The American media did not expect Donald Trump to win. But win he did. So they have been subjecting him to the utmost scrutiny any President has had. Whatever he does, the media have convinced themselves that he is no good. He should never have been elected. They now have built themselves a fantasy scenario in which Trump gets impeached by Congress and is ejected half-way through his four-year term. This has to do with the belief that Russia hacked into American election contest to help Trump win. There is also the idea that Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia. In the meantime, Trump has sacked the FBI Director who he had inherited.
Indian readers will see a similarity with the way Narendra Modi was treated. There was the constant hope that somewhere, some court would declare Modi responsible for the 2002 riots. Whatever he did well was glossed over or ignored. Every mistake by anyone in the BJP/ NDA was laid at his door. His defeats were celebrated — Delhi, Bihar. His triumphs were credited as a result of his divisive i.e. communalist policies.
When he was campaigning, and even in the first few weeks in office, Trump was critical of the NATO and the US allies. He felt they were free riding by not fulfilling their commitment to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence. He was slagging off China but more as a trading counterpart than as a foreign policy issue. By saying America First, he made it look as if he was an isolationist.
We now know better. Trump was swift in retaliating when he saw that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had used chemical weapons on his own people, killing children. When four years ago chemical weapons had been spotted in Syria, Barack Obama refused to move, and sheltered behind the reluctance of Congress to back him. He did not have to ask Congress. But he did. Trump was quick. He also ordered the largest non-nuclear bomb to be used on ISIS bunkers in Afghanistan.
Trump is not an isolationist. He is a unilateralist. He can act in foreign affairs much more on his own than in domestic matters. This is why he has taken up the issue of North Korea early on. Obama had practised strategic patience but it did not move Kim Jong-un from his purpose. Trump struck up a friendly relation with President Xi Jinping, despite his reservations about the trade issues. China could broker a treaty with North Korea which is needed to provide security for Japan and South Korea. Trump sees a deal he could make.
Last week we saw Trump in his first visit abroad take up a firm stance against terrorism. He spoke to the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia about separating Islam from jihadism. He singled out Iran, as being a State which supports terrorism. So it looks like there may be a coalition of Israel with the Arab countries in an anti-terrorist, anti-Iran front. This could also be the key to tackling the Israel-Palestine problem. If Trump could get that deal done, he would guarantee his place in history. Trump has reshaped American foreign policy within a hundred and fifty days. Not bad going, despite the media.