Donald Trump has been consistently written off and underestimated since the announcement of his Presidential bid last year. Initially, many took one look at him and laughed; others took the time to listen to what he was saying – and laughed even harder. There was an assumption that his candidacy was unserious, and just attention seeking self- promotion.
But too much of the opprobrium aimed at Trump has come solely from the left. Instead, the criticism should come from everyone and anyone who believes in the role the United States can play for good in the world. Whether Trump decides to withdraw from the world – as many believe an America under his rule would – or if he would seek to remain involved, either option would be disastrous for our interests.
A President Trump involving himself in the fight against ISIS would be catastrophic. His proposed solutions bounce around from day to day, but have included carpet bombing and intentionally killing the families of terrorists. It is hard to imagine how counterproductive indiscriminate attacks against the general population would be in an effort to eliminate ISIS. The organisation survives by playing upon the grievances of Sunni populations and twisting them towards their malevolent ends. Trump would only succeed in uniting every larger sections of the populace against the West. Coupled with his inflammatory remarks about Islam, and his proposed ban on Muslim entrants to the US, he would single-handedly make the terrorists’ argument for them – that Islam has no place in the west and is incompatible with modernity.
As with so many of the problems we face in an ever more complicated and challenging world, finding a political solution in Syria will require calm and patient negotiation. Trump has shown time and again that he is absolutely incapable of summoning anything even close to this. He regularly looses his cool when opposing views are put to him and lashes out, most recently and most shamefully against the family of a Muslim soldier whose son had died in Iraq. Any individual who wishes to lead any country, let alone the United States of America, must first and foremost be able to maintain a calm and clear-sighted view of the way forward.
The only worse option than Trump being involved would be if he led the complete and utter removal of America from the world stage. He has suggested that he might withdraw the protection of NATO from Western Europe, and rip up defence agreements with Japan and South Korea. The last thing we need at a time when there is a resurgent and expansionist Russia testing the aerial and ground based frontiers of the West is for America to decide that it is up to us to contain Putin ourselves. This is not necessarily about the potential for armed conflict, but dictators around the world will toast the health of Trump and celebrate their new found capability to influence and intimidate their enemies, while ‘The Donald’ sits on a throne ever-decreasing in relevance and power.
Ultimately, it saddens me that Trump has come to be seen as the face of the right-wing in America, and that comparisons have been made to his popularity and the vote to leave the European Union in the UK. Neither of these are true. Conservative thought and the Brexit vote were both about delivering power back to the people, and removing it from distant powerful figures. They are about telling the people that they can be trusted with power, that they themselves can solve the problems we face. Trump on the other hand asks the people to give him the power. He believes that there are easy solutions to every issue his country faces, and that everyone else is an idiot for not having come up with it sooner. His brand of solipsistic demagoguery would make the world a much less safe place – and should be opposed by us all.