History will show that the United States, more than a decade after being drawn by rabid neo-conservative war hawks into costly and ill-advised conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, saw the final curtain drawn on its post-Cold War “American Century.” The inauguration of Donald Trump, who acts more like the Roman emperors Caligula or Nero than an American statesman, is hastening the final act in the Pax Americana stage play.
Crafty world leaders are using the dysfunctionality of US foreign policy to push the envelope, while America is pre-occupied with what Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called a moron, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Bob Corker called a child in need of adult day care, and the North Korean government called a senile “dotard” in the Oval Office. The final chapter of the American Century has given problematic leaders like Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, Saudi King Salman, and Moroccan King Mohammed VI encouragement to carry out their own agendas in the absence of America’s past framing of the geo-political map.
Trump has outsourced American policy in the Middle East primarily to Israel, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates acting as cheerleaders for the Israelis. The first clue that Trump would hand Middle East policy to Israel came with his nomination of the anti-Palestinian Zionist David Friedman as US ambassador to Israel. That was followed by Trump’s appointment of his pro-Likud son-in-law, Jared Kushner, as a special envoy to the Middle East. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a friend of the Trump family since the 1980s, has taken advantage of a powerless State Department to annex more Israeli-occupied lands in the West Bank in violation of multiple UN Security Council resolutions. Netanyahu is also a close friend of Kushner and his father, Charles Kushner.
In just a few days, Trump carried out two act that were not in America’s interest but had been pushed by Netanyahu. These were the withdrawal of the United States from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), because Trump viewed it as overly anti-Israeli, and Trump’s official denouncement of the P5+1’s Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on the Iranian nuclear program. Previously, Trump scrapped America’s participation in the Paris Climate Accord, making the United States the world’s only outlier in rejecting the accord.
The eclipse of US influence on the world stage has seen several world leaders begin to push the envelope against Washington either by directly confronting the United States or by reneging on international treaties and agreements. Trump, who has made scrapping international treaties his stock-in-trade, sets a bad example for other leaders to pull out of long-honored agreements and pacts.
Perhaps no leader has taken advantage of American foreign policy and military turmoil more than Turkey’s Erdogan. Last year, Erdogan’s dictatorial government arrested American Protestant pastor Andrew Brunson on charges that he was involved in the so-called “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” coup attempt against Erdogan’s government in 2016. Erdogan attempted to swap Brunson for Gulen, a billionaire businessman and cleric now living under official political asylum in Pennsylvania. Erdogan’s request was not acted upon, so, as is the case with bullies, he grabbed another hostage, Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee of the US Consulate-General in Istanbul. Erdogan’s government unsatisfied with America’s inaction on Gulen, arrested a second employee of the US Consulate-General, along with his wife and child.
The US retaliated by suspending the processing of all non-immigrant visas for Turks wishing to enter the United States. Erdogan ordered the Turkish visa offices in the United States to do the same with US visa applications for travel to Turkey. Erdogan has reportedly ordered the arrest of a half-dozen Turkish-American citizens on similar trumped up charges of aiding in the 2016 coup and of being connected to Gulen’s organization.
The Kim Jong Un government in North Korea has engaged in a war of words with Trump after the US President resorted to calling the North Korean leader “rocket man” in tweets and before the United Nations General Assembly. North Korea, sizing up Trump’s attacks on the JCPOA nuclear weapons agreement with Iran, has no desire to reach a nuclear deal with anyone after witnessing that anything the United States signs is not worth the paper it’s printed on. It is also noteworthy that North Korea signed the Paris Climate Accord, an agreement Trump has renounced.
Similar breakdowns in international law are popping up all over the world with Washington’s preoccupation with a president considered even by his closest military and national security aides to be too mentally unbalanced to be trusted with the nuclear launch codes. Ukraine, which has been encouraged by promises from some parties in the Trump administration of receiving US lethal weaponry, has walked away from the Normandy Quartet and Minsk Agreements between Russia, Ukraine, France, and Germany on cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine. After witnessing Trump turn international agreements into toilet paper, Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, who presides over a kleptocracy that includes rich Ukrainians linked to the Trump and Kushner criminal organizations, sees no reason to abide by agreements with Russia worked out through the diplomatic offices of France, Germany, and Belarus.
Even though the European Court of Justice ruled last year that Morocco could not claim the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which is recognized as an independent state by 40 nations, Morocco is now reneging on an agreement to hold a referendum in Western Sahara on independence. With Trump referring to the UN as an exercise in mismanagement, Morocco’s King Mohammed feels emboldened to ignore repeated UN resolutions on Western Sahara.
Taking a page from King Mohammed, Papua New Guinea’s scandal-plagued prime minister, Peter O’Neill, is reneging on carrying out a Bougainville independence referendum prior to 2020. A referendum is guaranteed by the UN-endorsed Bougainville Peace Accord of 2001. The referendum, if passed, would require Papua New Guinea to grant independence to Bougainville.
French President Emmanuel Macron has also shown signs of wanting to violate the 1998 Noumea Accord, which requires a referendum on independence for its South Pacific colony of New Caledonia to be held prior to November 2018. France appears inclined to see more French mainland citizens move to New Caledonia in advance of the poll to ensure a “no” vote wins in the referendum.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, a political heir of Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, is threatening to impose direct rule on secession-minded Catalonia, with the nodding approval of the European Union. Such a move would terminate Catalonia’s self-government institutions, a return to Franco’s policy toward Catalonia.
Saudi Arabia, with Trump’s encouragement, led an economic and transportation boycott of Qatar, which violates several international agreements, including the UN Charter. The Saudis even contemplated shooting down a Qatar Airways passenger jumbo jet, claiming it violated Saudi airspace. The United Arab Emirates apparently triggered the Qatar crisis by hacking the Qatar News Agency and inserting a story that quoted Qatar’s emir of being critical of the Saudi king. It was later revealed that Israel was involved in the hacking through one of its lobbying organizations in Washington, the neo-con Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. The Saudis also pressured tiny Djibouti, in the Horn of Africa, to expel 500 Qatari peacekeeping troops monitoring the Djibouti-Eritrean border. The Saudis have also ignored a recent UN report on genocide committed by its coalition forces against children in Yemen.
The scrapping of international agreements around the world has followed America’s preoccupation with an unstable president and his disdain for international accords. Trump’s unilateral actions against the JCPOA, UNESCO, and the Paris Climate Accord are likely to be followed by other brusque actions on the international stage.
Norway, perhaps emboldened by the anti-Russia saber rattling of its former prime minister-turned-NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg, is violating the terms of the 1920 Svalbard Agreement. The agreement guarantees free international access to the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. Norway has started to illegally impose Norwegian visa regulations for the islands, which, the most part, are designed to keep out Russian nationals.
The minute Trump was sworn in as president, new and long-dormant flashpoints began lighting up around the world, from the Rock of Gibraltar and Africa’s Caprivi Strip to the Sikkim-Tibet border and the Arabian Sea’s island of Socotra. As Trump descends into further madness, many of these flashpoints will ignite into conflict. The Trump era will be known in future history books as not only the end of the “American Century” but as a time when America’s lack of leadership and international engagement plunged the world into violence-ridden nihilism.