hamna marukh

ISLAMABAD - President Donald Trump has been too much in the news since he assumed office in January 2017. He has been controversial for many unconventional decisions on the global geo-political chess board. His unorthodox decisions did cost him his closely associated aides, Rex Tillerson and James Mattis and the list is long. His less expected announcement of speedy withdrawal of the U.S. forces from Syria and substantial development in US-Taliban Talks once again brought him at the centre of discussion among the U.S. foreign-policy commentators and vehement criticism from myriad quarters.

Different newspapers, writers, media outlets and different shades of analysts have projected both events accordingly. Various dubbed it Iran and Russia’s victories while other whispered about fading capacity of American war machine, outcome of domestic doldrums and fatigue of decade’s long wars. However, the constructed narratives neither qualify America’s historical record nor the principles of Real politik.

Although, Trump announced plans have occasionally been the source of divergence among “Big four” in American administration but neither has it showed a kind of detrimental a historical fissures nor indicated the president’s utmost ill-preparedness. Prior to president Trump, President Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson and   John F Kennedy have faced daunting challenges of the American senate, administration and bureaucrats involved in foreign policy making process. Nearly, every American president reshaped presidency with new fervor to assert his powers against the complex Check and Balance principle. Empirically U.S. went in war more than 200 times; however, only five times the incumbent president sought senate’s approval even not in Afghanistan case .Suffice to say that President Donald Trump’s self-assured posture is echoing the unusual presidential prerogative authority within the premises of the constitution.

Being in office of the president, Trump cannot be labelled disorganized but embarked on carefully crafted strategy of the “Make America Great Again”.  Following the 2018 National Defense Strategy’s blue prints, the primary concerns and threats for American national security is “revisionist China and Russia” rather than terrorism. The fresh defense layout abandoned the terrorism paradigm and heralded a new era of geo-political struggle where the rules of confrontation bounced back to Machiavellian politics.  In the newly defined structure America prioritized to ensure the American-led “World Order” by keeping out China from the dividends of the order.

President Trump has harshly criticized Europe for “free riding” on American military might. The problem of “free riding on American military might” is not confine to Europe. In the Middle East, America has shouldered the strategic-cum-security responsibilities for decades. It played vital role in averting nuclear wars during Suez Crisis and 1973 Arab–Israeli War. On one hand, America has been instrumental in bringing Arab-Israel on the table while on the other; it has been constantly managing the conflicts within Arab world by playing the role of regional watchdog.

However, following the Iraqi war, Russia and China won   maximum oil contracts in extremely lucrative Southern oil fields without playing significant role in nation-building process. Instantaneously, China has been one of the major beneficiaries of the Middle Eastern oil and gas without assuming strategic and security responsibilities of the region. Washington’s new Middle East approach could drag militarily ill-prepared China and Russia in the conflict ridden region.

The other pervasive notion is American defeat, humiliation and fatigue in Afghanistan and Syria. And Apart from American protracted presence, it did not bag required interests, rather these wars drained American resources and human power. However, empirical evidence does not support such omnipotent speculations. In Syria, US pitted itself extremely calculatedly keeping in mind Russia’s core interests and stakes. America has been involved in Syrian contest avoiding major head on head confrontations with Russia, Turkey, and other key stake-holders. However, sporadically it reminded the world the magnitude of the American power through 2017 Shayrat missile strike, and April, 2018 missile strikes.

Interestingly, American presence in both regions has united a range of diverse factions and made them a united front against it. This united resistance formed a kind of stalemate for American strategic progress viz a viz Russia and China and concomitantly often put fissures in American alliance system. However, following anticipated U.S. withdrawal will obviously create power vacuum that can harbinger unending civil war among these momentary united diverse factions.

Keeping in view the dynamics and power influx phenomenon of 21st century, the ongoing geo-political realities are once again reverting to Realpolitik. America is possibly outsourcing the security measures in troubled parts of the Middle East and in Afghanistan. For the purpose once again it needs “Islamization” as a carrier of its foreign policy objectives in these crisis factories. Dr.Zbigniew Brzezinski rightly commented that both regions are ethnically diverse, demographically explosive and religiously inflame. An Islamic-oriented government in such compounded Afghanistan can have saboteur spill over in turbulent and already much focused Xinjing. In the Middle East may U.S. backed proxies and strategic partners assume greater role while in Afghanistan no one can be better than Taliban.

In the waters, China is putting extra ordinary efforts on building its naval fleets in Indo Pacific region to balance the already shifted 60% of US naval power and efforts of reinvigorating dormant alliance system. In this part of the world, Japan and India is the fulcrum of American containment policy. The trade war strategy is paying and it has dragged China’s huge export industry into negative territory. American withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan, even fractional, can create power vacuum in these “strategic black holes” for which neither Russia nor China is ready to fill. The premeditated American strategic-retreat is heralding a new chapter of chaos and anarchy which can foster more proxies and proxy wars.

–The writer is M.Phil scholar at the National Defence University Islamabad.