By XN Iraki |
February 23rd 2020 at 08:30:00 GMT +0300
President’s policy could lead to US disengagement from its current commitments globally
The focus on a dignified send-off for President Moi took our eyes off global events, except perhaps for coronavirus. We can now spend a few minutes and find out what was going on elsewhere, particularly in the USA, where lots of Kenyans dream of visiting some day.
President Donald Trump survived the impeachment. We predicted he would. Democrats made a strategic mistake; they used the last arrow in their political quiver. What else can they do to Trump? Analysts were quick to point out that since the impeachment of Richard Nixon, another Republican, power has slowly and inexorably shifted from Congress, or parliament, to the presidency.
Trump lawyers alluded to that in their disposition. In Kenya, the power has been shifting away from the presidency. Will BBI bring back that power? Read it carefully and listen to what the elites are saying about the presidency. Now Democrats can only wait as November elections approach. They hopefully will get a good candidate to face Trump. It might be too late, whoever they get.
Emboldened by his exoneration from impeachment, Trump will focus on the democratic candidate like a laser gun. His attack on the Democratic candidate this time will far exceed that on Hilary Clinton. Remember Republicans traditionally have no qualms using their power, both at home and abroad.
But Trump might not even need to work very hard politically for re-election. The economy has campaigned for him. The poor state of the US economy is one reason why the Democrats, read Hilary Clinton, lost to Trump. Forget the alleged help from Russia. Did you notice how Republicans simply shifted the elections interference from Russia to Ukraine during impeachment, a really clever strategy?
Trump, with his economic nationalism, has focused on the economy with so much zeal that he does not even mind provoking China. If you ever lived in America, you probably understand why the economy matters so much. And why it makes and unmakes presidents.
His other advantage is that unlike democrats, he does not have competition for the Republican candidature. He will be focusing on other issues as Democrats fight it out. And their fight has not been smooth. The Democratic candidate is unlikely to shift conservative voters away from the Republican party. We should not forget the power of the incumbency for Trump.
Should we bother with Trump II?
If you listened to his State of the Union address, you could get snippets of his second term agenda. It is unlikely to be very different from the first. Beyond his “America first” call, one other item caught my attention - the possible withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. News has been filtering out this week of a possible deal between the US and the Taliban, that will allow for withdrawal of troops stationed in Afghanistan since 2011.
This mountainous country has been an enigma for centuries. In the great game, Britons failed to subdue it. They wanted a buffer against Russian incursion into the crown jewel of the British Empire, India. Afghans ran them out of town in 1842 with tales of how Afghans spared one Briton, William Brydon, to go and tell the story.
In 1979, the Soviet Union - before its disintegration in 1991 - invaded Afghanistan; they too left by 1989 just like Britain more than a century earlier without a victory. The images of Soviet troops withdrawing from Kabul mirrored the Americans leaving Vietnam a decade earlier.
America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist attack. So soon, Afghanistan was invaded by another superpower. After dislodging the Taliban and their extreme religious views from power, subsequent Afghan governments have never successfully held the country together. It is one of longest running US wars. Every president from George Bush II to Donald Trump has tried to end the war. Will Trump finally end it?
It is feared, and rightly so, that if Americans finally withdraw from Afghanistan, it could be torn apart and become a breeding ground for terrorism, just like Iraq. As Americans put it, if we do not fight them in their homes, they will fight us at home.
The withdrawal of three powers from Afghanistan, UK, Soviet Union and now US is unprecedented. Afghanistan is one of the few countries that have never been colonised. Is that what drives their determination?
It seems Trump II could lead to US disengagement from the world, remember America First? Africa and Kenya by extension could take a back seat. By mere coincidence, the East, read China’s, economy could be slowed down by coronavirus. The world will feel it. Think of US disengagement and a Chinese economy weakened by the virus.
One question we should ask loudly is the extent to which coronavirus will weaken the Chinese economy and how that will drag down the rest of the global economy. What will happen to Chinese engagements elsewhere through One Belt, One Road initiative? Will slowing down of China lead to the rise of another economic power? India?
Some think Brexit and its focus on former colonies like Kenya could provide a welcome relief. What of the African free trade area if actualised? The economic effects of both Brexit and Africa free trade area will not be felt immediately.
For Africa, we must build infrastructure and change our thinking, start seeing neighbours as assets, not enemies. Colonial ties are hard to undo. Maybe such global events give us a chance to rethink long term about our engagements with the rest of the world.
It seems the geopolitical and economic patterns demand that we start building our economies and become self-reliant. Trump II could accelerate that shift. You may not have bothered to follow the impeachment process in the US, maybe you were focused on Waititu in Kiambu. But you will feel its repercussions and you don’t have to be a Democrat or Republican.
-The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi.