They laughed when President Donald Trump bragged about his administration’s accomplishments during a speech at the UN General Assembly last week.
But they will regret it. Trump is reestablishing American dominance while many are busy laughing him off. He rolled back NAFTA and extracted a better deal from Canada and Mexico. He made India’s government rethink protectionism, and is warning Brazil it’s next. He is working on softening China, which already has made some concessions but more are expected. He has Iran’s clerics by their beards at their weakest. He is taunted on Russia, where not much progress was made, but they taunted him on North Korea too.
In Syria, where Washington remains at a disadvantage with not many options, Trump managed to somewhat salvage the total disaster that Obama left behind.
Every day he is in office, he is shredding old rules to write a new playbook for politics, political communication, speech-writing, and foreign policy.
And he has already made history with the historic upset in US elections.
Under Trump, the United States is feared again. Liked? Who cares. It is better to be feared than liked if you are a leader, as most students of power will tell you.
I can say all this and get away with it because I am not an American citizen and have no stakes in American politics. I don’t care if Democrats or Republicans win or lose. American conservatives and liberals mean little from where I stand.
Residing in Islamabad, Pakistan, I am qualified to offer this perspective. I come from a nation that joined America in a Cold War gamble that ended with the triumph of the Free World over communism. America, in its infinite power, fallible yet imbued with enduring values, helped us defeat a major threat. Yes, American power has been misused in places like Iraq and Vietnam, but it has also done a lot of good, in Germany, Bosnia, Kuwait, and in the first Afghan war.
Today, American affluence and economy is the driving engine of Chinese manufacturing and Turkish, Pakistani and Bangladeshi textile exports. American spending feeds many mouths globally. Until recently, America was the biggest donor Palestinians had.
So, it is natural that, in Islamabad, we have a unique perspective on American power and we believe that this power is a force for good, stability, and prosperity in a chaotic world.
And if someone in the White House is restoring this power after years of weakness, many are bound to sit up and take notice. And many are.
President Obama presided over the weakest period in foreign policy in modern American history. The US role, respect and influence nosedived in his administration. Washington was taken for granted on most issues. States like India and others, which had no role in defeating communism, benefited from free trade and open markets built on the sacrifices America made to win the war and ensure the triumph of open, free societies.
Trump’s presidency is often portrayed as chaotic and clueless, and this could be partially true. He is an outsider, not an establishment politician. A degree of chaos is expected. But overall, Trump has taken the United States in a new direction that makes sense in terms of national interest. One can disagree with his policy choices. Those are debatable as all policies are. But you cannot say he doesn’t know what he is doing.
Between the noise of the laughter at the UNGA, when Trump was bragging about his accomplishments, and the ruckus of mainstream American media, keep an eye on this president. World leaders may laugh but they can’t afford to ignore him.