore celebrities, and who at times behave like football hooligans and who get emotionally carried away and are prepared to fight when their team loses.  This is also what has been going on between the supporters and opponents of Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

Rightly or wrongly, I am now absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton will be the first female American President. But the damage to American democracy and the traditional political institutions have already been done. The fact that 30 or 40 percent of Americans support a reckless Donald Trump who openly and publicly as well as sweepingly denounces the American democracy as “fraudulent” and who refuses to respect the outcome of the Presidential race and who might have been prepared to take the country into unknown territory in itself is an insult and a disgrace for the generous and compassionate people of America. The fact that some American media outlets happen to reduce the 2016 US Presidential election race like an entertainment soap opera is bad enough. Such media outlets are doing a disservice to the general public. This also implies that some media outlets and commentators are also partly to blame.

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There is no doubt that the 2016 US  Presidential election process and the various  methods each  campaign teams have  intended to do to disrupt at the  gatherings  of  opponents  camp  went far beyond  unfair play sending adjunct provocateurs whose main aim is to agitate the crowed far beyond distraction  has  sent shock waves to the rest of the world that the American democracy is far from being an admirable system, is not a system that promotes justice and opportunity for all. Democracy in my view is becoming a game where the rich and famous become leaders because of their money and not because of their intelligence and quality of leadership. Donald Trump might be an incredible businessman, but he cannot be an incredible President. He is the man who plans to refuse to respect the outcome of the Presidential race. This is a big mistake that will definitely damage whatever American prestige remains abroad. Many admire America’s strong democracy and their peaceful transfer of power from one to the other. But transferring power from one rich man to another may be admirable, but what matters is whether the man or the lady who comes to power has the capacity, the genuine desire and commitment as well as a clear vision to solve the real national, regional and global issues. In that sense, the 2016 election campaign has severely undermined the international reputation of the American political establishment and system. On the contrary, the recent peaceful transfer of power between the old and the new Prime Ministers of Britain was a much more honorable, dignified and enviable.

Donald Trump’s admirers and critics would probably agree that he is different and unusual. One of his chief Republican supporters, Newt Gingrich, describes him as a “unique, extraordinary experience.”  In a way, Trump is seen as part of a broad populist upsurge that is running through many countries in the Western world.

However, for Donald Trump to even have the support of about 30 or 40 percent of the voters is an insult to democracy which in a way is a fraudulent system and a political game where the rich and famous play the game. The questions that is bothering me is, how could the great and compassionate people of the United States support someone who lacks the temperament to become president and acts like a third world dictator?  

From the perspective of democracy, giving an opportunity for alternative candidates to be in power is seen as one of the main characteristics of democracy. Indeed this may be true and right. However, the author is not aware where poor persons assumed power peacefully. They only come to power by a revolution or a coup or by some sort of armed rebellion. The problem with such a strategy of coming to power is that once such people come to power, they do not often and generally quit power by peaceful means and may even betray the causes they have fought for. This is one of the tragedies of deceptive politics. There are a few examples where those who come to power by a coup or armed struggle have handed power peacefully to opposition candidates. The problem, however, becomes more acute in many poor developing and African countries where those in power continue to blindly defend their rule and enjoy the economic benefits their entire life. This is what may be described as personal interest based politics.

It should be stressed that today there are over three dozen violent insurgencies around the globe, including in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Ukraine etc.  The question is why have such wars and conflicts arisen? What were some of the direct and indirect causes that lead many people to take desperate actions? Whose fault is it? Why are desperate individuals and groups taking desperate actions and measures? These issues need to be addressed very seriously, intelligently and genuinely.

We are living in a world where terrorism and trafficking of drug, arms, and humans is increasing. The effects of climate change are becoming visible and biodiversity is declining. Water wars and food insecurity are creating tensions among and within states and corruption, money laundering, and tax evasion have increasingly become rampant. In short, we are living in a very dangerous world where the gap between the rich and the poor is widening with all its ramifications.

The hard reality is that the United States is now fighting ISIS, working to enforce the nuclear agreement with Iran, and combating intense sectarian conflict in Syria and Yemen Critics argue that the American Government is doing all it can to promote right wing leaders that adhere to its brand of capitalism, private enterprise and the so-called American brand of democracy around the world as if it is a global solution that fits every one. It is this kind of impositions, cultural and religious domination and supporting unpopular, authoritarian and dictatorial leaders and governments who are more loyal to the American Government than to their own people that are increasingly being resisted by ordinary people of the world. It is perhaps because of this that the foreign policies of many US Governments have not generally been successful.  In Ethiopia, the 1974 February revolution took place despite the prevalence of many CIA agents. How the Dergue was overthrown by TPLF/EPRDF and EPLF under the nose of many KGBs and some Soviet generals is quite a different and very interesting history all together.

The problem is some if not many American leaders see the world from their own national economic, geopolitical, security and economic interests only. Their world is America and they expect the rest of the world to see the world from an American perspective which is entirely wrong. For the United States, the war in Iraq offers the prime example of a costly and military blunder. For Europe, it might be the adoption of the Euro. Fifteen years ago, when the EU established its single currency, European leaders promised higher growth due to greater efficiency and sounder macroeconomic policies, greater equality between rich and poor countries within a freer capital market, enhanced domestic political legitimacy due to better policies, and a triumphant capstone for EU federalism. Yet for nearly a decade, Europe has experienced just the opposite. The crises that  has occurred in the last few years in Cyprus, Greece, Portugal, France, Spain,  Italy, and many other countries and the rise of anti-austerity movements  even in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and many other developing countries is a reflection of the resentment associated with money only and free enterprise  driven  capitalism without a human face.  Such policies that were mainly popularized during the era of Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan are increasingly making people greedier and more inhumane as well as creating stressful societies.  Individual success and getting rich at any cost appear to dominate and also leads to a decline in patriotism with all its socio-economic and political ramifications, particularly in poor countries.

There is no doubt that the United States is the most powerful and the most influential global power. But I do not think it has exercised its power and its foreign affairs responsibly. That is why critics say terrorism has partly increased. Terrorist networks, such as Al Qaeda, generally had only dozens or hundreds of members, attack civilians, do not hold territory, and cannot directly confront military forces. ISIS, which represents the post–Al Qaeda jihadist organization on the other hand, boasts having some 30,000 fighters, holds territory in both Iraq and Syria, maintains extensive military capabilities, controls lines of communication, commands infrastructure,  partly funds itself, and engages in sophisticated military operations. At any rate ISIS may be defeated, but we have no guarantee that there will be a lasting peace and stability either in the region or in the world. The world is facing multi-faceted and multi-dimensional global problems that cannot be solved by manufacturing good feel factor slogans and advertisements. In such a situation we expect the generous and compassionate people of America to elect the right kind of leaders with a clear vision both for them as well as for the rest of the world. Unfortunately,  the people who pride themselves as the mother of democracy, freedom and liberty continue to be deceived by their  own innocence or ignorance or by both and happen to generally  elect  not the right kind of leaders. I hope Hillary Clinton will live up to the expectation of not only the people of America but also to that of the people of the world.

Unfortunately, as we all know, democracy is not the best system of electing the best and wisest of leaders. In some poor developing countries—instead of having election based on tribal, religious, ethnic and other divisive criteria—having a benevolent, humane and intelligent authoritarian, disciplinarian leader with a clear vision might be a better alternative than organizing  periodic but  perhaps at times sham  elections every four or five years.  This is to stress that organizing periodic elections are not the best ways of determining the will of the voters. Critics argue that democracy as we know it and as practiced in many countries is a political and economic game of the rich and the middle class. For the vast majority of the poor, democracy means having a government that is committed to satisfy the basic needs of its people such as the right to food, decent healthcare, the right to clean water, the right to a decent education, the right to work and get a decent income and the right to have decent clothes and shelter and the gradual satisfaction of higher needs and aspirations.

There is no doubt that foreign policy experts have long been taught to see the world as a chessboard, analyzing the decisions of great powers and anticipating rival states’ reactions in a continual game of strategic advantage. When one looks at the US-Russia and Europe-Russia or even US-Sino relationships, one is bound to think that the great powers are still playing with that chessboard where a continual competition among contending powers is even played today. As recently as in post October 7 events, the White House released a statement in which it directly accused Russia for the first time of hacking the e-mails of the DNC and Democratic Party members. Why is Moscow allegedly trying to destroy Hillary Clinton’s chances of being elected to be the President of the United States?  Why have political leaders and governments go so low as to hack emails? Is it not long overdue to rethink of having a new type politics, political parties and political leaders around the world? The good thing is the more ordinary people loose faith in their leaders, the more they have the tendency to believe in the supernatural than perhaps resort to bloody violence.

The United States Government tend to give and grant extensive US aid and political support to those leaders who are more loyal to it, its policies and ideology and  to those regimes who promote US foreign policy objectives and interests than to leaders who are more loyal to their own peoples. In a way, it tries to help them stay in power and against the will of their own people. It is this kind of policy that makes the US policy unpopular around the world. The US is feared than voluntarily respected. It is this kind of fear of military domination and imposition of American culture and socio-economic and political system that might be driving many youth to become terrorists. The more the US keeps on arming unpopular Governments to promote its own interests, the more it will become unpopular globally and God forbid the more individual American citizens and tourists might become targets of individual terrorists.

Now that, Hillary Clinton, hopefully, is going to win, there is no doubt that she has to do a great deal not only to heal the wounds that have been created within the American people, but also to restore and promote American prestige abroad. Moreover, there is a dire need for a series of high level discussions and debates on why there is a drastic decline in the quality of leadership everywhere around the world. Why are voters continually being deceived by some of their politicians who have neither the knowledge, wisdom, vision nor the ability to deal with very complex multi-sided socio-economic, political and other issues and why do they focus on trivialities and minor issues while ignoring a more serious issues? That is why I believe that there is a dire need to rethink and reflect, on the role of politics, political parties and political leaders nationally, regionally and globally.  Such debates is particularly more crucial and timely in many poor countries of the world.

Ed.’s Note: Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu (Prof.) is a legal expert, consultant and an expert in investment, taxation and finance. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of The Reporter. He can be reached at [email protected].


Contributed by Fisseha-Tsion Menghistu


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