Amid protests and ‘anti-Trump’ demonstrations, the 45th President of the United States has moved into the White House. In his inaugural address, President Donald J Trump reiterated his resolved to ‘Make America Great Again’. He pledged to put ‘America First’ by adhering to two simple rules: ‘Buy American, Hire American’. Primarily for this purpose, he also hinted at introducing some extensive protectionist trade policies as well as strict anti-immigrant measures in the United States. Apparently, President Trump’s current vision to make the US a great country in the world is overly influenced by the concepts like Pax Americana and American exceptionalism.

The slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ has been the central theme of Trump’s presidential campaign since mid-2015. In fact, this slogan somehow closely related to the very concept of American exceptionalism, which essentially believes in the special character of the United States as uniquely free nation in the world, based on the ideology of individualism, liberty, egalitarianism, democracy and laissez-faire economics. Moreover, it also believes that the US is qualitatively differs from other developed nations due to its unique historical evolution as well as distinctive political and state institutions. The Republicans in the US are best known for their strong orientation and inclination towards the idea of American exceptionalism. They also often criticise the Democrats for not believing in this core concept.

The Republicans have played a pivotal role in the historical evolution of the American exceptionalism. They just portrayed the US as the Biblical “City upon a Hill”, a phrase coined by the early British colonists in the North America, which is exempted from historical forces that have affected other countries. During the Bush administration (2001 to 2009), the so-called Neoconservative (Neocons) adhered to this concept in some way. Now the Alt-Rights are also observably inclined towards promoting this idea in the US. The only difference being that the Neocons favoured the adoption of some proactive or rather hawkish foreign policies to establish American supremacy overseas, while the Alt-Rights want to make the US a great global power primarily through domestic economic stabilisation.

In order to ‘Make America Great Again’, President Donald trump has decided to focus on the US economy. In his inaugural address last week, he announced a number of economic measures. To begin with, he hinted at evolving an effective protectionist trade regime in the US by maintain that “every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families”. Similarly, he also underlined the need for introducing some strict anti-immigrant measures to secure jobs for the domestic workers. Moreover, in order to reduce fiscal burden, now the incumbent Trump administration is also all set to dismantle the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) with the help of Republican-led Congress.

The word ‘again’ in the phrase ‘Making America Great again’ essentially implies that the US is no longer a great country. Certainly, at the moment, the US is facing a number of internal and external challenges which are the major impediments in the way of making it a great country in the world. Currently, the macro-economic indicators of the US are not so impressive. Its economy is experiencing enormous recessionary and inflationary pressures. The problems like low economic growth, rising unemployment rate, large fiscal and trade deficit continue to plague its economy. The Federal Debt, which has already surpassed 100% of GDP, is likely to touch the alarming figure of $20 trillion at the end of FY 2017. Obviously the US can’t rise to a high position in the world without overcoming these multiple domestic economic challenges.

In the face of newly-emerging power centers in the contemporary world in terms of both military and economic might, the US is longer the sole global super power. Russia has proved its mettle as a global player by significantly regaining its lost turf in the international arena over the last decade. Despite strong opposition from the US and many European countries, it has successfully annexed Crimea. In the Middle East, the Russia and its regional allies have visibly foiled the intended US plan to reshape this troubled region. Similarly, China has also emerged as a major global economic power. Now it is only a matter of time that China will be the largest economy in world. This very fact itself is of great significance as there has been witnessed a paradigm shift from the geo-politics to geo-economics in the contemporary world. Moreover, the Euro has also started replacing the US Dollar as the leading international currency.

Pax Americana was the post-World War II international order in which the US extensively employed its power to shape major global events. However, during this period, it deliberately refrained from unnecessarily interfering in the internal affairs of other states by adhering to the principle of non-intervention. Instead, it tried to extend its influence in the world affairs by effectively employing the tools of military and economic cooperation. So it helped rebuild the West European economies after World War II under the Marshal plan. During this period, it also promoted multilateralism in global affairs. But in the post-Cold War era, the US chose to adhere to unilateralism by pursuing some hawkish policies in the world. Under Bush Doctrine, it launched its so-called Grater Middle East Initiatives to articulate and achieve its broader strategic interests in the Middle Eastern Region through military means. This sort of unilateralism not only destabilised this region but also gave rise to the phenomenon of Anti-Americanism in the world.

Preserving and securing the state of Israel has been the corner stone of the US Middle East policy for long time. Therefore, instead of making serious endeavours to bring peace in this region, the US has actively been trying to safeguards the selfish interests of the Jewish state. The US has also paid a heavy cost for its prolonged engagement in this region. Certainly, the US administration can hardly justify to unnecessarily spend the hard-earned money of the American tax-payers to benefit Israel alone. In fact, the so-called two-state solution is rather a pragmatic and reasonable approach to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the US should also favour this approach.

The US seriously needs to review its current international policies and postures. It has to shut down its war theaters in the Greater Middle East region. It should also abstain from pursuing the hawkish foreign policies to contain its economic rivals in the world. It is rather a wiser decision made by the President Trump to withdraw from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which was primary aimed at containing the rising economic influence of China in the world. Now the US should also revisit its policy of strengthening strategic ties with India in the South Asian region. Similarly, it should also sincerely favour a genuine Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process in Afghanistan instead of installing a subservient regime there.

This is an era of globalisation. The US has been the major proponent of this globalisation process. In this interconnected and interdependent world, no country can absolutely adhere to any extensive protectionist regime. The WTO also restrict its member states to unilaterally pursue the protectionist trade policies in the world. In fact, it is not the US alone whose economy is not performing well, but almost each country in the world has been hit by the current wave of global recession in some way. Therefore, instead of becoming over-protective about its economy, the US needs to be more competitive economically. It should focus on improving its economic fundamentals. It also needs to diversify its economy.

At present, the ‘Trumpism’ is being widely perceived as a political philosophy which is closely related to the concepts like White Supremacism, Racism, Nativism, Islamophobia and Anti-Feminism. In fact, these concepts and policies are diametrically opposite to the founding ideology of the US, which essentially stands for pluralism, egalitarianism, inclusiveness, individualism and liberty. This ideology forms the underlying basis of the American exceptionalism. While endeavouring to ‘Make America Great Again’, the Trump administration should not let the very ideological pedestal crumble, upon which the entire presumption of American exceptionalism rests.


The writer is a lawyer and columnist based in Lahore.