When George W. Bush won his first presidential election, in 2000, he famously commented that political pundits and the media had “misunderestimated” him! Later, when he won his second term in the White House, back in 2004 against John Kerry, an iconic photograph appeared as the cover of a leading magazine in the America. The photograph showed President Bush’s face, twisted in a particularly amusing expression, with the caption “Misunderestimated again!”

In hindsight, President Bush’s victory was still within the fringes of possibility. However, Donald Trump’s triumph of American politics has been the misunderestimation of unprecedented proportions.

But should the world be surprised at the election of President Trump? Is fanaticism of the right-wing Bible-belt American majority, really a shock to the rest of the world? Is MMA’s vote bank in Pakistan, or Hamas’ vote bank in Palestine, or BJP’s right wing vote bank in India, any less surprising than Trump’s vote bank in America? Is anti-American across the world justified, whereas anti-Islamism or anti-immigrant sentiment in America an abomination? Is nationalism or pan-Islamism valid battle cry in the Muslim World, and should it be taboo in the West?

In order to analyse some of these questions, it is pertinent to first assess the deeper underpinnings of Trumps victory in the American presidential elections.

Trump has won as a Republican candidate. But this statement belies the truth because neither the Republican establishment nor the Democratic establishment supported Trump as a candidate. In fact, many of the Republican establishment stalwarts, including George W. Bush, whose brother lost a bitter primary race to Trump, opposed Trump. Many amongst the Republican party leadership overtly campaigned against Trump and his candidacy. And so, Donald Trump, for all intents and purposes, won the presidential election as a self-funded independent candidate, who claimed to be a Republican. In fact, riding on the coattail of Trump’s belligerent narrative, the estranged Republican base of America voted in a Republican Congress as well as Senate.

The makings of a Trump presidency date back, beyond the chaos of 2016 electoral campaign. In fact, the seeds of Trump’s electoral victory can be traced back to that fateful day in September of 2001, when two commercial planes crashed into the iconic World Trade Center buildings; an event that serves as the most visible reminder of the defining battle of our time – ‘War against Terror’. Almost instantaneously, the entire world was reconstituted into two distinct factions: us and them! In Pakistan, even while the State overtly supported America’s war in Afghanistan, a large fraction of the population continued to view OBL as a hero. Each talk-show, every drawing room and tea-shop, every mosque and street-corner, became polarised with competing viewpoints on what Tariq Ali calls the ‘Clash of Civilization’.

Amidst this chaos, as America’s ill-conceived war in Iraq, Libya and then Syria left most of the Middle East in rubbles, all across the Muslim World a growing segment of the population openly voiced their desire to ‘bring down America’. In Pakistan, even as we remained American allies in the ‘war against terror’, ideologies such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban started to emerge. During this time, especially in 2002 elections, religious political parties garnered a large contingent of the casted ballot. This polarisation saw the popularity of individuals such as Malik Ishaaq and Hafiz Saeed grow to mythic proportions. The right wing sentiment within Pakistan showered rose petals on Mumtaz Qadri, and anointed Maula Abdul Aziz as its leader. And all the while, we advocated that this sentimentality, while abhorrent in theory, is only a natural (and understandable?) consequence of American rhetoric of war and isolation.

So, if we understand and appreciate the fact that American wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East have naturally created right-wing sentimentality across Pakistan, are we really unable to comprehend why right-wing narrative in the Muslim World would energise the Republican base in the United States? If some portion of our population sympathises with banned militant outfits that claim to be waging a war against America, did we really expect that the American population would not endorse a candidate like Donald Trump?

If we were to be honest about our history over the past fifteen years, we would come to the realisation that the Muslim World, and its growing narrative of an apocalyptic war, has much to do with Brexit as well as the election of Donald Trump. Over the past some months, the most developed nations in the Western World – Britain and the United States – have voted to become isolationist in nature. The population of England, who remember bombings in London, Paris, Bulgaria, and Brussels, and harbour a growing sense of immigrant takeover of their nation, decided to part ways with the rest of Europe (and the world), allegedly so as to better protect the life and property of their domestic population. Similarly, in the United States, Trump’s narrative of building a wall to keep out Mexican immigrants, and placing a ban on all Muslims, appealed to a population that no longer wants to engage with the rest of the world; a populations whose only image of Pakistan is that of a bearded AK-47 brandishing militant, who spends each evening burning the American flag each after.

We can construct all sorts of logic for how that is a misrepresentation of the Muslim World, and how McDonalds is perhaps the most popular eating place across Pakistan, and how Pakistani citizens have contributed to the American economy, and how we have suffered the most in this ‘war against terror’. And all of these contentions may even be correct. But none of that matters in an election, as is apparent through Trump’s victory.

The truth is that Donald Trump’s triumph in American politics, at the heels of Brexit, has announced the ushering in of a new global paradigm. A paradigm that has deepened the schism between East and West. Past favours and traditional alliances will hold no field in this new world. And Pakistan must prepare accordingly.

The global political trajectory, of the past many decades, must be reassessed. United States’ interests in the region, on our Eastern as well as the Western border, seem to be at loggerheads with Pakistan. And with Trump in the White House, it is likely that diplomacy gives way to belligerence, in pursuit of American interests. In the circumstances, Pakistan must rethink its regional and global foreign policy, and align its national interests in a manner than can withstand four (maybe eight) years of President Trump. We must not make the mistake of ‘misunderestimation’.