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A beautiful, ugly thing

Published Nov 13, 2016 03:00am


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“EVERYTHING burns,” says the Joker in the Dark Knight, a bit of modern-day American film lore.

Closer to the American political experience, there’s a favourite invocation of gun-rights activists and the like:

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

America has its patriot-tyrant.

It seems impossible. This is no Brexit. This is no Erdogan or Sisi. This is no French Le Pen or Hungarian Orban. This is America.

Even if you don’t believe in the shining-city-upon-a-hill exaggeratedness, you can’t be anything but astounded. Even if you don’t care about politics, you know you have to pay heed.

What will he do and what will it mean? Who the hell knows.

There is a near perfect correlation between those fear-mongering right now and the ones who thought victory was never possible.

Trump could wreck the world, unleashing the American military leviathan, but is it obvious that he will?

This, after all, is the candidate who crushed the latest Bush by excoriating the Iraq war as a disaster and calling his brother a liar.

And it’s not like the Republican establishment is in thrall to a cabal looking for expansive military adventures. If anything, no to endless wars is a standard Republican talking point.

Trump could wreck the world, unleashing the American military leviathan, but is it obvious that he will?

So there may be arrogance, but there aren’t obvious signs of foreign adventurism. Indeed, there is the counter-intuitive possibility: what if he turns out to be too much like Obama?

The over-cautious, over-correcting Obama who allowed vacuums to appear in some places. And in other places, the plain incompetent Obama.

Iraq will forever be Bush’s millstone, but Obama has a pretty ignominious record in Afghanistan — bizarrely, from every possible side.

It was Obama who ratcheted up American troops in Afghanistan to their highest-ever number — thrice the number under Bush’s forgotten war.

That went nowhere and, arguably, Obama himself ensured it would go nowhere by announcing his surge-and-exit plan in 2009.

Perhaps that wasn’t so bad — give the military what it wants before allowing the White House to assert its own vision — but it turned out to be terrible because there was no vision on Afghanistan.

No reasonable person can look at what Obama has tried in Afghanistan since the surge and claim that it has the semblance of a strategy or plan.

And then there are the real disasters, places like Libya and Syria.

There the Obama record has been even worse: not just changing his mind once, but seemingly changing his mind all the time.

Assad is out; Assad can stay. We’re going to fight IS, we’re going to fight the other groups; no, wait, we’re going to try something else.

And Libya is a horror show, one only fathomable because of the readymade blame on the tinderbox of tribal rivalries that Qadhafi suppressed for long. But even then, it borders on the unfathomable.

So, yeah, Trump may prove to be like a predecessor, but maybe just not the one that may immediately seem obvious.

There is, though, an obvious Trumpian danger: another 9/11-type attack on American soil.

There too, from an external, non-American perspective, Trump’s disregard for civil liberties and the determination to strengthen the steel cage that is the security net over the homeland may be a boon.

It may, in fact, further lower the possibility of another 9/11 inside America.

But no one thought 9/11 was possible until 9/11 happened and the determination of the militant enemy, whether homegrown or foreign-born, means the risk will never approach zero.

Trump confronted by a wild moment may turn out to be unhinged in response. And the world is a small place when the American leviathan stamps around in a rage.

So, if the right fears aren’t necessarily immediately obvious, could Trump prove to be a surprise in other areas?

Again, who knows.

But it is possible to separate some of the early noise. Trump could be divisive for America, but divisiveness in America is not fuelled by one side alone.

Well-meaning as it may be — though not necessarily and automatically so — liberal America has wielded its inclusive ideology as a stick with which to beat non-liberal America.

It ought to be obvious, but liberalism is not ecumenical — the diversity liberal America has embraced is built on a mocking disdain for conservative values and conservative America.

It is often dressed up as well-thought-out and superior, but often the liberal champions of, say, non-white America and multiculturalism are dismissive of red America as nothing more than racist know-nothings. Conservative America knows this.

Forget all the numbers and the electoral minutiae for a moment. Trump will be the next president of America because chunks of a so-called blue wall of Democratic states voted for him.

States that twice voted for a black man over conservative white men in the previous two elections.

The hideous screams and bleak ululating since Trump won have not obscured that basic fact — that whatever the racial component of Trump’s campaign, he didn’t win because of race.

If anything, Trump won for some of the reasons Obama won in 2008: America wanted change from a divisive president who could only deliver anaemic economic growth.

And therein lies possibly the greatness of it all.

Among the seeming bleakness, there is an unchanging reality that even Trump must know: if he doesn’t deliver, the very voter who has swept him to power will unceremoniously kick him to the kerb.

Democracy: it’s a beautiful, ugly thing.

The writer is a member of staff.

Twitter: @cyalm

Published in Dawn November 13th, 2016


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (28) Closed

Rashid Nov 13, 2016 04:56am

MR Cyril a beautifully written article

MyInnerPassenjer Nov 13, 2016 05:12am

If Obama represented Hope than Donald Trump represents Despair. And I've never seen so many people eagerly wanting it. They want war, they want blood and the moment they'll get it, they'll regret that they ever voted for Trump.

When you give in to despair, the only thing you'll find is not a better tomorrow but a never ending today.

Jawaid kamal Nov 13, 2016 05:32am

Cyril nobody does analysis like you do, you are my man.

Gopi Chari Nov 13, 2016 06:23am

Excellent article!!! Bravo, Cyril Almeida!

B.Patel. U.S.A Nov 13, 2016 06:47am

Very good analysis. Better than those offered by many here in USA. Have many of your other columns and really admire your ability to look thru the matters.

Sufyan Nov 13, 2016 09:24am

I never understand what cyril wants so say. He s so difficult. But I keep reading his articles

junaid Nov 13, 2016 09:59am


masa Nov 13, 2016 11:03am

Beautiful !! Mr. Almeida..!!!

zakriya Nov 13, 2016 12:42pm


Love All Nov 13, 2016 01:03pm

Cyril Almeida is an ultimate journalist. Not only his fertility but entire readership should be proud of him.Kudos to him for his flawless and deep thoughts, explained so casually that his every write-up ends with a serious and thought-provoking note.

Harmony-1© Nov 13, 2016 03:20pm

When there is a deviation from usual bashing there are a few admirers.

Parvez Nov 13, 2016 03:23pm

The title says it all.....good read.

Punch Nov 13, 2016 05:01pm


Sensible Pakistani Nov 13, 2016 06:57pm

Finally some sane noise , thanks for a refreshing overview !

Jim Beam Nov 13, 2016 08:49pm

Your columns should be syndicated in all English language newspapers.

JOSH Nov 13, 2016 09:05pm

You are right on, Cyril.

Mashiqkhan Nov 13, 2016 09:36pm

"Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide." (John Adams 2nd US President)

wAJIH UDDIN qIDWAI Nov 14, 2016 12:50am

Change is always resisted.

Nadeem Nov 14, 2016 12:52am

He is a business man, I dont think the statement of "wrecking the world" is true about him..

Maher HASAN NY,USA Nov 14, 2016 06:43am

We need to take a deep look into US politics. Franklin Rosevelt , a democrat , was the only President who did 3 cosecutive terms beginning 1932. Neither Republicans nor Dems have held the Oval Office for more than 2 terms since. Hilary & her team had the gigantic task to win. They failed. What we saw today on CBS 60 minutes, President Elect Mr Donald Trump displayed all the making of 45th US President. He said that he will not be taking that $ 400K salary which the US President is entitled to.

Sayeed Nov 14, 2016 07:23am

Cyrillic is amazing brilliant brand of journalism. Bravo champion stuff.

Mirza Nov 14, 2016 07:45am

I think Trump will surprise everybody like he surprised everybodu including himslef in the Election.

Waseem Nov 14, 2016 08:36am

Though I hate Trump but this article has an appeal. Never had thought on these lines. Good work Cyril.

Masood Nov 14, 2016 05:43pm

Obama and Democrats became a party only for the minorities ... from minority black, muslims, gays, indolent poor and so on. They forgot about the hurting majority of America. Idealism is good when your stomach is full and you have a shelter on your head ... but when you are hurting and the Govt. is looting you to pay for ObamaCare ... it is time to kick them out. The votes were not for Trump, they were against the Democratic ideas.

usman khan Nov 14, 2016 06:48pm

The joker also said "As you know, madness is like gravity...all it takes is a little push". The next push might just be a shooting like Orlando or a bomb scare to push his band of zealots out with the pitchforks demanding that minorities be placed in special 'holding areas' or FEMA internment camps till the friend can be vetted from the foe. Dark days are ahead.

Kuppudu Nov 14, 2016 07:44pm

Why is Donald Trump elected? is the Joe-the-Plumber syndrome again. All the lower middle class White Joes of America want jobs, steady jobs. They have pinned their hopes on Mr Trump. If he does not deliver in the next four years or less, the American Joes would not hesitate to eject him.

NUASNED Nov 14, 2016 10:08pm

@usman khan ohh well hold on to that but rather what we are already seeing now on street is opposite of what you said..

Pozone Nov 15, 2016 03:05am

What if all Trump wanted was to enjoy being at the helm of affairs and nurture his narcissistic self-preoccupation while worrying about nothing but to enjoy power while it lasts before falling back on his immense wealth.