By Thalif Deen*
As part of his campaign rhetoric, he denounced climate change as a hoax and a Chinese conspiracy; vowed to bar political refugees; restrict migrants by building a wall across the Mexican border; recommended banning Muslims from entering the country; threatened to undermine reproductive rights; and dismantle the nuclear agreement signed by Iran and six of the world’s major powers: the US, UK, France, China, Russia, Germany, plus the European Union (EU).
All of Trump’s proposed moves were mostly in defiance of UN conventions or multilateral agreements – including the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees and the Climate Change Agreement which came into force November 4 — and may have had a lasting negative impact on the world body.
But less than a week after his electoral victory on November 8, this time it was President-designate Donald Trump backtracking on some of his own proposals while keeping the UN grounded in a political guessing game.
UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told reporters November14: ”We’ll have to wait and see what the new administration is like once it enters into office. We have been making aware to all world leaders the problems that could arise if we do not go ahead and deliver on the commitments made in Paris (on the Climate Change agreement).”
Haq said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who briefly spoke with Trump on the phone last week to congratulate him, believes the US Government has played a valuable leadership role so far in recent months in terms of helping the international community move forward towards the entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement and “we need to go ahead with that”
“Any effort to divert from that course of action could actually be disastrous for all human life centuries down the line or even in the coming decades. So we really need to consider what we do very carefully.”
Responding to a question on a proposal to restrict refugees into the US, Haq said: “We want all nations to be able to share responsibility for treating refugees fairly. We’re witnessing the largest population of refugees since the Second World War. It’s a very huge challenge, and we need all the nations of the world to be able to step up to that. And we continue to expect that of every nation. “
Vijay Prashad, the George and Martha Kellner Chair in South Asian History and Professor of International Studies at Trinity College, told IPS Trump will have a hard time walking away from all multilateral treaties.
“His government will still have to operate within the parameters of the US State and its history. This is not a coup against the State.”
Prashad pointed out that Trump has already had to walk back on several of his pledges — the Muslim ban, the wall against Mexico (much of it of course already exists), even deportations (Obama has already deported two million people during his presidency; Trump has now reduced his number from 11 million to 2-3 million).
Trump will find that if he tears up the Iran deal, he will have no partners in Europe who will follow him to a new sanctions regime. Even here, he will isolate the United States.
The US State will put pressure on the Trump government to hold back on some of these exaggerations, said Prashad, a former Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut (2013-2014), and who has written extensively on Middle Eastern politics, development economics, North-South relations and current events.
To be fair, he said, the US has barely acknowledged the climate negotiations, in fact playing the role of diluter of the more reasonable positions taken in Copenhagen in 2009, and Paris in 2015.
“Would Trump be worse than the status quo? The Congress was already in the hands of the climate deniers. He is merely reflecting their views,” said Prashad, the author of several books, including Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (2012) and The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (2007).
Ian Williams, a former UN correspondent for The Nation and currently for The Tribune, told IPS another part of the mystery is how serious Trump was with his anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican prejudice.
“We know he has no qualms about selling apartments to tasteless Arab sheiks, nor any particular prejudice about employing undocumented immigrants who will work for less. If we are lucky, his oratorical bigotry was just oratorical expedience to rouse the crowds.”
And to offset his anti-Muslim rhetoric, earlier this year he pledge to make Israel pay for its weapons! One suspects — or rather hopes— that there will be a lot of words being eaten in the first 100 days of his reign as he confronts the realities of law and government.
Williams said Trump has shown few signs of ideological fetishism. He voices his prejudices freely – and obviously delights in the enthusiasm for them from the crowds.
“Perhaps fortunately for the United Nations, the black helicopter crowd no longer dominates Republican discourse and Trump, the real estate magnate knows that the UN is good for property values.”
“However, that ideological vacuum could be dangerous since he has surrounded himself with a mix of prejudiced sycophants and ideologues – think of Rudi Giuliani or John Bolton or above all Myron Ebell, the potential demolition man for the Paris climate change agreements. The idea of Rick Grennell as the UN Ambassador, for example, does not inspire hope”, said Williams,
Norman Solomon, executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS the positions Trump has staked out on domestic policies are extremely ominous.
“Inside the United States, he has promised the use of federal government power to assault basic human rights, undermining civil liberties while stoking hatred toward people of color and undocumented immigrants. His election as president is a tragedy for the USA.”
As for his articulated inclinations toward foreign policy, said Solomon, Trump has provided murky and often contradictory notions. He is clearly ignorant of world affairs and history, preferring to rely on simplistic and nationalistic nostrums.
“We cannot anticipate a supportive stance from President Trump toward the United Nations or international agreements — on the contrary, his hostility to the Paris climate agreement is based on the ignorant denial of human-caused climate change, while his scorn for the Iran nuclear deal is dangerous nonsense.”
At the same time, Trump has often expressed skepticism or outright opposition to military interventions by the U.S. government for regime change.
“What remains to be seen is whether he will actually implement a real shift in Washington’s approach of invasions and air wars that has done such damage in several countries since 2001, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Libya and Syria.”
Trump has so far surrounded himself with militaristic and nationalistic advisers on foreign policy, who support the kind of interventions that Trump has sometimes directly criticized, Solomon declared.
“Trump’s attitude toward Russia could, if sustained during his presidency, provide a welcome shift from the bellicose policies that have increasingly gripped the Obama administration.”
While President-elect Trump is making the leaders of many NATO member countries nervous right now, his refusal to continue an aggressive tone toward the Kremlin could pay positive dividends in reducing tensions between Washington and Moscow.
This could also have a very healthy effect on Europe, said Solomon, author of the book “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”
However, points out Williams, Trump is an unpredictable puzzle. He does not share the neoconservative urge to reshape the world, and ”has set himself against foreign engagements, but in the end I suspect the seductions of power will tempt him to talk loudly and carry a big stick on the world stage.”
“But his massive ego and manifest lack of self-confidence suggest that other leaders can flatter him in the direction of sanity.”
Trump was probably very pleased that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called him. And his arrogance will probably prevent his more toxic advisors from bullying him into stands he does not approve of, said Williams a former President of the UN Correspondents’ Association (UNCA).
*Author: firstname.lastname@example.org\The writer can be contacted at
2016 Human Wrongs Watch