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DESPITE its high-market valuation, Twitter is reportedly losing money. It may be a blessing for the world if it was to shut down. Then, the “bellicose ignoramus” (in the words of Martin Wolf in the Financial Times) who has been elected as the 45th president of the United States would not be able to try and express impromptu US policies in less than 140 characters. Trump appears addicted to this medium as the channel to communicate his feelings, facts, and non-facts, reducing the discussion of serious policy issues to the level of farce.

Even prior to assuming office, Trump’s tweets have moved markets, cowed corporations into making wrong decisions, provoked official démarches from China, evoked praise from Vladimir Putin, and created an unprecedented public disagreement between the incoming US president and the entire US intelligence ‘community’.

If Twitter does not fold, it may be in the national security interest of the US, and indeed of world security, if these US intelligence agencies could prove their prowess by somehow shutting down Trump’s Twitter account or making his smartphone disappear. While they are at it, perhaps the telephone lines to the White House could also be put on automatic response mode with a recording of Trump’s effusive call with the Pakistan prime minister to ensure that he does not accidentally threaten war against India or one of America’s remaining friends if they call.

If Trump’s tweeted prescriptions are translated into policy, it could yield a diversity of disasters for America and the world. Here are some examples.


If Trump’s tweeted prescriptions are translated into policy, it could yield a diversity of disasters.


— Build a wall on the US-Mexican border to halt illegal immigrants. It is now to be funded ($20 billion) from the US federal budget (since Mexico has predictably refused to pay for it). The wall, if it is ever built, is likely to be circumvented by tunnels and bribery and corruption.

— Question the “One China” policy as a means of coercing trade concessions from China. This crude proposal would destroy the foundation of the Sino-US relationship, often described as the most important bilateral relationship in the world. It could spark a crisis in the Taiwan straits, and possibly an unwanted war.

— Impose punitive tariffs on Chinese imports. This would invite Chinese retaliation, increase prices for American consumers and fail in reviving outdated US manufacturing jobs.

— Coerce China to reverse North Korea’s nuclear brinkmanship. This may end current Chinese cooperation and embolden Pyongyang to accelerate its nuclear and missile programmes.

— Take military action against Pyongyang. Another Korean war would devastate both North and South Korea, America’s ally. The possibility of North Korea’s collapse will lead to pre-emptive Chinese intervention.

— Align with Russia in Syria to fight the militant Islamic State group (not Assad). Unless the US is prepared to induct ground troops, this alignment also implies acceptance of Iran’s overwhelming influence in Syria and Iraq. This would contradict Trump’s endeavour to restrain Iran’s role in the region and to strengthen if not scuttle the Iran nuclear deal. It will also further alienate Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies.

— Lift US sanctions imposed on Russia (for its takeover of Crimea and role in eastern Ukraine). This will face strong opposition from both the Democrats and influential Republicans like Senators McCain and Graham.

— Engage in a nuclear arms race (with Russia). This tweet appears to contradict the desire for normalisation with Moscow. In any case, both Russia and the US are already engaged in significant nuclear modernisation. The real bone of contention is the US plan to deploy a strategic anti-missile system in Eastern Europe.

— Reduce financial subsidies for Nato allies and Japan. This could reduce US influence in Europe; intensify the vulnerability of the Baltic states, and enhance Russia’s influence and role in Europe. Japan may turn to greater militarisation or seek accommodation with China and Russia.

— Align with anti-European Union nationalist parties in Europe, like France’s Front National. This may contribute to the swing under way in Europe towards the right-wing, xenophobic and Islamophobic groups. It could erode the EU, divide Europe and remove a main pillar of the Western power structure.

— Support Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, thus undermining the two-state solution, the only viable prospect for durable peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The proposal to move the US embassy to (occupied) Jerusalem would confirm US alignment with Israel’s occupation and confirm the narrative of terrorist groups, like IS and Al Qaeda, that Muslims can secure justice only through the force of arms.

Trump’s approach to foreign policy is a reversion to the ruthless use of US military power and economic coercion in the 19th and 20th centuries to secure the strategic advantages that made America ‘great’. But the world is no longer one where the US can dictate its will. Military and economic power is more widely distributed today, between the US, China, Europe, Russia and several emerging nations. Foreign military interventions, unless undertaken with local support, can be disastrous, as evident from the quagmires in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Asymmetric warfare has emerged as an effective avenue for the weak to inflict pain on more powerful adversaries.

The world today is also interdependent. Trade is a complex web of discrete and mutually reinforcing cross-national production and consumption. Mercantilist policies can disrupt these production/consumption chains to mutual detriment. The world also confronts several common challenges — climate change, poverty and nuclear conflict — which can only be addressed collectively by the international community.

It is uncertain if Donald Trump will be made cognisant of these realities once in office. The team he has chosen consists of mostly those who have shaped his regressive positions. There is thus little assurance that Trump’s tweets will give way to well-considered policies.

Ignorant aggression has caused the downfall of many great nations and empires in the past. Does Donald Trump herald the decline and fall of the American empire?

The writer is a former Pakistan ambassador to the UN.

Published in Dawn, January 8th, 2017



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


Comments (34) Closed



Xi Jinping Jan 08, 2017 02:51am

Sir, you understand Chinese foreign policy better than me..!!

Mannan Jan 08, 2017 04:18am

Another excellent piece by distinguished Ambassador. I never notice such brilliant analysis on American think tanks and their 'debates'. Don't know why

Hope Trump's national security team reads and understands this article . They should just put it on the wall as foreign policy guidance. US Embassy should forward this article to them. It'll go a long way in saving America's very future

LahoreIskhalistan Jan 08, 2017 04:19am

Just wait and watch. After all the President is not the most powerful decision maker in the US as proved by Obama tenure.

RAhamad Jan 08, 2017 06:11am

Why our people talk about American Policies? If these guys are so good We could have achieved at least 50% of what US has achieved.

brr Jan 08, 2017 06:28am

It just goes to show how much dissent is supported by pakistanis like Ikram and his ilk. They would like Twitter shut down as it provides views opposed by them. So much for liberal thoughts in pakistani elite circles.

Nuanced Jan 08, 2017 07:06am

Good review

Haider Jan 08, 2017 07:11am

Well written!

OBSERVER (Beijing) Jan 08, 2017 07:37am

Expert opinion always possesses weight, so as this article. Author carefully analyzed the facts that almost all the world`s media is talking about. So far, Trump appeared to be a surprising person capable of shocking the people in and out of America. Time can only bring clarity and the time is not far to see a successful or deteriorated America of Trump. Good luck to America and her president. It would be better first to respect the decision of the people.

B.Patel. USA Jan 08, 2017 07:37am

Here is another expert advising Trump and USA, while Pakistan foreign official is camping out in Washington hoping to get an audience with a lower officer of the Trump team.

Osman Jan 08, 2017 07:57am

Apt title.

Popat Jan 08, 2017 08:44am

The Americans enjoy the goodwill of many nations, and China has no friends.

Horseman Jan 08, 2017 08:52am

Trump is smarter than lot of columnists, thankfully NYT has understood his game and now doesn't fall into his trap. There are many points listed out in this column and countering them may not be adequate use of space and time, however I'll say all of these points can be countered on the central premise that Trump is tweeting things without much thought. On the contrary every single thing is well thought of. Let time reveal Trump's shrewdness. Meanwhile not jumping to conclusions and name calling is the call of the day.

gt Jan 08, 2017 08:57am

This author has narrated almost whole world problems in two pages but did not write about his own country facing many difficulties. According to my own view there is no doubt China and America will have problems on the issue of 80% claim on South China resources by China that too after international arbitration court decision against them and on other issue related to one China policy world is going to change its views and will agree with America that Taiwan is independent nation.

alok Jan 08, 2017 09:03am

The purpose of the article is to show AMERICA is a weak declining power and CHINA a big power. 26% of world's gdp is still from great USA.

Not sure how re-looking "One China" can be considered crude. After all Trump won the election to improve USA economy. Best is look into products imported from China. WTO rules needs to be re-worked upon. Good luck Trump.

alok Jan 08, 2017 09:01am

"Build a wall on the US-Mexican border to halt illegal immigrants."

Excellent move. Both INDIA and PAKISTAN also look at this option.

ABCD Jan 08, 2017 09:25am

Good analysis, and Pakistan can listen to the x-ambassador to UN. US President elect is a pure business man and patriotic. Thus economy will thrive. From his stand on Russia since inception signifies a probable good relationship Prez Putin. Meaning may be to break the Sino-Russian alliance and isolate China. Talking to PM Pakistan with so much intimacy also strengthens above assumption. Responding positively to Tsai is another thread. It is likely that he will be more popular in US within a year or so. As regards China, tough time ahead.

Alba Jan 08, 2017 10:23am

Trump has cowed US corporations into some bad decisions and into some good decisions. He won't have much time for Twitter when he faces the real work load of the White House.

Raman Jan 08, 2017 02:44pm

When we see Trump's impetuous and aggressive nature reminds me of Napoleon Bonaparte of France who after victory thought he was invincible. Let us see how long this last for 45?

Pakistani Jan 08, 2017 03:28pm

Another insightful article.

Princess_of_DHUMP Jan 08, 2017 03:45pm

@Popat Ha... I have spent around 15 years working across 12 different countries in East, West and Central Africa. Everyone loves China - Reason? Their development model is that they come - invest - create a product or service - generate jobs for the locals and distribute profit. US development model is that they fund NGOs which run schools or hospitals or any other institution (depending upon the area) and when they leave - everything is back to square one. At the end of the day - everyone cherishes 'hard earned money' not charity or lectures on how to live your life.

Michael Jan 08, 2017 06:43pm

This is not about liberal or conservative it is about right and wrong, truth and falsehood, fact and error . Small minded people who reduce everything to those who agree or disagree with their political stance endanger our democracy and our country , our freedom and our liberty.

Raving malang Jan 08, 2017 06:57pm

@alok Mr. Akram is not trying to show U.S. as a declining power, just commenting on how the world has changed where even India is a significant economic power; therefore U.S. may no longer exert the same influence it once wielded.

Now 26% of world GDP does not necessarily make any country great; Mughal India was 25% of global GDP and history shows us what followed! Trump may be an economic genius but 're-looking' at "one China" has repercussions that can be serious for U.S. companies supply chains so delicately intertwined with Chinese manufacturing. Lest you forget Apple's success is based on iPhone production by Foxconn, the largest commercial employer in the world.

riz1 Jan 08, 2017 09:01pm

"Does Donald Trump herald the decline and fall of the American empire?" Few people thought former Hollywood star Ronald Reagan could ever become president — until he was elected twice. Few people thought business mogul Donald Trump could be a serious presidential candidate — until he shot to the top of most polls amid a crowded GOP field. There are a lot of similarities between the two than people would concede. And Republican Reagan was a risk taker and deal maker who took America to bigger power and status and made a world unipolar by downing the Soviets. Today's Trump could do the same to China and more given the various options for USA to isolate China!

skumars Jan 08, 2017 10:17pm

the biggest advatage trump has is that most people underestimate him. He proved them wrong already one . He can do that again. He might as well.

skumars Jan 08, 2017 10:22pm

the biggest advantage trump has is that most people underestimate him. He proved them wrong already once . He can do that again. He might as well.

Arif Jan 08, 2017 10:50pm

''Does Donald Trump herald the decline and fall of the American empire?'' wishful thinking.

LahoreIskhalistan Jan 08, 2017 11:31pm

@alok you nailed it my friend. Even today, any foreign service official would pick US over China for posting; US over China to send their kids for higher education.

Feroz Jan 08, 2017 11:48pm

Unlike an intellectual like Obama businessman Trump knows that the threat to American power comes not from a lightweight Russia with an economy of $ 2 Trillion but from the $ 10 Trillion China. Trump is absolutely right in his evaluation and knows that China has grown by stealing not just American jobs, but many more. The economic might built up by China has emboldened it to flex its military might and try to expand both influence and territory.

As long as China was growing just its economy without flexing muscles, all would have been hunky dory. Sadly China will not back down now, which means barriers to trade and economic devastation leading to social unrest. Hard landing for China and countries attached to its bandwagon is guaranteed. Trump is no Obama, merely a businessman who strike a hard bargain. Trump will win over Russia by allowing it to expand its influence and get it out of the Chinese camp.

UA Jan 09, 2017 01:28am

@brr Reckon it was sarcasm, mate.

RR Iyer Jan 09, 2017 02:54am

and it has thrice the firepower of the next three combined. It has Thaad Anti-Missile systems being deployed in S. Korea against N. Korea. Unless China and N. Korea wish collective suicide, any attack on the US will be met with devastating killer response. China will not start a war it cannot win. 2, "Re" Tariffs on Chinese imports": A 35% tariff will possibly be set, and if the U.S. customer continues to Buy Chinese products. these tariffs can be used to fund U.S. infrastructure and reduce taxes.

RR Iyer Jan 09, 2017 03:00am

Japan has invested $1.2 Trillion ($1200 Billion!) in US Treasuries, and will not see its US investments go to waste! Watch for a number of Japanese US investments from Toyota, Nissan and others as soon as tariffs are announced. 5. "Mercantilist policies can disrupt these production/consumption chains": Supply chains are designed to be disrupted and re-designed in a hurry! That is the main reason why all production is not based in one or a few countries.

Roshan Jan 09, 2017 05:47pm

Whatever Trump is doing is certainly against his slogan Make America Great again

BAXAR Jan 09, 2017 09:03pm

@Feroz "China has grown by stealing not just American jobs, but many more." How does a country steal jobs? But abducting Steve Jobs?

Mohammed Jan 11, 2017 02:12am

America got very soft and weak under President Obama. Trump is what America needed. pay attention to his tweets. A large faction of Media and politicians in the US dismissed those tweets and they definitely regret that now particularly Hillary Clinton. Trump is a far shrewd businessman than you are giving him credit for. For example, Mexico will be devastated if the conflict with Trump continues. They will be lucky to pay 20 billion USD to build the wall if that makes Trump happy and eliminates the conflict. America should not respect "One China Policy". That is not america's problem; it is China's. Even China knows that and they are sending Jack Ma to appease Trump already. Tariff on Chinese products is a must because it will pay for a lot of domestic expenditures that America badly needs. It will be foolish to be dismissive of Trump. His tweeter feeds are a blessing because you get the info from him directly without an intermediary. All you have to do is pay attention!