Wanted: A new leader for the ‘free world’

Wanted: A new leader for the ‘free world’

I once had high hopes for US President Donald Trump. I appreciated his big personality, positive outlook and business acumen. He enticed the leaders of Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt early in his presidency with promises to be the “great defender” against Iranian aggression and his vow to cleanse the region of terrorism. I had high hopes for President Trump and, sad to say, they have all been dashed.

He has destabilized our planet, pitting allies against allies, turning adversaries into outright enemies and threatening to defund post-Second World War institutions, the UN and NATO — tried and true alliances designed to protect us from the sins of the past costing many millions of lives. Thanks to his dysfunctional foreign policies, the Doomsday Clock ticks ever closer to midnight.

Trump is a maestro of making threats and promises that change on a dime. His policy U-turns, inability to discern fact from fiction and his withdrawal from US commitments on a range of issues have been wake-up calls. 

He initially billed himself as an anti-war leader pledging to bring home US troops from Middle East conflict zones. The troops remain. US bases have increased. And, since he grew comfortable in his Oval Office chair, he has been provoking leaders, some with access to a nuclear button, in the mistaken belief they will capitulate to his demands. How is that working for him?

In the trade war, China’s President Xi Jinping shows no signs of rolling over. On the contrary, he is matching US tariffs blow for blow.

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is clearly unimpressed with Trump’s honeyed approach; he demands action in the form of sanctions relief before engaging in further face-to-face talks.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has hung on to his chair despite the Trump administration’s far-reaching attempts to replace him.

Trump is a maestro of making threats and promises that change on a dime.

Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani has refused to return to the table or meet with his American counterpart to renegotiate the nuclear deal as long as anti-Iranian sanctions persist. Trump has threatened Iran with obliteration. Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Javad Zarif now threatens all-out war if struck in response to his country’s alleged role in airstrikes on two Saudi oil facilities.

How can we put our trust in such an inconsistent character? He could force countries into the position where they will have to take sides and then stand on the sidelines watching, or — in the worst-case scenario — decide to help our enemies.

The “great defender” treats friendly heads of state with disrespect as though they are underlings who exist only to do his bidding, and those he has targeted with insulting tweets are seen during press conferences groveling before him.

Trump’s message to all knocking at his door is “pay up or else.” Money talks loudest in the Trump White House. Even the most disreputable can win his favor with an offer of billions of dollars’ worth of investments or weapons purchases. They vie with each other as to who can come up with the biggest enticements. He has given deeper meaning to the saying “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

He snubbed the mild-mannered Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen merely for calling his bid to buy Greenland “absurd.” He accused her of being “nasty” and canceled an upcoming state visit to Copenhagen.

He labeled Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as being “very dishonest and weak” and, in response to the French President Emmanuel Macron’s call for a united European military, Trump hit back with a tweet underscoring Macron’s low approval rating and France’s high rate of unemployment.

He termed former British Prime Minister Theresa May as “foolish” and slammed the UK’s former ambassador to the US as being “a pompous fool.” Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel has also borne the brunt of his tongue lashings.

Frankly, his behavior hardly befits the world’s greatest democracy, which was founded on the unshakeable values that are enshrined in the US Constitution and the rule of law.

There are exceptions. This “America First” president reserves his charm offensives for the likes of his friend Kim who, while testing ballistic missiles, sends him “beautiful letters,” or Russian President Vladimir Putin, who US intelligence agencies accuse of meddling in the 2016 election. He fawns all over Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whom he once charged with funding terrorism, because, in his book, who cares as long as the billions keep rolling in.

And not forgetting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the recipient of the US president’s most spectacular gifts — Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights. And, if Netanyahu had been re-elected, he would have received Trump’s blessing to annex the Jordan Valley, part of the Dead Sea and all Jewish colonies in the West Bank. However, Trump is allergic to losers. If his buddy facing three corruption cases falls on his face, the US president will not be picking him up.

Foreign visitors do not have a monopoly on Trump’s offensive behavior; they also extend to his own advisers and staff. On his watch, the world is witnessing an unprecedentedly high turnover in the administration. Either he lacks the insight to choose suitable team members, his temper flares out of control, or anyone who dares to voice disagreement is given their marching orders.

Congress has launched a probe into Trump’s activities with a view to impeachment, which has little chance of succeeding. Many of those concerned rely on the good people of America to vote him out next year.

  • Khalaf Ahmad Al-Habtoor is a prominent UAE businessman and public figure. He is renowned for his views on international political affairs, his philanthropic activity, and his efforts to promote peace. He has long acted as an unofficial ambassador for his country abroad. Twitter: @KhalafAlHabtoor
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