Dyab Abou Jahjah
“It is all about me”, Donald Trump must be thinking rightfully. No one can deny this, he is the most spoken about person on earth right now. While this is certainly very gratifying to the man himself, many of his critics are happy with it as well. Mostly his name is mentioned within a negative frame, and this is giving many people hope. They think that this awareness that is being created is paving the way for a victory against him. Some are already claiming that Trump is going down, that he will not finish his term in office, that he will be impeached or even assassinated. Predicting the future would be a very handy faculty to possess, and yet, people tend to mistake their hopes and wishes for facts, and this leads to devastating defeats.
I think we need to be able of admitting that under this communicative outburst of anti-Trump sentiment, lays a very emotional foundation. Most reactions to Trump’s discourse, and to the actions that he initiated at the very start of his term in office, are driven by anger and indignation. This is totally understandable, and I do share these feelings. It is hard not become angry and not to react emotionally when you see families being ripped apart, children being handcuffed and deported, and people dying far from home, because they have been cast out. Nevertheless, it is time to gather ourselves back in, and to realise that anger and indignation will not cut it. We all need to develop strategies on how to deal with Trump, and with the little Trumps that are already popping up all across the world, and especially in Europe.
As long as the response remains emotional, and the debate is dominated by moral tautologies, the real demarcation of the contours of the struggle against Trump and his allies will not be established. Eventually, emotions drain out, and cool down. What now seems as an abomination will be trivialised and then normalised. New facts on the ground will force the emopolitical resistance to retreat, and to concede terrain. This is the danger of relying on emopolitics to counter the rise of populist nationalism. It has short breath.
It is utterly important now to really understand what Trump is really about rationally. First and foremost this is necessary because Trump himself is not doing what he does out of emotion or indignation. The man has a plan. And we must be able to read and decipher it, and then address its various dimensions.
The Trump project is founded on two major objectives: the first is preserving American hegemony on global scale, and the second is preserving the WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) hegemony within the United States. In order to achieve these objectives Trump must defeat the competitors who are threatening these hegemonies. On the global level, China is the only serious competitor. And on the domestic level The Latino and Afro-American communities are the main competitors. However, Trump would not go clearly stating his objectives in these terms, he would need to camouflage them with his nationalistic populist discourse and above all with Islamophobia. Despite that none of both challenges to American white hegemony is emanating from Muslims themselves, Islamophobia is, oddly enough, the ticket to defeat the Chinese, and also to contain the surge of Latino and Black social and political power. Let us see how.
Globally, it is the position of China that defines the globalisation against which Trump is going to war. China is the only serious threat to American hegemony. The Chinese themselves have been pragmatic enough to avoid portraying themselves as a competitor or a challenger to American power. However, objectively, and both economically and geopolitically, the insight that China's exponentially growing power will eventually enable it to challenge U.S hegemony has been haunting American strategists for years. Trump sees himself as the man who will finally do something about it.
Tension is building up with the Chinese, as military leaders on both sides already expressed that the possibility of a confrontation in the south China sea cannot be excluded. Nevertheless, I do not see a confrontation taking place in the near future. Instead, it is with Iran that tension can lead to a fast escalation. To start with, escalation with Iran is more in line with the Islamophobic discourse that dominates the minds of the new power circle in Washington. Moreover, attacking Iran is a high priority from an Israeli perspective and a Saudi perspective. Israel and Saudi Arabia, next to India, are revealing themselves as the most enthusiastic cheerleaders of the new POTUS. Both the Israelis and the Saudis will be lobbying Trump to attack Iran. While Putin will be trying to convince him not to do so. The outcome remains to be seen. But if any, this is the situation that is the most likely to explode within the coming year or two. The hidden stake is that Trump and his crew might see a war with Iran as a prelude to subduing China. An attack on Iran will lead to skyrocketing oil prices and that will instigate a global recession. A global recession is ideal for the protectionist policies of Trump. It is also ideal to break the back of Chinese industry.
One thing is sure, Trump will eventually wage war, because he needs to wage war in order to achieve his objectives. The bad news is, the United States of America cannot be defeated militarily by Iran, by China and not even by Russia. The only way to defeat the Trump plan is through resistance within the United States and by the American people. It is here where the civil rights and democracy fight in the U.S becomes a major geopolitical global concern. But in order to keep that fight alive and give it a chance to succeed, the stakes must be clear. Just like on the global front, also domestically, Trump is surfing the waves of populist Islamophobia to curb down civil liberties and human rights. This will eventually allow him to persecute the Latino and black communities who are his real targets. In order to be effective in doing that, Trump will need a war too. During war time he can declare emergency laws and claim more powers. He could then characterise any resistance as an unpatriotic act of treason. So the war agenda abroad will strengthen the anti-democratic agenda at home. And the weaker democratic checks and balances become, the more wars will be waged.
We have to understand that we need the resistance in the United States to be politicised and lucid, not emotional and vague. Only then it can be lasting and resilient. We need also to be aware that more than showing solidarity with the Americans and rage against Trump, we must lead similar fights against the mini-Trumps in our own countries. We will be, and we are already, facing similar situations in many places across the globe. This year, elections will be held in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, and that might give the Trumpist project in Europe more wings. In Belgium the NVA is already in power applying similar policies and dreaming of more. They will be emboldened by the cold wind blowing from across the ocean. We need to be thinking already of how we will concretely be facing this, and preparing plans to resist an onslaught on civil liberties and human rights while mobilising to take back power from Washington to every other capital.
It is great that we all feel so strongly about this, but let one thing be clear, this is not a time for emotionalising politics, but for politicising emotions.