Opportunity cannot be predicted
When opportunity knocks, we must be equipped to act and to take advantage of a situation that we may not have predicted. This requires intelligence, vigilance and a readiness to act. Often opportunity is not what we expect it to be, yet by changing our perspective and by approaching it in an original way we can often find promising new openings and unexpected prospects.
This holds true even in difficulty — or perhaps especially in difficulty — as Winston Churchill famously said: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
What we are focusing on today of course are the recent US presidential elections, where the final result and its implications were contrary to everybody’s expectations. The world was utterly transfixed with America’s election from the beginning. This does not occur with elections anywhere else in the world, not in Kuwait, not in Asia or even Europe. America fascinates us singularly. Above all of course, it is that America remains a great power and a major factor of tilt and influence in world affairs.
As last week’s election results came in, however, we all realized that we were utterly unprepared. France’s presidency had not even thought of drafting a letter of congratulation to a potential President-elect Donald Trump. We are now all gauging our next moves, including such giants as China, Europe or Russia. We are re-examining what American leadership may mean for the world over the coming four years.
If anything defines the president-elect’s anticipated foreign policy it is that he really does not give a damn about the rest of the world. He cares about America and he cares about strengthening the American brand. Voters chose Trump precisely because he promised them that he would make America proud, strong and respected again.
As Trump prepares to turn America inward, we must also re-examine ourselves and our situation. Just as Trump suggests, our job is also to elevate our own people locally, to give them hope and to offer them fresh opportunities. As we concentrate on ourselves we will gain a better understanding of where we position ourselves internationally, how we can best take advantage of the changing international scene and the unexpected opportunities that will open up for us once Trump is inaugurated as president. We must be diligent, ready to take full advantage of a new state of affairs. My dear late friend Pierre Trudeau, former prime minister of Canada, once stated: “Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet.”
His words could not be more relevant to us today. We must create our own luck by first focusing on our own affairs, measuring the local pulse and needs, which will allow us to be more prepared and nimble for the opportunities that will surely open up as the international scene is redrawn. Again, America’s elections also taught us that the world’s greatest power can fall prey to widespread internal dissatisfaction with a system when Americans feel it is not taking adequate care of them. Americans felt that they were not benefiting from the international greatness of America.
We have already stated that America is no longer defined as much by its military power as by its influence and the powers of perception and interpretation. Recently Americans felt neglected by their government, and America’s international stance will be affected by this inward turn. It was interesting entertainment watching America’s elections, but now we must focus on the priorities we face at home and build from there.
Any new policy, whether it is viewed as good or bad, necessarily creates new opportunities and opens up new, sometimes unexpected, directions. We cannot yet predict what the world will look like one year from now, but we can indeed predict that there will be new dynamics and new opportunities for us to take advantage of.
The pieces on the chessboard of intelligence are moving, and we must be ready to play the best game we can. That is what leadership is about — the ability to take advantage of fresh opportunities, making the most of any given situation. Smart leadership must also start local, improving the situation at home in order to better project power abroad.
Donald Trump has opened up a new window for America and we will see what he does with it. We wish America good luck and we will ready ourselves locally to meet new ideas, new opportunities and new possibilities as they open up.
•Hassan bin Youssef Yassin is a Saudi political analyst.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view