Dominance and Fluidity in International Politics

February 1, 2017

4 min read

Ira Sharkansky

The world will be fluid for some time.

Barack Obama downsized the weight of the US.

We’re amidst an upsurge in Muslim violence, chaos in a number of Middle Eastern countries, plus the resurgence of Russian power in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya, all this against the milk toast approach of Obama in opposing the Russians, and his lack of conviction about Muslim violence.

Donald Trump’s declaration of “America First” disturbs Jews and others who remember Charles Lindbergh, isolationists, and American Nazis on the eve of World War II.

The new President hasn’t found his legs. He may never do it. There are several possible reasons for impeachment and serious organizations working on the issue. His frontal assault on the media, problems with reality counting the popular vote against him and the numbers who came to his inauguration, and the concept of “alternative facts” suggest a novice more likely to blunder than to gather support.

He starts with an ostensible majority in Congress, but several prominent Republicans waiting for him to falter.

His first days have included a number of actions with respect to trade, migration, environment, and energy that many on the left and in the center may not like, but suggest that he knows how to use the levers available to him.

The American century began with D-Day, nuclear explosions in Japan, and being the only country standing both economically and militarily after ceremonies in Tokyo Bay.

It alone was without domestic destruction due to the war. Veterans came home to make babies, buy homes, go to college, or work in factories turning out consumer goods.

Yet by 1953 more than 36,000 American soldiers died in Korea, and that war ended where it started. The USSR and China had matched the power of the United States.

Two decades later, more than 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam, in an embarrassment that dwarfed Korea.

National weight comes not only from success in military encounters, but from economic capacity and population traits that produce a quality of life, and decisive leaders who dissuade other countries from acting against them.

From the 1950s onward, Western Europe, Japan, South Korea, and Israel became significant actors in economics and politics. In no small measure that happened because of US aid, military and political support, but also due to their own hard work and reasonable policies.

China became a leading player in the world economy, and Russia is trying to regain what the USSR lost.

The US is at least partly responsible for Islamic violence and chaos. While infighting among Muslims has a long history, this wave has something to do with Americans’ stirring of Muslim’s taste for warfare against the Soviets in Afghanistan. 9-11 was one result. Later came additional  American contributions to instability in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Russians are a long way from competing with Americans at the top of the heap. Outside of major cities, they suffer from conditions closer to the Third World than the First. Putin’s actions in Ukraine and Syria have earned condemnation and sanctions. He seems intent on keeping Syria from becoming another Russian embarrassment by relying heavily on air power and a minimum investment with ground troops. Russian casualties have been light, but his success in assuring the future of his ally Assad is doubtful. Syria may join the league of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, or America’s in Vietnam.

The ascendance of ugly Islam, along with the record of the IDF, plus what Israel is said to have in storage, is enough to make other countries wary of pressing it too hard. There’s a delicate hand for Israel to play with respect to Russia in Syria, lots of Jews in Russia and Ukraine, and the attitude of the US and European governments toward Ukraine and Syria, along with Israel’s reliance on the US and the EU for economic, intelligence, technological, and political matters.

Political maneuvering is the name of the game for the lesser and greater powers in this multi-polar world.

Israel may be better situated than others, given Jews’ 3,000 years experience as a small people living alongside great powers with large appetites.

Migration is a potential game changer. Millions of Muslim refugees bring a threat of violence to European and American cities, as well as the prospect of changing politics as Muslim residents increase their numbers, activity and influence.

What to expect from Donald Trump?

  • Will his limits on free trade weaken the American economy more than it gains from job protection?
  • What will be the size of the American footprint in the Middle East and Far East? Trump has cited Muslims as a major problem, in a way that never passed the lips of Barack Obama.
  • So far, it looks like a love fest between Donald and Bibi, with Israel getting Green or Yellow lights from the White House in place of the Red that Barack Obama and John Kerry flashed for the sake of Palestine.

Protests continue, along with campaigns to impeach.

The process is deceptively easy. The Constitution mentions the criteria of high crimes and misdemeanors. Gerald Ford said that an impeachable offense is anything that a majority of the House of Representatives says it is.

Politics has weighed  against ousting a President for something trivial.

Yet Donald Trump is not an ordinary President. Extensive business connections and a disinclination to be candid about them may cause him trouble.

Brexit can spread to limit the EU.

And Israelis are speculating about the end game for Benyamin Netanyahu, with the police actively investigating four kinds of action, each of which may produce a criminal indictment.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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